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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trailwalker part 3: Revenge of the Chafed Thighs

The final part is here, I know you have all been awaiting this eagerly. Well fear not all 3 of my readers, you should be satisfied with the exciting conclusion to this torrid tale.

Leaving Hornsby for the final time, Jono, Amy and I were starting to feel the fatigue. Tired eyes and driving in Sydney do not mix and to add to this everyone was starting to get a little short tempered. But with a job to do and more coffee we soldiered on. If the walkers could do it we could certainly achieve our small part. We got to checkpoint seven at about 2 in the arvo. The location was Davidson Park, a lovely little spot on the river. Finding a picnic table we went about setting up all the comforts of home for our brave walkers.

Watching the trail of walkers come into this idyllic spot we noticed our team. It was apparent there were problems, Greg was walking like a man with sandpaper on his nuts and funnily enough that metaphor is not far from the truth. Every exercising man’s worst nightmare had hit Greg, the dreaded chafe had struck. The poor man was in pain and needed some form of relief. This was a service that Jono and I were not willing to offer. Supplying food, drink and comfort was in our contract, not rubbing the red man down with vaso. I have standards after all. So we sent him off to the medical tent, so the tender hands of those more qualified could fix his redder than usual ass cheeks.

So with a freshly lubed up Ginger and two newly strapped girls the walkers soldiered on heading towards the final checkpoint before the finish. With only a 7 km walk we knew we didn’t have time to get back to Hornsby so we headed to the nearest shopping centre for a fresh caffeine fix. While there we braved the supermarket to hunt down a cooked chook and some bread rolls and once again hit the road. Now at this point I would like to say that while my car is quite large and comfy I was sick of seeing the inside of it. At this point I had done approximately 500kms in 24 hours and even the most comfy of automobiles gets on one’s nerves after this amount of time, especially through the maddening streets and rage inducing traffic of Sydney.

Onto checkpoint 8 and we were well and truly early. So we met up with the other half of our support crew and enjoyed the spoils of our hunt with some mayo and cheese. With time to kill the girls retreated to the party bus where they feverishly worked on a surprise for the walkers. As punishment for sleeping through the checkpoint earlier in the day, they had promised a motivational speech like no other and they were putting the final touches on a speech that would rival anything Winston Churchill or George Washington could summon. So with the girls engrossed in their speech writing, Jono and Amy both decided a lay down in the sun was a good idea and promptly went to sleep. Being all on my lonesome I decided to retreat to the car and watch some American Dad on my laptop. The comedic stylings of Seth McFarlane kept me entertained until two new members rocked up to join the support crew.

Stacey’s (the remaining blonde) parents had arrived and with all the enthusiasm of people that have had a good 8 hours sleep began pacing and waiting eagerly for their daughter and her team mates to arrive. So keen to see them Stace’s mum boldly headed off down the trail to meet them. Those of us who had received less than the recommended amount of shut-eye patiently waited for our charges to arrive. As we noticed Greg’s insane boardies round the bend we also noticed that those legs were once again doing their best not to touch each other lest the chafe totally destroy his will power. So as the team stopped for a moment and Greg received a fresh dose of Vaseline to caress his inner thighs the Girls delivered their amazing motivational speech.

And what a speech it was, borrowing lines from some of the most famous Disney movies of all time the speech was finished with a rousing chant of Quack, Quack, Quack imitating the most famous moment of Emelio Estivez’s movie career, the finale of the Mighty Ducks. This speech was enough to raise the dead, so with a quick check around to make sure that no Zombies had arisen we waved and cheered off the team on their final 11kms. It was like something out of a western, 3 heroes slowly walking off in to the sunset with their friends and family waving them off.

It was at this point in time I could feel my sanity slowly starting to leave me and I think the strange little man sitting on my shoulder was feeling the same. We drove on to the final checkpoint with the intention of maybe catching a few minutes sleep in the car and/or listening to the Raiders destroy the cowgirls in the footy. Unfortunately we were denied both of these things. Firstly being Sydney, the Raiders game wasn’t on the radio and secondly none of us could find it in us to get some sleep. So we decided to explore the finishing area and watch some of the walkers finish their arduous trek.

The finish line was on a cricket oval that looked out over Sydney Harbour, just outside the main gates of HMAS Penguin. The view was something special. No matter where you go and what you see there is something unique about Australia’s most famous waterway. The walkers entered the oval and had a marked and bannered track to walk down as their names were chanted out of a PA system. The smiles on the faces of these brave folk were something to behold and I couldn’t wait to see the same look on the face of our team.

But like all good stories there was one final twist.

At about 8pm we received a panicked call. The walkers were lost. Having left the previous checkpoint without their walking lights (after being told they wouldn’t need them) the team had arrived at a park and in the pitch black of a moonless night had gotten turned around. On the edge of hysteria they had called us in the hope that one of us could point them in the right direction. So with no thought to the enormity of the task at hand and no knowledge of exactly how far the team were away from us Stacey’s old man set off like a man possessed. The fatherly instinct had kicked in and there was no way that he could stand by and do nothing.

After Dave’s heroic exit we received another call. The guys had found another team of walkers and were trailing their helpful lights. Our worries eased and we knew now that there could be no more possible problems in this epic journey. Things only improved when we received word that Dave had reached the team with a walking light and that they were only 20 minutes away. So with the knowledge of their imminent arrival and a case of beer under our arms, the support crew plus Stacey and Nicky’s parents we set up at the finish line, eagerly awaiting the sight of our loved ones walking towards their well-deserved applause.

