As I walk, everything passes me by. The ever-changing bushland, wildflowers, bird life, huts. Sometimes just a blur of green, browns and greys in my peripherals. Time seems to stand still as I stop to bend down and look closely at a single tiny flower. A butterfly flight pattern can affect my own internal rhythm. Just like the landscape, people I meet pass me by. Sometimes multiple times as we walk along.

Jimmy is 1 year sober. He did the Bibbulman for the first time a year a go to break away from Meth. This time he’s training for the army. Albany to Brookton Hwy – will meet Dad for a couple of celebratory bourbons. Lost 25kgs in 6weeks. Not an inch of skin showing beneath layers of black and grey clothing but something, somehow still shines through – wears a fly net.

Jenny is “nanna hiker” on the trail. She has a lot of hiking experience, and it’s evident in her drive and determination. Sometimes she hikes with her husband but he didn’t join her this time around. Heading from Perth Hills to Albany (maybe) but it won’t mean anything to anyone if she pulls the pin early. She will map a route to avoid hills or follow the river if it makes more sense. She draws her own path. Promised her husband she wouldn’t hitchhike. Texts her family every night she can. Wanted to beat her personal best by getting to Dwellingup in 8 days. Has kind eyes, which reminds us of our friend Tom’s Mum. Met Bill along the way and became temporary trail buddies for a few days. Wants to get her first tattoo when she turns 60, but what should she get? New knee last year – the Bibb is giving her a good chance to test it out.

Bill wore an oversized “Let’s make America great again in my image” tee with an image of Trump on it with a round tear on his head that looks like a bullet hole. Don’t know his political stance, or even if he has one. Carries his nephews old hockey sticks for walking. Wears shorts cut from sweatpants that has since torn into a skirt. Carries an umbrella. Likes to believe the best in everything & everyone. Has often found himself riding or walking long distances, for weeks or months with no intention to at the start. Has a recovering torn Achilles from early in the year. Loves a laugh. Smokes rollies and is very generous with whatever he has in his pack. Oh yeah, he has a second shirt which says ”I ♥️ RUM” because the T+P at the start and finish have been rubbed out.

Maddy seems bitter, but on second glance might very well be sweet. Made redundant from her job. Seems to be searching for something or everything in this journey. Kalamunda to Albany (maybe). 16 weeks pregnant, but appears to be on her own. Lives in Melbourne but might not go back. Originally had too much cold weather gear, ditched it all and got so cold she slept in her emergency blanket. Seems sad. Has a lot going on in her heart, maybe too much to carry for such a long walk. Loves taking pictures with her hot pink point and shoot camera. Once acted in a Lollywood film in Pakistan. Is very well read, I knew this early on, when she said “I’m not very dexterous on the trail yet”. Who actually uses words like that in general conversation? Well read people, that’s who.

Up until now this walk was my superficial escape from the daily grind, to shake up my comfort zone & reconnect with nature. I am realising in greater part now, that it is my journey to rediscover and even grow my deep connection & empathy toward humans. My ability to see them easily – to open – sometimes heal.

{All names have been changed to protect their privacy}

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