Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mission Complete...

Waking up this morning I was filled with a warm, happy feeling. This was for two reasons, the first one was that last night I had picked up my wife Cami from the airport and this morning I was able to look over and see her next to me. The second was that I was only a few kms to the end of an enduring chapter in my life, the finish line of the "Journey Down The Mississippi."

Cami and I had a nice breakfast of muffins, sausages, eggs, fruit, juice and tea. We then took off towards Jackson Square. The square was only about 5 kms away, so we took our time along the river chatting and taking some photos. It was such a nice feeling to be walking and not pushing and trying to get as far as possible for the day. We arrived at exactly midday, climbed the stairs from the river, passed the statue of Andrew Jackson and finally placed my hand on those big, beautiful doors of St Louis Cathedral, I had arrived!

I had often thought about this moment, since the very first step I took from the beginning of the river up there in Minnesota. Many people had also asked me "what do you think it will be like when you finally arrive?" This might disappoint some people, but there was no amazing or spiritual moment I received by arriving at those big, old, beautiful church doors. Truthfully the amazing, spiritual moments I had were ON the journey, not at the end of it. Moments with complete strangers who became such important friends, with the amazing wildlife of this country, alone camping on the river or in the forest and most important of all, the moments I shared with God.

I want to thank so many people for their kindness and support. If I tried to start listing them off now, I would be here for a very long time as I was so, so lucky to have come across such a wonderful and kind bunch of people. You know who you are and I really thank you from the bottom of my heart. How fortunate I am to have met you on this journey. I must give one special thanks to my absolutely gorgeous wife Cami. For the amount of support, patience and love she showed me throughout this whole experience. I am so very blessed to have her in my life as my wife. Thank you so much Cami...

I leave you now with much love and with some very suitable words to close this chapter.

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

All coming to an end...

Well I have finally reached New Orleans, I haven't quite reached Jackson Square yet, but I can now happily say "the worst of it all is behind me."

The last few days have been steady going, covering only around 15kms each day. The weather has been really hot and humid, making sleeping conditions pretty uncomfortable and sticky but at the moment I am in a bed and breakfast about 5 or so kms from the French Quarter, so after a shower and a bite to eat, I am feeling clean and happy again. Cami is flying in from Minneapolis tonight, it has been a month since we have seen each other and I cant wait to see her. The saying "time makes the heart grow fonder" has a good amount of truth to it, I can testify to this. Tomorrow we will walk into the French Quarter together to Jackson Square, this arrival will bring with it the common phrase - "mission complete."

I tell you at the moment, to be finally in the city of New Orleans, with the end point just around the corner, it is a very warm, content feeling I have in my belly. I am sure tomorrow will bring more emotions and feelings,  I look forward to them and will share them with you tomorrow....

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wildlife and being thankful...

Looking back over the past few days they have been really good ones, but also, really tough ones. Starting from the 22nd, I was up around 9am to find a great southern breakfast of sausage and eggs with Eugene and Betty waiting for me. I have to say, these two people are honestly two of the most genuinely beautiful and wonderful people I have ever been fortunate enough to have met. Eugene has a sincerity about him that is so rare in people. I consider a true blessing and privilege to have been able to spend time with these people.

After our farewells and well wishes, I was back on the road about to head through, the apparently alligator filled swamps, and let me tell you, the rumors are true. The amount of wildlife I saw through this 20-5km stretch of swamp was incredible. It was no more than 10 minutes after I entered the area when I heard a huge, swish swish....splash, I looked around to see an alligator no more than 3 meters away from me swimming out into the small section of river I was following. It gave me a fright that's for sure, but I was very pleased on another alligator sighting. Little did I know that for the rest of the day I was to come across more than 10 more in that day. Some were sunning themselves on the many logs along the creek, or resting on the creek bed, or some would just follow me along maybe waiting to see if I got too curious to come those few steps closer to be a snack for them. They were not as big as the one I had seen a week or so further north, but I still would not have liked to jump in and wrestle one. I also came across raccoons searching the creek banks for food and many of these huge orb spiders in their massive and very impressive webs. All this really made the 20 or so kms go really fast.

I arrived to the river some time that afternoon, and began to follow this towards the town of Lutcher. It was nice to walking along the banks of the Mississippi again instead of its little run offs of creeks and swamps. I found a great little camp spot at around 7pm. There was a slight breeze which was so nice as it kept those annoying and big mosquitoes away and also gave some refreshment from the heat of the southern night. Jut as I was finishing to set up my tent, the sun, clouds and entire sky began to mix together to make one of those amazing pink and purple skies. From the water of the river to the clouds it was one beautiful image of pinks and purples all over with hundreds of bright green and blue dragonflies darting about, it made for a night which gave me a lot of peace and appreciation for nature and life in general. There was even a little family of some type of animal playing in some logs near where I was seated, I am not sure if there are otters in the Mississippi but I thought I saw something little and hairy (ha, it could have been my brother) jumping around. I closed the hard day of walking off perfectly with a phone call to Cami before I fell into my sleeping bag for a night of rest, it was a very memorable day.

The next day I was up early and heading along the levee again towards Laplace. Walking along the levee is always good as there are may little communities along the river so finding water and food is always easy enough. I made it past the town of Laplace but as I was looking for a place to put my tent I got a bad feeling about the little communities that I was passing. The people would stop and stare as I walked pass, not waving or saying anything but just looking. I got a really bad vibe from it all and decided to get as far away from there as my dirty, tired legs would carry me. Luckily about 5kms further on, I came to a open field which was next to a big machine mechanics, I wandered in and asked the guys working there if they knew the power of the lot next to them. When they found out that I was walking the length of the river they were all about helping me out, Gatorade, iced water was being thrown at me and one of the guys was on the phone to the owner of the lot. I got the go ahead, thanked the guys for their help and went to set up my tent. After two days on the levee, in hot and humid weather I was a dirty, smelly individual I tell you. So bad that I could not even really sleep due to being covered in dirt and sweat, not to mention the bats that were intent on joining me in my tent and kept swooping past my door. It is a horrible feeling to feel sticky, sweaty and dirty and having no way to help it. It really made me think about some of the kids we are trying to help in the neighborhoods of Bogota, and many of thousands of kids around the world that for them, this is a daily occurrence. How blessed and fortunate we are and sometimes need to me reminded.

I was up again around 8am this morning. It was a hard stroll today as the weather made it sweaty and hot conditions. I got to a small town and took a look at myself, and smelt myself and realized it was time for a hotel and a wash. That is where I am now writing this, about 2kms from the New Orleans airport. Looking at the last few sentences in the previous paragraph, I realize how true the statements really are. How many times do we say to ourselves or to our family and friends "we are so fortunate, we should really help others" and immediately after finishing that sentence, sit down to a nice lunch and change the topic and move on with the distractions of everyday life. I do not mean to finish this post on a negative note, but really, how many of us have done something to help someone less fortunate than ourselves lately. People who have been blessed with the essentials, or even the basics in life, like good health, clean water, food, clothing, a loving family, a warm home, I feel have the responsibility to help and care for the people who are not so fortunate, and if we look at this responsibility as a beautiful privilege and not a chore, we could make a huge difference to the world we all share...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Resting up...

It was funny the other day as I was passing through Baton Rouge, as I usually do when walking, I was singing at the top of my lungs. One always thinks when he or she is alone that they are hitting all the notes and sounding brilliant. Little did I know, as I was singing "Bye Bye American Pie", a policeman had stopped behind me and was yelling at me trying to get my attention. I was able to hear him in between my song, I turned around laughing and apologized. He did not seem to think it was that funny that the crazy, singing man had been ignoring him for so long, but after he realized that I was not from the USA and after I told him about what I was doing he was a really good and helpful guy. He bid me farewell and jokingly offered me a lift in the squad car.

Well yesterday I did manage to get to Sorrento. I made my way through the little town and arrived at the south end of it, finding myself looking at a small Baptist church. I met a guy there named Mike who was just finishing up cutting the grass. He called the pastor for me who came down to meet me. Eugene is his name (the pastor) and he was kind enough to invite me back to his house which he shares with lovely wife Betty. Eugene has been pastor of the Sorrento Baptist church for 37 years now and is a great, and very generous man. So here I am now after going to church with them this morning and after eating a good lunch with them both and their son. Rain has settled in for the day and Eugene and Betty invited me to stay again for the night so that I do not have to walk in the rain. Considering that the next 25 miles is passing through nothing but swamps with alligators and snakes, this is a pretty welcoming invitation I assure you. The comforts a nice home brings are such pleasures. Both the physical comforts of hot water, a bed, hot, delicious food etc etc but also the comforts of good people are so welcoming. A nice conversation and an obvious eagerness to help out wherever they can provides one with so much fuel for the journey, both physically and spiritually it really does. I still really enjoy the time I have alone, time to think, to dream, to pray, to plan, but those short times of fellowship with people from all types of places and backgrounds is  always really nice. At the moment, I am enjoying one of these moments.

I might not have Internet for a few days after this, but as soon as I can I will report in again. Tomorrow I will be heading through a swampy area for around 20 - 25 kms before reaching Lutcher where I will then begin to follow the levee of the river to the outskirts of New Orleans.

I spoke to my brother the other day which was great, it had been almost a month since I had spoken with any family from Australia. I am close with my family, especially my brother so this chat came in good timing. He gave me some good advice about enjoying the last part of the trek and I can assure you, I am doing my best to put this advice into practice...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Baton Rouge, done, next big city... New Orleans!!!

Sadly, yesterday morning I again had to bid farewell to the comforts of a beautiful house and continue on with just my tent and gear on my back. I had been staying with some great friends, Gary and Ralph in Baton Rouge and after some good times catching up, it was time to be on my way south again. I have now arrived in a small town south of Baton Rouge by the name of "Gonzales." From here I plan to get to the even smaller town of Sorrento where hopefuloly I will be able to find a place to pitch my tent for thre night before heading into an isolated strech of this area for a day of walking tomorrow.

Last night I managed to find a little church on the edges of a town called "Praireville." It was a nice little place and gave me a good night rest. At one stage I looked up to the roof of my tent with my torch and realized how lucky I was to be inside it, there were literally hundreds of mosquitos banging into and trying their upmost best to get to their meal (me) inside this giant dome. I thought of when I was doing this trek in winter and how at times I would simply just roll out my sleeping bag and sleep in the open air, well, not a chance i will be trying that this time.

The few days walking through Baton Rouge were good, well they have their pros and cons I guess. The pros are one always has a supply to water and food with all the stores and service stations one has to pass. The cons are simple, the amount of noisy traffic. But one has to take the good with the bad dont they, I got through there unscathed so I will not complain.

Since getting to Gonzales it has been funny the amount of people looking for me, stopping there cars and asking for photos. I have no idea how, but it has been on the radio or television what I am doing and after meeting some young girls and guys the other day while grabbing a bite to eat, and with them putting it all over their facebook, it has been really suprising all the people yelling out to me or stopping with food or for photos, it has been good for a laugh anyway!

Well best get on my way again, gotta reach Sorrento and find a place to pitch the tent...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Closing in on Baton Rouge...

This morning started off good with an interview with some friends on the radio in Colombia via my cell phone. Despite dropping my phone halfway through the interview it all went well I hope, I think they might have thought I was attacked by a bear or something mid interview. My Spanish felt rusty after not speaking it for three weeks or so, I hope they all understood what I was on about! After that I had another interview with the St Francisville Newspaper with a really nice girl by the name of Erin. After some photos and a few questions I was back on the road heading south.

I managed to get to the northern suburbs of Baton Rouge today and hopefully with another good day ahead of me I should be able to get to the southern suburbs tomorrow.

Here are some photos of ther last few weeks that I have been slack getting up, I hope you enjoy, cheers...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I have arrived in the final state of the trek, good old Louisiana. And I have arrived with all good news. On leaving Natchez i managed to run into a lovely lady who was working at the pharmacists. She recommended me some good treatments from my blisters and am happy to report almost immediately I started to see improvements and now they have become hard sores which are almost not affecting me at all. I am feeling strong again and have no niggling injuries to report of.

I spent the first two nights in my tent, and with every morning I was having to fight off the hundreds of ants that had thought it was a good idea to share my mattress for the night, luckily they were not the big bull ants we have back in Australia, but still annoying enough and capable of giving a little nip. Apart from coming across the occasional deer and having three or four big thunderstorms pass over and soak me, the first two days went by without any hassles or events. Yesterday however I met a lady named Nannette at the visitors centre in Vaudeville. She told me that she had a friend who lived on a big property about 20 kms further south and that it should be no problem to put my tent there. Anthony was the guys name. He met me along the way and after chatting for a while he told me that there was no need to pitch my tent, that I could spend the night at the house as there was a spare room with a bed and bathroom downstairs. This was music to my ears. I arrived some hours later, wet from a big storm that had passed over and hungry, and at the house was a feast fit for kings. Anthony had invited Nannette and her daughter over and had prepared pork, mushroom rice, two spinach and sausage quiches, sweet potato and  a couple of coronas. Anthony - a champion in my books! So after some good conversation, good food and a few beers, I hit the pillow exhausted, and slept well I tell you.

Today I was up around 8am, had some of the left over quiche for breakfast and was back heading south towards St Francisville. I arrived here around 2pm and was met here by an old friend, Gary. We headed out for lunch and a catch up, then retired back to his house, calling it a short day of walking, covering only about 20kms. Tomorrow I will be trying to get from St Francisville to Baton Rouge, this could take me one day, it could take me two.

So all is well, my body is feeling good again, my spirits are high and I am closing in on that French quarter (Jacksons square) in New Orleans. From here on in I will be trying to enjoy the rest of the trek as much as possible. It has been a long journey but now with the finish line almost in sight one can not help but to become a little excited, to get to the finish of course, but even more than that, to see my beautiful wife...