The beginning of my Gibb River walk in the Kimberley was magical. Birds invited me for early morning tea and the mid-afternoon sun seemed to only shed deeper meaning and shadows between the gorge walls.
Then, Athena got her sixth flat.
I lost my spoon (and relearned the joys of finger eating).
Got sprayed with cow diarrhea by a passing cattle truck- followed by a maniacal laughter and the full awareness of no shower for weeks to come.
The flies were multiplying by the minute.
Then one afternoon, it went from unbearably hot to brain-boiling.
I could no longer wear my typical (aka-my everyday-my only) pants and t-shirt, the only comfortable thing to wear was my cotton dress. It allows a little breeze and when no one is around, no passing vehicle or cattle herder, I lift it up to my chest, tuck it in my overly tight sports bra, creating an air conditioner utilizing the wind and the cascade of sweat dripping down my torso.
In desperation to avoid bbq'd skin, I managed to make a decent shade structure, with some rope, a dress, a broken umbrella and a few bungee cords. McGyver had more than a fashionable mullet to inspire.
While on the Gibb River, I was reading a book about the Kimberley people, particularly the tribes of the Worora people and wanted to walk some of the stretches they had lived and walked before. It was not an affectionate desire, the tribes in the North were known for cannibalism and laws that allowed a man to spear his wife if she could no longer give him children. A harsh landscape reflected a harsh lifestyle.
What became interesting to me is that the coastal tribes that had an abundance of fish, fresh water and shade, didn't express a humble happiness that the central Australian tribes seemed to emulate.
The isolation and long journeys in the desert forced them to thrive on the little they had. They drank less water and yet seemed to have more organized parties and dancing. The tribes along the Western Coast imparted cruel punishments and vengeful tactics. But this is found throughout human history. Different morals and values. And most often, no matter the degree of violence inflicted on warring tribes, the community itself is caring and they look after one another.
That is until you become a barren female in the Worora tribe.
Their homeland is where I was headed. I changed my finishing route in Australia, from the lush city of Darwin, to the Aboriginal village of Kalumburu.
Walking the world means there are a lot of places that I will miss out on seeing, like cultural landmarks, museums, and all things touristy. Admittedly, no matter how ancient or historic a place is, if there's a tourist bus outside, I will bee-line it in the opposite direction.
When I see images of friends eating gelato outside the Sistine Chapel or a yoga retreat in Bali, I am reminded that my way of travel is so vastly different. When people are getting coffee in a Monaco cafe, I'm the dirt-smeared homeless woman, complete with overflowing buggy, that confuses people as to whether or not they should offer me their half-eaten croissant.
I've been presumed a refugee; a bag lady (which, after picking things up off the side of the road, I inevitably have to own that one); a spiritual pilgrim; and a trash collector. Ok, I can own that one too. I carry all my own trash until I can throw it away. Because after all, there is no "away". The least I can do is leave only a trace of foot prints.
This journey is about how I walk, and where the walk takes me.
I am in it for the love of adventure and exploration, both of physical landscapes and of the heart.
I am in it for the challenges I will face that will strengthen my character.
I walk as a free woman who could choose crazy-experiment over secure-job in a world where many women still can't choose their husband or education. I walk with them in my thoughts. And the little that people give me, I give to them. I can still eat a bruised croissant if I have to.
I walk because riding a bike is still too fast. And I'm clumsy. I once sprained my ankle running in place.
A passer-by in a car once said, "It's a lot easier to drive."
Easy would be at home in air conditioning, my butt glued to the lounge with a book and waiting for the pizza to turn a perfect golden brown.
I chose to walk because it felt right for me. I knew full well "easy" wasnt included in the itinerary.
I walk into a web of the unknown and slowly watch the world around me shape itself into being.
I can no longer walk past a grasshopper without admiring its genius construct or the cacophony of bird calls in my immediate surrounding.
To walk the earth, for me, is to practice being deeply connected to the subtlety of every moment and how it changes and forms itself.
This walk is like a marriage. When things get tough I'm not going to quit or choose something more comfortable and beautiful.
I may reach the end of my walk and still wonder what this walk is about.