Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bushwalking again

I hope you might understand how much this means to us: for the first time since very early 2011, Ms T attempted a bushwalk.

For the first time in nearly two years, I had the delight of holding her hand over steps and rocks, talking about the flowers and birds we saw, and stopping to admire yabbies in the creek. The kind of stuff that makes bushwalking worthwhile.

Until she fell ill, we were pretty keen bushwalkers. Not “extreme sports” types – we’re too old. She’d come to bushwalking in her early 40s (one of the reasons we love and now operate Bunjaree Cottages is its proximity to bushwalks), and because it made her feel good, we continued. We’re not campers, we’re wimpy day-walkers who used to pick out walks in the 15-20 km range as our favourites.

She could be pigheaded. Once, on the Southern Highlands, she rolled her ankle on a tree-root, came down on both knees, and left pretty deep cuts. We treated them with antiseptic and gauze, and revised down to a 5km walk.

The GP later noted, “if you’d gone to hospital, this wouldn’t have scarred.”

Ms T: “Who wants to sit around in a hospital waiting room instead of walking?”

For me, it was a revelation; for our marriage, a delight. Our sons loved it as well, which (since they were 7 and 9 when we started) was a bonus. There’s nothing like bushwalking for a host of things, including getting a couple of too-loud boys somewhere where their voices no longer upset you!

And they loved it – in one case, so much that he’s made nature his study at university.

And there were benefits for a total sook like me. Since Ms T never – even if we walked 24 km in a day – developed “powerful” ankles or a good sense of balance, steps, rocks, or unstable inclines meant I got to hand-hold her through it. I loved that aspect of bushwalks.

Ms T: "I didn't actually need help on that bit."

Me: "I know. I just like to touch you when we walk."

And then she fell ill, and everything changed. The immune system, for those that might doubt it, really can kill people. Ms T’s normal weight – about 55 kg – has dipped as low as 31 kg. Apart from four months in hospital in two years, there have been three months in a wheelchair, and a lot more of the time when her health was, at best, feeble.

So, no bushwalking.

Yesterday, we made our first small attempt to walk together again. We were very, very conservative: we chose the Darwin Nature Walk at Wentworth Falls, going in the reverse direction (starting at the end of the walk, near the falls) to keep us near the park and let her decide “that’s far enough”.

We covered about 4 km out-and-back, which stunned us both – and we learned that even a gentle-ish 50-meter climb with steps is hard on her surgical scar. We were so slow on the inclines that we attracted a bit of comment from more agile walkers (mostly cheerful and solicitous, so that’s okay).

And here’s just a couple of photos – excuse the camera-phone quality.

This is a grevillea servicea, otherwise known as the pink spider-flower. They were in profusion on the Darwin walk.

And this boring patch of land is actually very important. For much of the Darwin walk, there is hanging bog to the west of the boardwalk, just like this:

That’s what feeds the creek and keeps it flowing year-round. Without this “useless” land (as a developer would see it), creeks only flow after rain. The bog absorbs water, filters it, and releases it steadily into the creek. That creek eventually ends up in the Warragamba catchment – as do many other creeks and rivers, fed from bogs like this one.

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