Alone Across Australia
Editor’s note – A modern equestrian Odyssey began on March 23, 2015 when the Guild received a message.
The email stated, “Hello. My name is Kimberley Delavere. I am 24 years old and I am contacting the Long Riders’ Guild to inform you of my intention to ride from Wilson’s Promontory (the Southernmost point of the Australian continent) to the Tip of Cape York Peninsula (the northernmost point of the Australian continent), via the Bicentennial National Trail. As far as I have researched, a journey of this kind (solo female, on horseback, bottom of Australia to the top) has not yet been undertaken.”
Prior to her departure, Kimberley had only limited riding experience and realized that making this solo journey would expose her to numerous potential hazards including “poisonous snakes and crocodiles in the waterholes in Queensland.” But she was determined to try.
|Because of the historic nature of her journey, The Long Riders’ Guild asked Kimberley Delavere to be the first person to carry the Guild flag across Australia. She is seen holding the flag at the southern terminus of the Bicentennial National Trail.|
In addition to receiving assistance from the Guild, Kim was mentored during the journey by a number of experienced Australian Long Riders including Sharon Bridgeman, Pia Hejgaard, Kathryn Holzberger and Sharon Roberts.
The trip proved to be harder than Kimberley foreseen. She had expected the terrain and weather to challenge her. What she had not foreseen was that her horse, Clem, would be hit by a car. This resulted in Kimberley continuing the journey on Archie, an equine son of the Outback who displayed amazing resilience, courage and trust.
Finally, on August 7, 2017 after riding more than 5,000 kilometres, Kimberley Delavere and Archie reached the marker at the northern terminus of the Bicentennial National Trail. Though Kimberley had reached her goal, the conclusion of her journey was marred by an unforeseen assault. Australia is home to a number of potential threats, including lethal crocodiles and deadly snakes. But after 600 days in the saddle, and with only a few miles to go before she reached the finish line, Kimberley Delavere was suddenly confronted with another kind of predator.
These two extracts appear courtesy of Kimberley’s blog. They not only describe what happened. More importantly they explain how the Australian Long Rider overcame that experience.
Days 596- 600: Daintree Village to the Lions Den
In the days preceding me and Archie’s arrival in our final destination, I was more aware than ever of the likelihood of cruel irony sneaking up and ambushing us, in the same violent and gory fashion a hungry crocodile takes down an innocent water buffalo. It had already occurred in Mossman, where I'd unpacked my tent and realised I'd lost a tent pole somewhere along the way. That was a pretty crushing blow, and not just in the practical sense (I was now living in a half-inflated balloon); my tent had been with me the entire trip, through sun, storm, frost and what I'm pretty sure was light snow in the Blue Mountains, and I was disappointed I would get to Cooktown with a member of my battalion unaccounted for. Little did I know what was coming.
When I arrived in the pleasant and shady Daintree Village, Daintree Dave came down with some beers and shouted me an ice-cream. Dave has declared himself Trail Angel of the Daintree, and he certainly goes above and beyond the call of duty. Before he left, he gave me his number and insisted I call if I needed help or there was an emergency, and it was shortly after that I unpacked my saddle bags.
“No” I said, dread breaking out in a cold sweat down my back, “No no no no! NOOOOO!”
MY FAVOURITE SHIRT WAS GONE.
I know I've used this analogy before, when my hat blew away, but that was nothing compared to this feeling. This is the feeling Tom Hanks meant when Wilson the Volleyball is swept away to a watery grave; this is the severing of an umbilical cord with rusty scissors; this is stone-cold sobriety after years of narcotic bliss. This was bad.
The shirt was nowhere to be found. No matter how many times I desperately looked and looked, it was lost. It was, in every sense, an emergency.
