(Bonus theme song to this post - sit back and enjoy the read!)
It was a long trip home but certainly nowhere near as long as I'd planned. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and I managed to get the very last seat on the Spirit of Queensland, riding the rails in economy the 1300 or so kilometres from Townsville to Brisbane. Certainly more roomy and better appointed than long distance economy flights. I even managed to get a bit of sleep despite the carriage being packed full of snorers!! [Ed: kind of what it's been like since you've been back...]
From Brisbane I rode first class to Melbourne, via Kempsey, where I took a week out to visit family in Mungay Creek. First. Class. Wow! What an experience. The XPT service was commissioned in Australia in 1982 and was based on a UK service from 1971. The carriages did not appear to have been refurbished in all that time, and certainly rattled and squeaked commensurate with their age. I'm tipping they went faster in their heyday, though, as no doubt the track was in better condition. I know 1980s retro is a thing, so how lucky am I to have enjoyed this experience for 1700 odd kilometres, especially when you consider Puffing Billy is only 23 kilometres and costs about $60!
After a bit of 'googlage' shortly after boarding in Brisbane, I discovered the only difference between economy and first class is 5cm in leg room. Robbed on the retro rattler!
I arrived at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne on Friday 7th July at 7:30am. Clearly I was pretty excited to be soon seeing Beth and the kids as I dashed off to catch a train out to Lilydale. I got as far as Flinders Street Station before realising I hadn't collected my pack at Southern Cross, "You dickhead" I cursed to myself (unfortunately, though, out loud, much to the bemusement of my fellow commuters as I exited the train).
Home sweet home! Beth picked me up from Lilydale station with Hayley, Brooke & Jack in tow. It was so great to see them all - but geez it's cold down here in Melbourne, "Is the fire going at home?" I asked.
"Oh Tish, you are such a basket case" I said as I put my pack down and warmed my arse by the fire.
Since first experiencing searing pain with each step on the Trail, just past Gunnawarra on 16th June, here's what has transpired:
The final verdict..... tibialis anterior tendinopathy. Well, of the three injury possibilities, I am back to what Melanie, the physio I saw in Atherton, had diagnosed. If only I hadn't been so bloody impatient, and really heard what she told me I needed to do to properly recover, rather than what I wanted to hear, my recovery may have been weeks instead of the months it now is. I was told to rest it and that I would know when it was right to start again. Melanie said "Don't even think about walking on it for at least 3 days" and that when I do set off again "Stop walking if it starts to hurt again". Pretty clear right? Well, like the idiot I am, what I chose to hear was "It'll be ok to get back in on the BNT after 4 days of bludging at Innot Hot Springs, when you set off again if it starts to hurt give it a bit of a rub and you'll be right."
Now what? No walking for at least four weeks - anything that vaguely resembles hiking (or training for hiking) is off limits. I was told swimming would be ok, but no vigerous kicking, possibly cycling but stop if experiencing any pain. I'm going stir crazy at home doing nothing so I'm definitely going to get on my bike. The doc prescribed some stronger anti-inflammatory pills of the corticosteroids variety (prednisolone) - even after 3 weeks of no hiking, the MRI still showed a fair amount of swelling around the affected tendon.
After four weeks of no walking I will recommence a gradual build up of training for a return to the BNT in October. Yep, you read correctly, October - THIS YEAR!
In order for me to get back to the Trail as soon as I can, I'm recutting my plan for a South-North attempt. I'm aiming to set out from Healesville in mid October, and finishing at Innot Hot Springs. My official BNT exit point was Lucy Creek near the Valley of Lagoons but I love the idea of walking a few extra kilometres and finishing it at the hot springs.
Earlier this year a fellow BNT trekker, Eliza (of team Donkey Dreaming) correctly called it: "Geez, Victoria has mountains on its mountains!" Whilst seemingly not conducive to a gradual return to the vigour of BNT life, I'm lucky I live in Healesville and can plan to pre-drop supplies in a few family 4WD outings. This means I'll be able to front-end my return to the Trail with more rest days and lighter pack-loads. It also means I'll be able to attend the BNT AGM in Narbethong in late October.
In the immortal words of Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith (and showing my age with an A-Team reference) "I love it when a plan comes together."
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.