So now I have made the randomest, possibly most absurd move since deciding to set out on the BNT. Right now, with tears in my eyes and in a rather ‘oh-shit-what-have-I-done‘-like state of shock , is probably not the best time to be attempting to write a well-thought out, balanced blog. But I need a distraction. After all, I never thought that yesterday would be the day I would be watching our babies be transported off into the sunrise on a truck, but hey, nothing ever really turns out as planned, does it?
After discussing our current dilemma re whether or not to continue to Cooktown through the forthcoming icky summer heat with our bubs, I asked a few people what they thought would be the best move. The overwhelming response was to pull up when it starts to get unbearable and have a rest. No one really seemed to take to the idea of biking a chunk of the trail. But nonetheless, for better or worse, that is what I have decided to do.
If I was on my own, childless, footloose and fancy free, I would probably have gone with option D- have a break and recommence next season. But, time waits for no man, even out on the trail. Z is growing up fast and is keen to see the last of her primary school years out with her old teacher and group of buddies next year. Having some time out on the trail has also helped me to finally clear my garbled mind and refocus on the dreams and goals I had in my twenties, before getting caught up in the trap of earning, saving, chasing a career, and, perhaps most destructive of all, seeking approval from others. As a result, while I am loving the bush life, there are a million and one projects and pursuits I am keen to follow up upon our return, including promoting horse travel in WA and attempting a long ride through the South West with our dream team.
At the same time, both Z and I are committed to completing the National Trail. Being from WA, this is our one and only chance to nail it- it is a too expensive and all-consuming feat to be fluffing around and attempting to do it in stints while coming back and forth from the west. So we aren’t going home until it’s done, and that’s that.
At our donkey-walking pace of 100km max per week (much slower than the extremely competent and determined Alienor, of Wild at Heart Australia) , we would reach Cooktown in the messy mid-January monsoon season, most probably with three very miserable animals. On a bike, cycling south from Cooktown, I reckon we could cover that 2000km in 6-7 weeks. Z is excited about giving long- distance cycling a go, and with the high-school years looming, it may well be our one and only chance.
Following our stint on the bike, it would then be October- the perfect time of year for us to ride/walk south from where we began near Canberra, and enjoy the High Victorian country with our bubs, back together as a family and finally completing our National Trail journey as a team in Healesville.
The final piece of the jigsaw that has made this even possible is the amazing Hazel and Martin, who have agreed to look after our bubs while Z and I are on this crazy cycling mission. Hazel and Martin helped us out during our early days on the trail, and lo and behold, here they are coming to the rescue once more.
Without their assistance, biking wouldn’t even be an option, as I’m not sure I would feel comfortable with our three companions being anywhere else. Hazel and Martin are true earth angels and I am eternally grateful that they came into our lives when they did. And I know our bubs will be grateful for a spell before tackling the notoriously steep and difficult BNT sections 11 and 12.
Getting ready for cycling…
So here, we are, donkey-less and horse-less in Biggenden, swapping saddlebags for bike racks, and reading up on how to repair punctures. I know this decision will disappoint some in fact, we have already been accused of ‘cheating’ by a rather critical woman we had the misfortune to meet a few days ago 🙁
And indeed, while it all looked so good on paper, so practical and efficient, my heart is aching. Waking up this morning seemed so wrong without Jasmine’s 6.00am alarm-bray, and so does eating apples without anyone to give our cores to. Out of habit, Both Z and I keep popping our heads out to check on the bubs, only to remember that the paddock is now empty. No Fly with his floppy bottom lip to scratch, No Basil with his funny way of intently watching the urban goings-on across the road, and no Jasmine looking up eagerly for carrots with her beautiful, fluttery eyelashes every time we cross the grass to the toilet block.
After living with our bubs 24-7 for the last seven months, we are already missing them dreadfully, much more than I ever expected. In fact, I realised things were pretty bad when Chicago’s ‘You’re the Inspiration’ started playing on Pandora, bringing fresh tears to my eyes and making my heart ache not for lovers lost, but for our precious three, our beloved trail family, en route to a lovely property in NSW while we complete the next chapter without them.
Our National Trail, Our Way…
So do I feel like a cheater? Absolutely. Disappointed? For sure. I think of when we walked the Camino last year and met a woman who was only covering 5km a day- ‘My Camino, my way‘, she had insisted. I hate to admit it, but the competitive Leo in me couldn’t help sneering inwardly- what a wimp, I thought!
And, just as life has a frustratingly beautiful way of turning the tables on you, I am now THAT woman. When our recent decision has been met with a confused expression or even judgemental criticism, I have been reassuring my bruised ego with ‘Our National Trail, our way‘. What with us heading north, then heading south, now on foot, now by bike, we may well be setting a record for the most ADHD-like, unorganic way to trek the BNT. But at the end of the day, we have to do what works for all five of us. And so far, assuming I will feel better in the morning, I think it is.