I had Dave on the phone in no time, and he insisted he come and pick me up in the morning to trawl the overgrown roadside for an olive green shirt that was barely held together by its original stitches. I knew it was futile, but I couldn't face the idea of letting go of a shirt that had been with me for so long, since that one fateful clothes swap sometime back in 2009/10. I had made it so far without losing anything important on the trail, and I had not even a week to go. My tent was on its last legs (with a broken zipper too), and my bath towel had gone the way of the shirt. I was in the danger-zone, five days from retirement. It was a cruel reminder not to let my guard down just yet.
Dave and I had a pleasant morning though! I went back to his cottage in the jungle and we had coffee and breakfast, before we scoured the roadside all the way back to Wonga Beach, our eyes peeled for a camouflaged, glorified rag. Needless to say, we didn't find it, but Dave certainly did his best, which I really appreciated. I ended up having a great morning with him anyway, strolling along Wonga Beach, which I hadn't had a chance to do the day before.
But we headed back and I loaded up Archie, and made my way up the Daintree River to meet Dave at the crossing, who supervised as we made our way across, as fast as possible. The river came up close to Archie’s belly, but luckily no hungry crocodilians had a taste for pony that day. Safely across, I turned and waved goodbye to the wonderful Dave, and headed on up the CREB Track.
|Saltwater crocodiles are the largest of all living reptiles, with males reaching 23 feet in length. Considered a hyper carnivorous apex predator, most prey is ambushed and then drowned or swallowed whole. The government of Australia warns, “Expect crocodiles in ALL north Queensland waterways, even if there is no warning sign.”|
We spent the next few days making our way up and down the steep, slippery slopes of the Creb, and it was tough! Archie was in prime condition by the time we tackled the Creb, but it was still a huge effort for the both of us. We both ended up covered in mud, sweat and rain, almost stepped on a snake with a bad attitude, avoided spiky ferns that threatened to rip hair out, and ignored the strange sense that the bird calls sounded exactly like people murmuring just behind the next bushes. There wasn't a great deal of feed, but the landscapes were beautiful and eerie, and the creeks were pristine. After a couple of days, we emerged to meet BNT Trekker Brett at Keatings Creek, who is traveling south on the trail and raising money for returned soldiers suffering PTSD.
That night, I had my last bowl of lentils on the trail, a milestone that I wasn't altogether sad to see go, and one that had no impact on Archibald what-so-ever. Don't get me wrong, I like my lentils, but I was already looking forward to a bit of variety once I arrived in Cooktown. Mainly pizza with a lot of beer.
As I headed through Ayton the next day, I dropped into the Middle Store to pick up an ice cream and an apple for Archie, and ended up chatting with one of the locals about what I was doing.
“I always wanted to ride around Australia when I was younger”, the woman told me, “But I was always worried about M. E. N”.
“What's that?” I asked, baffled, thinking it was an obscure disease that plagued generations past.
She looked at me blankly. When she realised I wasn't kidding, she explained it to me. “Men” She said. “I was always worried I was going to be raped”.
“That sucks” I said, but sympathetically, because it's shit when your fears are strong enough to inhibit your dreams.
I woke up early the day we were due to get to the Lions Den, and bounced over to Archie. “We're gonna see Mum and Dad today!” I told him, though once again the excitement of the day wasn't really evident in him beyond bearing my snoot kisses and cuddles with the same grave stoicism as usual.
So we packed up and began the long ride to the Lions Den, though the day was beautiful, the ride was serene and all the hard navigation and tough terrain was behind us. My mood was bordering on ecstatic, I couldn't wait to see my sister and have a beer at the pub! The way into Cooktown would be a cakewalk, or so I thought.
|Archie, a loyal friend (who had a tendency to wander away during the night in search of snacks).|
Carried away in my daydreams, I saw a car pull over up ahead and a guy get out. This happens pretty often, people stopping for a chat, so as Archie and I made our way up to him I called out cheerfully.
“Hey, how are you?”
“Yeah, good, how are you?” The young guy called back.
“Great! You wouldn't know how far it is to- OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING??!”
The guy had his dick out, in his hands, and had it pointed straight at me, slowly rubbing it.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” I hissed, drawing from myself a tone of such scathing I still can't recognise myself in it. I was on foot, and I led Archie straight past him, staring at him in contempt, a look I truly wish I could muster at will.
