Last week went differently than expected – it was both beautiful and brutal. Here’s why…
From 1995 to 1997, our little family lived in Tasmania. Our daughter, Emily, was born a few months after we arrived. We loved our time in ‘Launie’ (Launceston) and made some lifelong friends. We also fell in love with the rugged beauty of the state. We got to see a fair bit. I even got to spend a few days walking and camping with friends in the magnificent Walls of Jerusalem National Park, pristine alpine wilderness. It whetted my appetite, and as is my way, I boldly declared I’d walk the iconic Overland Track by the time I was 40.
Now, ’40’ is long ago, but the goal never really died, and it revived with the thought of Emily and me doing it together. Finally, I committed, and we set off the Sunday before last. I’ve been rabbiting on about this moment for ages, training for it only intermittently.
We were walking with a fabulous group of ten and two young and ridiculously fit and kind guides. Full packs, tents, food, sleeping and personal gear.
The first day was brutal. Climbing, and then more. High winds. Rain, sleet – and then horizontal snow on a dangerously exposed high mountain ridge. Still, we got to camp in a decent time. This photo is of Em and me, just changed into our ‘camp clothes.’ This is my favourite of just a few images from the trip.
Day 2 was still cold, still hard – but uneventful. It snowed some more. It was colder still. I was finding whatever (limited) rhythm I would.
Then our little adventure in Tassie got a bit more exciting. On the afternoon of day 3, as we were closing in on the halfway mark of our walk and having traversed the worst of some really tough conditions, I tripped over an innocuous little tree root and face-planted the ground with my pack on my back. Ouch. Slightly sore knee but not too much else, or so I thought.
We were 5km out from camp, and my knee became sore and swollen as I walked more gingerly. By Wednesday morning, I could barely move, and the decision was made to evacuate me, Em sticking with her dear old dad. What a drama!
A helicopter ride, a visit to an urgent care GP, and it seems I have broken my patella (knee cap) in multiple places. I have some good painkillers and a full leg brace. I will be having some surgery to wire my knee in place as it heals, and am looking forward to 3-6 months of healing and rehab.
I’m back in Sydney now and have been reflecting on, and processing what’s, without a doubt, been one of the most emotional weeks I’ve experienced. Over the last few days, I’ve been challenged, humbled and encouraged in ways I’ve not experienced before.
Here’s the little bit I definitely know:
- The Tasmanian wilderness is simultaneously beautiful and brutal. That first day was, with the conditions, the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever taken on. Was I ready? Embarrassingly – no. But I got there.
- People can be so, so kind. For those last 5km on day 3, as my knee gave out, my pack was divided amongst our group who took the extra weight so I could make it – Em more than all the others. Other walkers waited to help me scramble through tricky parts of the track.
Back at Pelion Hut, other walkers offered us their hut bunks in place of our tent – knowing it would be agonising for me to get in and out. Strangers helped Em get me out of my clothes, get into my sleeping bag and then get dressed the following day. They looked out for me with such compassion. It still makes me emotional, and I suspect it will for a long time.
Our friends in Launceston, Jocelyn and Eddie, were amazing as they provided support when we needed it most. Accumulating possessions is for the foolish; accumulating friends – that’s a whole other thing.
- Finally, and most importantly, I am blessed with the most amazing daughter. For four days, she was my protector, my advocate – my tent and hut buddy. She is fierce in her determination, compassionate with her love and wise in her counsel. I am so, so very proud of and grateful for her. This long-awaited trip was not what we planned or expected, but it was special in ways we could not have imagined.
I love Emily and her brother, Joel, so very much. Of all the ‘jobs’ I’ve had, ‘dad’ rises stories above the others in terms of importance.
Right now, I’m nursing a pretty sore knee, a fair chunk of disappointment and some not-insignificant embarrassment. But as much as I missed out on not completing the track, I already know I’ve received so much more. For that, I’m grateful to God.
Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission