As a kid living in a village-like Bayside suburb on the outskirts of Brisbane — one store/post office, a one-teacher school, around 80 houses, many of which were essentially remnant fishing shacks from the early days of the settlement — I was often subjected to jokes about the place from classmates at my “elite” Brisbane high school. I was much smarter in those days, and won a partial scholarship, the only way my parents could have afforded to send me there. I was mingling, generally uncomfortably, with the offspring of lawyers, doctors, graziers, but when I fled each afternoon I hightailed it with relief back to the mud, mangroves and — as the alliterative putdowns went — mosquitoes of our home on the edge of Moreton Bay.
What the hell is my weather app playing at? was my thought as I left home a couple of hours ago for my five-mile walk downtown. “Sunshine and cloud mixed” and 6C or so were to be my rewards for surviving till the first full day of (official) Spring; the reality was swirling snowflakes, a cold breeze and only two fleeting appearances by an ever-submissive sun.
For about a month now my weekends have followed the same pattern. I go into Busan on the Saturday, do the civilised urban thing with lots of coffee and an obscene amount of clothes shopping (trying to make Winter fun); the Sunday is for hiking, photos, music and, well, more coffee. This last one fit the template perfectly. I’d lucked upon a nice variation in my Bulmo-San explorations the previous Sunday, a new route down via a hillside boulder field adorned with cairns both modest and majestic, and just below them on a col, where a dirt road zigzagged up and down the mountain, a new path marked Bulmo-San, 2.7km.
Well, it’s all over. My job, but more importantly, my version of the Thousand-Mile Challenge I started in August.
Hiking a long trail can make for some unlikely friendships. I met some great people on the Appalachian Trail in 2004, and with the following scanned pictures and journal extracts, I recall one of the true characters I’ve had the privilege of meeting and walking with — colourful, passionate, larger than life, but dependable and true, like the Trail itself.