He kind of just looked at me, then tucked it back in. “Sorry” He said, awkwardly, like the joke had backfired. I turned away from him and kept walking, before I stopped, and turned back.
I think we both realized what I was going to do. I pulled my backpack off and scrambled to get my phone out, but in those seconds he jumped back in his car and took off, spraying dust and rocks, and by the time I tried to take a photo, his car had roared past me up the road and around the corner.
I hadn't even got his number plate.
The whole thing was over so quickly, and I realised that this was bad, bad, much worse than losing a shirt or breaking the zip to my tent. My heart was thumping and I felt sick, like my guts were being dragged out from my lower belly, and I was shaking.
I heard a car come up behind us, and I dragged Archie onto the road to flag down the Land Cruiser, mouthing the words help and waving my hands.
Without glancing at me, the driver veered onto the oncoming lane, drove past and zoomed off into the distance, hopefully to plough full-speed into a tree. If I thought I could feel any worse, I was right. There really is nothing like being ignored when you desperately need help. I don't know if it's ever really happened to me before. It was awful. And to make matters worse, I can remember every single detail about the car that ignored me. So cheers, 90-DAKS, I hope someone drives your truck into the Endeavour River
So thus I found myself in the middle of the road, harassed and ignored, on the second-last day of my journey, with a growing sense of violation and panic, and no one to help me.
And you know what was so totally shit about it? Ever since I began this trail, ever since I started organising- No! Before that! Ever since I started travelling alone, ever since I started catching trains alone, or walking home from work alone, or doing anything alone or with another girl that could be construed as being unsafe or risky, this is the question I get: But aren't you worried about the crazies? The crazies being, of course, the rapists and murderers, which seem to be hiding around every corner, ready to rip a girl out of the saddle and have his way with her. Aren't I afraid? Shouldn't I be more careful? I’d wanna look after myself, a lotta mean blokes out there. A pretty girl like me? You're crazy! I'd choke my daughter if she told she wanted to do something like that (and variations of the threat). What do your parents think? Couldn't find a fella to do it with you? But aren't you worried about crazies?
And for so long, I told people who made those suggestion that I was generally safer in the bush, away from people. Then I started rattling off the fact that most women are raped and assaulted by people they're either related to or in a relationship with (“No, that can't be quite right”). And then in the end, I decided it wasn't up to me to assure anyone who asked the question that I had taken any steps towards ensuring I would be safe from those problems because I was taking any kind of ‘preventative measures’. Because ‘Fuck it’ I decided, I was just going to continue on my way, mind my own business, and simply rely on other people not to harass, assault, or rape me. It wasn't my responsibility. Plus, I was doing a disservice to myself (and all women), by encouraging anybody who expressed the concern about crazies, by assuring them that I was being sensible, cautious, responsible and I'm not ‘putting myself out there’. Quite frankly, it's not up to me to stop people being shit heads.
Radical? Probably. Idealistic? You bet. Effective? Apparently not.
But it had finally happened and the only thing that had prevented it so far was luck.
It was my 600th day on the trail, and it had taken about 5,300 kilometres (3,293 miles) before the crazies finally found me and pointed their penises at me like a taser. And when I realised this, when the thought hit me like what I imagine a navy-blue Land Cruiser with a canopy feels like hitting a brick wall, that no level of courage or experience, no impressive feat of endurance, no accomplishment could really stop a man pushing his way into your life for a few seconds, make it shit for you and then leaving, when I realised there was no immunity, there was no Rubicon to cross that would offer any protection, and there would never, ever be any assurance that I would be safe from this, when I realised that after a year and 8 months of trying to prove myself and make something of myself, TO MYSELF, I could be reduced to nothing but a fucking audience for a pervert who did not give a shit about me, I took a deep breath.
“FUUUUUUUUUUCCCCKKĶKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!” I screamed into the rainforest, stamping my feet and frightening some birds. I wiped angrily at the tears in my eyes and groaned loudly. I was pissed off, pissed off this guy had taken away the bliss of my last few days on the trail, pissed off I was going to have to contact the police and explain this to my parents, and pissed off that he was probably going to never get caught and that I hadn't thought to break his windscreen or look at his number plates and kick his ugly penis.
Another car came up behind, and I managed to flag him down successfully this time. I was kind of lost for words, but I explained that the guy had just driven on ahead, and if they got his number plates and reported it, I'd call the police when I got to the Lions Den. I still regret not calling 000 then and there, but I guess I know that, despite my surprise, these events are pretty fucking commonplace. And it's hard to distinguish whether it was enough of an emergency to call them. I was in shock; Of course it was an emergency. There was a pervert on the loose. I'd been harassed. That was enough to call 000.
I was alone again on the side of the road, and upset. Really upset. I realised that this episode had the ability to stain my arrival in Cooktown, and what can I say, I'm getting emotional writing about it now. I can imagine people who haven't had to deal with this shit might not understand the magnitude of the experience and the effect that it can have on someone. And let's call a spade a spade: the majority of crap like this happens to women. It happens to all women, in one way or another. In fact, every woman I've told this to has been extremely empathetic, and has usually responded with “A similar thing happened to me…” Most men I've told have laughed, or gravely told me I was lucky that that's all that happened.
Lucky. Like I should count my blessings. Like it was a privilege that all I saw was a penis, that it could have been much worse, that I should be grateful.
But I knew if I had learnt anything from riding a horse across the continent for the last year and a half, I knew I had to toughen the fuck up. I couldn't let myself feel like shit because of this, because I had come too far to be robbed of all those good feelings I'd had only moments before! I had to cheer myself up, and get to Cooktown. I jumped back into the saddle, and had only one option: I had to sing.
“WEEEELLLLLL!!! I LEFT MY HEART TO THE ZAPPERS ROUND KHE SAHNNNNN…”
And so followed another 15 kilometres of crap singing, which, thank fuck, made me feel better.
After all, I still had me, I still had my brilliant pony, and I almost had Cooktown in the palms of my tired, dirty, calloused hands.
Day 601- Lions Den Pub to Cooktown
Well, it's about time I sat down and wrote this blog up. It's been almost 5 months since I wandered into the quiet, far north town of Cooktown, a sunburnt girl on a dusty pony, ready for a chocolate milk and lie-down, and I don't exactly know where all that time has gone to. Admittedly, a fair chunk went into an extended month of partying as my sister, Marli, and I travelled on from Cooktown and made our way up to the Cape and south again, but the rest of it has flown by as I've settled back into making some actual real-life money for the first time in forever.
But leaving all of that for a moment, I am certain I can take myself back to emerging from the jungle and finding myself at the Lions Den Pub on my last night on the Bicentennial National Trail.
The pub came into view as I rounded the corner and moseyed along the last stretch to find my family’s car parked opposite, and my parents strolling out to meet me. I had thought about this pit-stop since before the very first plans to travel the trail had been laid out, before the first sod had been turned. Yes, I think I was putting the horse before the cart (or the pub before the horse, whichever you like), but with very good reason; I once had a fairly drunken/sordid evening with a bartender there, who then became uncomfortably infatuated (This. Happens. A Lot.) and inevitably followed me around the countryside for a while before he got the picture. My sister brought the stubby-holder he'd left at our camp as a reminder, and had arrived early to suss out if he was still kickin’ around. Fortunately not, so the reunion with my parents was less one awkward conversation.
As I pulled up at the gates of the pub I gave Archie a soft pat for helping me get through a pretty fucked-up day. Which wasn't at all over.
But I was feeling better, and I already had a plan worked out. After the hugs and kisses after not seeing each other for three months, I set up camp down by the river for the very last time. Lucky Archie was treated to a very nice, slow and thorough sponge bath by my Mum, who, through the last couple of years, has slowly become used to handling my horses and has conquered a large part of her fear. However, when I headed up to the phone box to contact the police, she did try to squeeze into the booth with me and tell me what to say to them when I had them on the phone.
As it happened, less of shit could not have been given anyway (“We've got a lot going on down here”) so the matter was wrapped up pretty quickly. I am really intent on not letting this become anything defining for me on the trail, because I am amazing and I have spent my life working up to feeling this amazing and I am a fucking great person. And I have realised, especially over the last few years, that I cannot protect myself from bad things happening to me, I cannot run away from every single bad thing I see, and if I want to live in this world and be a part of it I will see and experience bad things at some stages of my life, and maybe this is a privilege of living. There was a time, when I finished baking, where I willed myself daily to fall asleep and not wake back up. I think I've said this before, but my saving grace was that I knew how good I was capable of feeling, and even though I was afraid that at best I may only feel apathetic for the rest of my life, I knew that I could also choose to do anything I wanted to do and surely it was worth a try.
The alternative to nightly mantras of eternal sleep was to disappear into the bush, extricate myself from society and surely that would heal me, surely some space and silence and time to lie in a tent and wallow was what I needed, right? Surely that would help me cope better with the misery of a lifetime that lay before me?
Wrong again, Delavere.
What I needed was the guts and tools and enthusiasm to live in a world and love myself. And this has come ever so freaking slowly, and it is something I need to constantly work at.
Aren't we all still adapting ourselves to live and work and survive in a difficult world? And I don't mean to make it sound like a struggle, luckily for me it isn't. I have great friends and family, an education, a middle-class upbringing with a comfortable support network. I could have done anything I wanted when I left high school. I work hard and I'm a nice, patient and understanding person, and I want to make people happy. People like me. I have a sunny disposition. My life isn't hard. What made it hard was difficulty understanding the world around me and how I fitted into it. How do we find a balance? How do we sift through information and decide what to apply to ourselves, what to take on board and what to disregard?
Once, years ago, I left a bridal shower in tears because I'd just been working in a remote community, and I couldn't compare the excess of the kitchen-tea to the lack-there-of in other parts of Australia, and it was devastating. How could I accept that? How do I atone for the fortune and privilege I was born into? How do I live in a world where I cross through country that will one day, though hopefully not, be ripped up by Adani and absolutely fucked for a good, long while? How do I live in a world where refugees are starving in off-shore detention centres? How do I live in a world where beauty advertisements do their best to generally crush my self-esteem daily? How do I live in a world where I'm only given opportunities because of my skin-colour, where people scoff during a Welcome to Country (happened recently at an event I was at), or husbands refer to their wives in typically shit ways (“No thanks, I already have a bag and she's at home”)? How do I live in a world that suggests women who travel by themselves and take risks like I have are crazy, and that we should inhibit our behaviour in order to protect ourselves from the wild men in this world? Armies that annihilate innocent people and the medical officers that are trying to help them, people who don't understand mental illness, those psychos behind the No campaign, the 28 billion empty plastic bottles of coffee-flavoured milk on the side of the road I rode past? Tony Abbott? And everything else that shits me and upsets me?
How do I live?
|Australian Long Rider Kimberley Delavere. Sometimes we have to ride across a continent in the company of a patient horse to understand who we are, what we represent and why our lives matter.|
Because I know I'm a good person. And I do my best. I make small waves in my own little way. Some books for some remote school students. Some money to charities throughout the year. Learning to argue back when someone says something shitty, creating a barrier between myself and all the negative things I hear and see. Buying local, picking up garbage when I see it, encouraging anyone who contacts me that the trail is there for the taking. Telling myself everyday that I am a freaking babe in all the ways. Listening. Learning, still. Finally accepting a few things about myself and working with it instead of against it. Letting go. Walking the walk and making sure other women believe they can do it too. Trusting in myself that this is just the beginning. That my presence will make a difference, somehow, but also knowing that I am insignificant and I will be forgotten and that I do good, willingly, despite the fact that maybe it will mean nothing at all.
That's all I've got so far.
