In the last couple weeks before I stepped off the BNT in mid-February, my feet were becoming increasingly sore at the end of each day’s hike. The weather was hot and dry; my hiking boots felt like little ovens; my legs felt tight and heavy, despite my daily maintenance regime of stretching and massage; and, top it all off, my left shoulder was giving me some trouble, regardless of how I balanced the load and adjusted my pack.
I was really looking forward to getting home and celebrating the kids’ birthdays. The fact that a 20-day break was just around the corner helped me get through when I was feeling really shagged. When I got reception, I jumped online and booked a few remedial massages. In a case of mind over matter, knowing I had treatment locked in seemed to ease the pain of my sore feet and tired legs. I’d certainly be getting my money’s worth.
Fast forward to my first appointment with Cameron, at Healesville Sports Injury Remedial Massage Clinic. I was describing the trouble I was having with my feet. “You might want to watch that” he said, “they're classic symptoms of plantar fasciitis”. He suggested I see Hurst Podiatry, as he attacked the trigger points in my calves.
I was a little freaked out as I’d read some nasty stories about plantar fasciitis (inflammation of a band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot from heel bone to toes). After seeing the podiatrist, though, I was relieved. Chris (the podiatrist) focussed on what I needed to do to manage it when I got back on the trail. I was armed with more stretching to do, how to tape it up, as well as adding over-the-counter orthotic insoles to my boots.
Resuming my hike of the National Trail, I genuinely felt recharged as I set off down Kangaroo Flat Road in Yarrowitch. It was drizzling, and I was fully loaded with 7 days’ worth of food, some new gear and my usual two-and-a-half litres of water. I had my insoles in, my feet taped, and I was pumped; I was heading into the Kunderang!
After about 5 kilometres, my feet began to hurt in new ways. It felt like something was digging into my arches. After an inspection, and a bit more taping, I pressed on - new orthotics have a solid plastic bit to support the arch. Arrghhh!!! Then, towards the end of the days’ hike I could feel my right shin starting to burn. Reminiscent of how it started off in Far North Queensland (which culminated in the injury that derailed my north-to-south attempt of the BNT).
The next day was a little cooler, with patchy rain, and fortunately only 16 kilometres. I added an extra two kilometres to the days’ hike to get to the hut the National Parks & Wildlife guys told me about. I’m glad I did, as it was a nice spot and I was able dry my gear out, rest and throw everything at my little niggles. I was most worried about my right shin.
I must have done something right, as it was a great hike to Youdales Hut. Health niggles and pain were forgotten, replaced with the excitement of arriving in the Kunderang. A bit of that excitement was apprehension, though. There was still a bit of patchy rain about, and I’d been warned about this section after rain.
The Kunderang Brook, Macleay River and George’s Creek were truly amazing. Every bit as amazing as I’d been told and then some. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the Guy Fawkes River was thrown my way after decent rains. An experience I will never forget. I wasn’t pain-free, but it was all good pain. The pain of pushing yourself to your limits, only to get the glorious release of endorphins and adrenaline as you are surrounded by awe-inspiring beauty.
If you haven’t already, check out these little videos I put together as I travelled through this area. I hope you get a sense of how privileged I felt to have been able to experience this.
Guy Fawkes River
I spent an extra day in the Guy Fawkes waiting for the river to drop. This was on top of the extra couple of days when I stayed at Marengo Station with Mick, his lovely wife Emma, and their gorgeous little daughter, Mackenzie. All not in the plan, which meant I had to ration carefully through the Valley. I pushed things pretty hard on the last day. It was threatening rain with the occasional thunder murmurs. I got to the day’s designated camp at Newton Boyd early(ish), so decided to press on to the next one. This made it a 35-kilometre day that included 14 river crossings and a steady climb. The last few kilometres from camp my right knee was telling me I’m a dickhead and I should have camped at Newton Boyd Recreational Reserve. I don’t know why it was protesting now, it’s not like I hadn’t walked 2200 kilometres and pushed myself hard before. I put it down to probably wrenching it on the walk some stage through the Guy Fawkes.
I got to Blacks Flat Travelling Stock Reserve at around 5pm. Even though it was late, I quickly set up camp and, after doing my usual maintenance, I focussed attention on my right knee.
The next day was an enjoyable hike to Mann River. My knee, however, started telling me off with a few kilometres to go.
I decided to listen to it this time. Rather than walk the extra 10 kilometres to get to the Highway, though, I was lucky there was a National Parks & Wildlife Service crew upgrading the Mann River Campsite, and I was able to get a lift to Glen Innes with them.
After 3 operations on my right knee to repair a torn meniscus, there’s pretty much no meniscus left. My orthopaedic surgeon told me the knee was arthritic, and that I may need a knee replacement in 5 to 10 years. That was about 5 years ago. Nearly 2,900 kilometres without any sign of my past woes, I was climbing out of the Guy Fawkes Valley when my knee blew up like a balloon. Fuck!
I had no luck getting in to see any of the local GPs in Glen Innes, so decided to front up to the Glen Innes Hospital ED.
I’m now spending Easter here in Glen Innes resting the knee and taking anti-inflammatories; setting off again Tuesday.
I’ve heard what’s ahead of me is as good, if not better - one way or another I’m coming through! Pain, pain go away, fuck clean off and stay away!
At 47 years young, Chris Anthony, who is married with 3 wonderful kids, tried his hand at being an adventurer for the 12 months tackling the BNT.