With all of us watching the road intently and applauding other teams as they finished one of us noticed the loudest pair of board shorts man has ever worn and we all leapt in excitement.

They had arrived, the finish line was insight and the smiles were leaping onto their faces. Greg still walking like a man with a cactus in his pants lifted his walking poles in glee and put his arms around the girls. They had done it. In 36 hours and 55 minutes my family and close friends had truly completed something extraordinary. 100kms, 30 of it through Grade 5 walking trails. Almost 37 hours of, blisters, sore ankles knees and feet. The loss of a team mate, getting lost in the dark and a case of chafe that had made Greg red from toes to tits, all of this and so much more had assaulted our heroes on their journey and none of it caused them to falter.

In that moment I was almost dumbstruck with pride. These three people had been through hell for the benefit of others and along with my wife had raised over $7000 dollars for those that need it most. It truly was a case of ordinary people achieving the extraordinary. I also felt pride for my small part in the proceedings. I like to think that the small effort I went to helped them achieve this amazing feat. So with a beer in hand and a hug for the team we all sat and enjoyed the moment. The astonishing had been achieved and I was lucky enough to be there to witness it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Part 2 the Oxfam Trailwalker report.

So where did I leave you……. That’s right, Amy had just pulled out and the others were about to leave checkpoint 3.

Well the team were determined, the loss of a team mate meant that all three remaining members had to watch each other and provide motivation during the tough times ahead. This motivation would be needed sorely as the team wouldn’t see any their support folk for over 20kms. So with the team members off towards checkpoint 4, and Amy tucked in the back of the party van, the 4 support crew headed back to Hornsby for a couple of hours shut-eye before we met the walkers again at checkpoint 5.

It seemed that as soon as I had shut my eyes my brother was waking me up to head off and see the crew. It was 3am, Saturday morning and we had a 20min drive to Checkpoint 5 at St Ives showground. So with sleepy eyes, a can of rockstar and a thermos of Chicken soup my brother and I jumped into the car and headed off. Driving in Sydney at this time in the morning is a lot easier and we got to the showground in about 15 minutes. Once there we met up with the other half of the support crew and once again set up the picnic area.

We saw the team walking towards us, obviously exhausted but in good spirits. They were tired and happy. They had a look of triumph on their face with 60kms down and 40 to go. This 40 was the easiest part of the walk as far as the trail goes and the walkers could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The two girls sat down with some soup and bread and casually changed their strapping tape, talking as if they had just been for an afternoon stroll. Greg (the ginger) however was cooling down fast and we feared that he was in the early stages of hypothermia. So with the car heater at full blast, a change of clothes and a couple of cups of hot soup we nursed Greg back to the point where his finger and toes were able to be felt, allowing him to get the motivation back to keep on keeping on.

With the team off again my brother and I headed back to base camp. It was now 5:30am and we knew we had to be at the next checkpoint at about 9 in the morning. My brother promptly settled into bed and went back to sleep and while I would have liked to this was not possible due to a combination of worry for my wife and the walkers and the large can of energy drink I consumed to actually make it to the previous checkpoint. So tired, yet wide awake I sat down with a fresh cup of coffee and loaded up Starcraft 2 on the laptop to fill in an hour or so.

It was at this point that my wife finally felt human enough to speak to us. The spewing had subsided and with a large dose of panadol and asprin she was able to return to the world of the living. So with an extra support member now on board and a list of food that we had to purchase from McDonalds we once again hit the road. Quickly running into Maccas Hornsby we realised that we may be running a little late and with Sydney traffic doing it’s very best to piss me off we ended up being about 10 minutes late to the next checkpoint. We felt horrible we had failed the team but when we arrived we realised that the situation was actually worse. The other half of the support team hadn’t arrived yet and they were carrying all of the clothes and strapping for the team. Calling them got us nowhere as their phones kept ringing out. Had something happened to them? Had they gotten lost? Or worse had they forgotten?

So the team set off again, angry and smelly. With no fresh clothes and old strapping tape the next 10kms would be tough. Luck struck the team though with all of us spotting the party van down the hill. We all headed down there and found the girls asleep in their van. They had driven straight from the previous checkpoint to here and decided to sleep in their cars. The problem being their phones froze and their alarms didn’t go off. Of course this meant our phones weren’t ringing through and we couldn’t wake them. Unceremoniously they were awoken, and with embarrassed looks the girls got up and saw to the teams clothing and strapping needs.

With a better outlook now that they had fresh outfits, the anger that the walkers had towards the girls evaporated and turned into good natured ribbing. The team were fresh and keen and wanted to power on. So with a wave of support we sent them on their way, 30 odd kms to go and 2 checkpoints to the finish line. Back into the cars we piled and headed back for what would be the support crew’s final trip to Hornsby. The three of us had quick showers to freshen up, grabbed more of our stimulant of choice (coffee for myself and brother and a diluted powerade for Amy) and hit the frog and toad towards the 7th checkpoint.

That is the end of part 2. Like all good trilogies hopefully this part left you wanting more. Tomorrow I will return with the triumphant finale and one final hurdle that threatened to derail the team.