And I had gotten to the Lions Den, so far. It was a pretty decent effort for two misfit rat bags running on dried apricots, lentils, and luck.
|Archie and Kim – who never gave up, no matter what life and Australia threw at them.|
That night, after a few beers, I fell asleep trying to recall, in order, every single campsite I'd visited from the beginning of the trail at Donnelly’s Weird in Healesville to where I lay now. Aside from a few names that had escaped my memory, I could recall them all, as I drifted in and out of sleep.
Archie pulled his signature move sometime around midnight, when a woman returned him to camp having found him outside her camper van looking for a late-night snack. Nostalgia was setting in; I found his wanderings endearing. Despite this, he spent the rest of the night tied to a tree where I left him too close to my tarp that I rolled my tent up in. He proceeded to urinate on the tarp, which then made my tent and sleeping bag reek of horse wee for the rest of my trip beyond Cooktown. I guess, once we went our separate ways, he didn't want to be forgotten.
The next morning I got up early and headed off, a huge 33 kilometre day ahead of us. It was like any other usual day on the trail; trying to find a convenient spot to wee on the side of the road, chatting with people who stopped to say g’day, singing Cold Chisel, constantly checking the map in the hope the BNT had drastically over-estimated the distances (Note for future trekkers: This never happens. Ever. Trust me. If the distances are wrong, they are only ever longer, not shorter. I'm sorry.), but sometime in the afternoon we hit the city limits.
And then I realised; I didn't actually know where I was going.
I'm kidding! I had a vague sense of direction, but I wasn't exactly sure, so we wandered down the main street, my tummy a little bit full off butterflies. I just felt really, really quiet, as we clip-clopped down the bustling main street. A woman stopped me to take a photo.
“How long have you been travelling?” She asked.
“A year and a half” I answered, almost in a whisper, looking down to the waterfront to see if I could find my family. “Actually, I'm just about to finish”.
So I continued making my way down the road, until I spotted my parents and my sister parked beside the seafood guy, who was parked beside the BNT trail-head, beside the sparkling Coral Sea in Far North Queensland. I arrived in Cooktown on the 8th of August, 2017, 602 days after I began the trail on the 15th of December, 2015.
|Kim and Archie reach the northern terminus of the Bicentennial National Trail.|
As I wrote in my diary a few days later: “I said I'd ride to Cooktown and I did”.
As Archie and I rode around the marker a couple of times, just to make sure we were definitely there. “That was quick” I said to Archie, giving him a good pat on the neck. I think it was the biggest moment in my life so far.
And it totally was! I made it, I made it, Archie and I had made it! I knew we could do it! It was scary and terrifying and nerve-wracking and amazing and inspiring and an absolute adventure! But arriving in Cooktown didn't feel momentous or life-changing or even particularly affirming. It was a relief, more than anything. A weight lifting, the end of almost three years of preparation and practise, of every waking moment and effort directed into getting to where I sat, astride one remarkable horse, at that very moment.
The Deputy Mayor showed up, and Dad made me a delicious Tuna wrap, and the local fishmonger slipped me a kilo of prawns for my efforts, which was better than any bouquet I've ever received. We took photos, hugged and kissed, and made much of the brilliant horse that had taken me there.
It was also an opportunity to unfold the flag I've been carrying for the Long Riders Guild since I began my trip, which has always been a huge, scary honour, which I think I managed to handle it not so much with grace, but at least with humbleness and care. The Long Riders Guild was instrumental in the support and advice I received during my preparation, and I consider CuChullaine and Basha O'Reilly close friends now. I'm pretty stoked to say that, somehow, I am now a Long Rider!
And then it was all over! Bam! Just like that!
Donnelly’s Weir to Cooktown, in the blink of an eye! I'm not even going to attempt to summarize this kind of thing, because the scale of the journey is so expansive, so grand, there is no summary. I changed ten-times over since the very first time I floated the idea to myself, in a comfy double bed at Pambula Beach towards the end of 2014, a tentative ‘what-if’ list typed up and the first traitorous thoughts of quitting baking shifting gears in my head. After I quit I was devastated; I travelled to Tom Groggin and found my first BNT marker, and it was there I made the commitment. I began teaching myself to ride in Wooragee, during my ten months on the berry farm; endured the desperate, difficult, hard won lessons and the slow road back to regaining my confidence.
I began the trail with Pippin and Clem, almost dying from fear and forgetfulness before I even made the start.
Pippin the original pack horse, Kim and Clem, begin the journey.
On December 14 2017, Kim wrote, “Today marks the two-year anniversary since I began riding the Bicentennial National Trail in Healesville with my two horses, Pippin and Clem. I mean, look at this mug. Can't you see the fear on her eyes? Lucky I was wearing an adult nappy. But I learnt! It was hard, but it was a brilliant way of life for the last two years. Follow your dreams, people.”
Pippin developed a saddle sore at Howitt Hut, and my hand was caught in a stirrup as Clem dashed off one day near the Dog’s Grave, and a couple of my knuckles became concave and have never returned to their former shape. I left Omeo with only Clem, endured a hailstorm at Davies Plains, and swam across the Murray River when Clem became mesmerized by the rapids. After Clem was struck by a car in Canberra, I knew I had to get much better at what I was trying to do. I spent six months sorting it out, and returned to the trail with my new steed Archie, heading north.
The real adventure began. I sailed through New South Wales, experiencing the coldest frost of my life near Nundle, finally finding my feet as a rider in the Kunderang, before feeling completely affirmed - a feeling I only experienced once more on the trail - when I reached the New South Wales border.
I fell in love, I almost expired in a tent from the heat, drank out of a puddle with a huge floating, dead eel. I thought Archie had been eaten by crocodiles. We were both fatigued, homesick and poisoned by too many months on Deb and home brand noodles. I flew home for a few months; Archie took on Debbie and the land was green.
We began our last leg, and began savouring our moments longer. I spent a week at a rodeo; cooked wild boar over the fire, and descended the range into Mossman – a feeling akin to crossing the border. I tackled the Daintree with one tired pony, and entered Cooktown with $133 in my bank account, a gaping hole in the arse of my jeans, and with a healthy, fit, magnificent best friend.
Of course that doesn't do it justice! There are so many stories left untold!
What about the weird cockney guy that invited me back to his house where I ended up singing back-up as he tried to woo me with a cover of a Chris Isaac song (didn't work)? What about the over-friendly American backpacker that left me a love-letter in a bookshop in Ravenshoe (definitely didn't work)? What about an extended blog on my body hair and the decision to grow it, and how that's actually really important? How do I justify and lay homage to every single long, sweaty afternoon in camp doing pretty much nothing at all, when now they all feel like a blink of the eye?
What about all those unread books, the saddle blanket I wish I'd bought in Nanango, the camps I wish I'd stayed at longer, the jobs I wish I'd taken up (fencing in Biggenden?), the fucks I wish I'd given less of? The offers of paddocks and meals and friendships I turned down in order to stay on schedule? All of the moments now completely irretrievable?
But standing at the BNT trailhead, I wasn't thinking about those things at all. To be honest, I was thinking about which chocolate milk I was going to get from the supermarket, and whether I should have another tuna wrap.
And so I unloaded Archie for the last time, climbed aboard, and moseyed back up the main street to the IGA, and on to the golf course. As the sun set over Cooktown, I chatted with Archie and we said goodbye to the BNT.
It's been over four months since I completed the trail, but it feels like it's all part of a distant, parallel reality, and life moves on gently but swiftly, like the currents of the River Murray. After the trail I had a crack at riding to the Cape with a new horse, as Archie was ready for an extended break and relaxation therapy. I made it about a third of the way up before I realised I was missing Archie, the new horse wasn't the most reliable horse on his own, and maybe I'd done alright getting this far. So instead I hiked the Tele Track, hung around the Cape meeting old friends with my sister, partied down in Cairns and met up with trekkers old and new, picked up my most amazing new doggo from Kris and Renee on the trail, headed way back down south with my sister and my dog, Rastis, exploring our favourite waterfalls as we went, and returned home to Kiama.
A few people have asked me if I've had trouble readjusting to life off the trail. Not at all, except for a week in Kiama at my parents place where I cried sporadically. This may have had something to do with finding out my mum had pilfered some of my cellared wine whilst I was in the saddle (first world problems, I hear what you're saying), but I also think it was just letting go of two years of constant pressure and responsibilities. I relaxed, I even watched a movie for the first time in about a year (and cried like a baby during Finding Dory). And then it was time to pack up and head back to work for an actual extended amount of time.
I've been back living in Beechworth and working down on the berry farm for a few months now, and I've been lucky enough to meet up with some amazing people who are planning treks of their very own along the BNT trail over the next few years. It's really important to me to pay forward the support and encouragement I received from other trekkers, so if anyone has any enquiries or questions, just contact me! I'd love to help out with your plans.
I have a lot of goals for the short and long- term. Canoeing down the Murray River is my plan for next year, but I also am appreciating the fact that for the first time in a while I have no responsibilities to uphold. Hence, I've begun taking Aerial circus lessons because I've wanted to do that for fucking years, and it's never too late to learn. I can tell one of the few ways that riding from one end of Australia to the other doesn't help you, and that's when you're about 6 metres above the ground dangling from the top of a rope and realising that you didn't practise how to descend properly. “Come on, Kim!” You think, “You just rode a horse five and a half thousand kilometres!”
Despite this fact, your arms are suddenly very tired. You look down and realise you're pretty bloody high up. And then you let go.
2018 has all the promise in the world, not least because I have decided that I have to go on at least one date, for Christ’s sake, since it's been about nine years since the last half-baked attempt. I'm also appalled at how long it's taken me to write this blog up, and next year I plan to make much more of an effort to pursue and improve my writing, so maybe resurrecting an old blog is on the cards?
Thank you again to all the fabulous people who read my blogs. It has been a way bigger and exciting part of my trip that I didn't ever anticipate, so thank you for sending all the support and love me and Archie’s way!
Archie and I have been enjoying a fair bit of riding lately, which has me rethinking my former decision. Maybe our adventures aren't over yet.
One last note.
Please don't think that anyone who travels the trail, ventures out on fantastical journeys or attempts unbelievable feats are anything but ordinary. The most important thing to remember is that we are all capable of trying anything we want to try. I think I've refrained from this for the last two years, but allow me a quote from Robyn Davidson that my sister wrote to me on my Christmas present at the end of 2014, just before I left the bakery and committed to my own Camel ride:
“You are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be”.
Release yourselves from the idea that in order to do these things you must be special, unique or from a strange background, that you're too young or old, or it's too late to learn, or that it's outside the realms of possibility. Quite simply, you can do anything you want.
I will add, however, that courage is absolutely relative. Marrying the person you love and buying a home is courageous. Studying and sticking at one career for the rest of your life is courageous. Quitting Uni to make cartoons instead is courageous. Leaving your partner and travelling the world is courageous. Showing someone else the music you listen to is courageous. Not laughing politely is courageous. Eating a cupcake is courageous! Learning an instrument or hanging upside down for the first time is courageous! Telling a customer not to speak about his wife like that is courageous. Growing your leg hair is courageous! Being vulnerable is courageous! Believing in anything is courageous.
Do what makes you happy! Be courageous! Your life is all yours! I know you can do it. Just try. Trust me.
One step at a time.
|Kim and Archie. Small packages. Big hearts|
Editor’s note: In a message to the Guild, Kim wrote, “It was hard, exciting, crazy, great and the best thing I have ever done in my life. Carrying the Guild’s flag was a responsibility; I hope I did the Guild proud!”
She did. We are. That is why Kimberley warranted a special reference in the Epilogue of “The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration.”
The Guild flag Kimberley Delavere carried across Australia has now been returned and is awaiting its next adventure.
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