Story Archive

Big Walk_6


Posted on July 22, 2015 by
on the road at


It's been a while since I wrote, not because I didn't want to, but because I couldn't think of anything to say. Slowly, at the back of the silence, a realization came, at first no louder than a guilty whisper but now in crystal clear voiceI can't walk anymore. I mean I can walk around, and to the shops, and all the other ordinary destinations, and even quite possibly on occasional day walks, but those magnificent pilgrimages I embarked upon for almost 30 years, and which were a pathway to another world and into my soul, are over. 

Many years ago I fell in the bush as I hurled down a slippery granite slope towards the Coxes River. I fractured my L1 vertebrae, which healed over time, but the dislocation it caused in my sacroiliac joint has given me grief every since. Over a professional career of leading walks through extraordinary country, and a solo one from Melbourne to Sydney, I managed it. But nothing I do now seems to work. Pulling the rickswag wrenched the joint and the best I can now get is pain relief. But that's not walking for me. Walking for me was when you pushed up a mountain and looked back over the mist-laden heaven below, not in triumph but in wonder; it was when you set out on a destination and kept going no matter what. I walked to experience a soaring spirit and endorfen-fueled physicality that transported me to a place of exhilaration, not to limp along while my sacrum and pelvis argued behind me like lovers breaking up. In the words of the sage when he thought no one was listening - I'm fucked!

Lest this post trigger an avalanche of secret cures, please don't. I have had an intimate relationship with my back. I've cajoled it, nursed it, bribed it and rewarded it. Most of all I know it. I am like a ballet dancer friend of mine, not just because I've got great legs, but because he told me he knew the exact moment he took his last curtain call for The Australian Ballet. The knees just couldn't take one more bend. 

But there's more. I found that my heart, perhaps too soon in its recovery from a major heart attack, just couldn't drive me along as I needed. It and I need a lot more time to forge a new relationship. I mean it almost died and it wanted to take me with it. In the aftermath of my heart attack my response, always pre-disposed to the grand gesture, was to challenge it with a new adventure, to soar above reality on wing and a prayer. It's kind of worked in the past, but that time is over. 

Not sure what I will do now. I am in the South Australian town of Burra for the moment, developing festivals and workshops, encouraged that my gospel a cappella BURRA FESTIVALE has sold out already, three months before a word is sung. I have plans to make this little town a Home of the Boutique Festival, and operate beautiful, gorgeous, make-your-soul-sing workshops for artists, writers, film makers, sculptors and their kin, and when I am not here to keep traveling. 

I hope to write and to watch my little dog Ralph grow. I have my cameras and my creative mind is still intact, if a little lost. It's not just walking that I have lost but the places it took me. I miss those just as much.  I miss the spirits I imagined beside desert waterholes and views in which the soul expanded to eternity.

My body works fine except when I tell it to pull 40 kilos for 3,000 kilometres. I think there comes a time in life when you need to accept that sometimes things are just broken; and they can't be fixed; where the best you can do is keep going, even if it's with a limp. You keep your own counsel, listen for signs and try not to worry too much ... or as my mate, the unofficial Mayor of Nimbin said ... eat whole foods, lay of the sugar and don't worry, be happy!

I'll find a way to repay those few lovely people who sponsored my Big Walk. Not sure how just yet but I've got some ideas. There's always the beautiful photos of my travels you can download at high res, an appropriate reduction on one of my workshops for Australasians, and then there's something in the future which could be anything but will not, unfortunately, be a long walk. Perhaps I will just have to ask you to watch this space and keep the conversation going. 


R & r

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Pamela Moore
Hey guys I have been really worried about you. I have had a few issues myself lately and not in top shape. I understand the place you are in Raymond. Please take care of yourself and Ralph. Just keep on keepin on in any way that's best. Kindest wishes and hugs to you both Pamela xoxo
As I say in the blog, sometimes things are broken and there isnt anything you can do about it. Maybe its time to accept my limitations or perhaps reframe my perspective.
Janette M Clark
Dear Raymond.Your post has saddened me deeply. Having met you in Noosa with an opportunity to chat over coffee (thank you for that stop in a place you'd rather not have been!) ..I have wondered why "our" Electronic Swagman had been so quiet. Now I understand. You're not "fucked" .. just delayed on your journey with your camera, and Ralph. Much love. xx
Sue Wildish
Just love what you are planning for Burra - the world can always use more song, more melody, more festival.  Maybe that's what your heart and your back had in mind all along. Imagine the joy you will be bringing to all. I have a little cottage in a South African village called McGregor. We have a poetry festival there once a year and it is just fabulous. Started with a small verse - has become a sonnet. There is space and meditation in that.  
R & R, I can relate to the feelings you are sorting through. When as you say you releise that its just broke and no matter how you try, none of your fixes work anymore  i know the loss of not being able to doit/go there anymore and the slow jouney of finding your new fit. Even the simple things like not being able to sit on the grass with your grandkids or seeing what fell under the bed. For years i have not being able to go on my trips as since i lost my hubby and his support it was to hard  but on monday i an going on a journy through Eroupe with my family, i have never left aus before n though my body makes it hard it cant tell me "i can't" because i will   I know that you will too in your time and in your way. In the meantime please every now and then share so we know what you both are up to, pics and all please   My hard big is i have to leave my self trained assistance dog/best friend behind. I know he is in the best hands with my friends and their family of dogs and cats but i will worry till i have him jumping all over me again lol   All the best in your new adventure life has a way of surprising us hey Sharon 
Ingrid Petersson
Hi Raymond and Ralhp, So nice to hear from you again, I have been worried for you, sad though to read about your situation. I'm sure that you wlll found a lot of joy in Life still. Not many has so very special memories to think on back on as you. The Burra Festival sounds great and your other plans too. I look forward to see some great photo's on your page and follow Ralph's and your Life! You have been an inspiration for an Aussie lover as me! Read books, do short walks, play tthe Music you love. I wish you all the best. Regards, Ingrid
Raymond I am sorry to hear you have had to change direction but so glad you have not lost your spirit. We met in good old Blackheath just as you were about to pull out after a short delay I hope you & Ralph enjoy your next chapter in life & please do return & visit us old codgers in Blackheath again. We wait with bated breath. Be safe & accept that life is like the wind always changing direction. Jingle
Please come and visit Darcy the Red Heeler and his family in Launceston - you both would be welcome any time!
Hi Raymond, Thanks for explaining what happened, I know that must have been hard. I have enjoyed following you and if or when you feel the urge to post pictures or put pen to paper....well that would be wonderful. Here's to a more relaxed future for you and Ralph. Trish
raymond how fantastic to hear from you again!  like many others I was a bit worried at the silence, and am so glad to hear you and ralph are pottering about in burra doing things you love.  doing it's rounds on fbook is a meme about a japanese practice called 'kintsukuroi', which is the mending of shattered pottery using gold or silver - thus making the object more beautiful for having been broken.  your broken pieces will be put together with the gold of the future you and ralph have  :-)  -astrid
you will always have your writing ....this is just such a beautiful are a very very clever man - how lucky you are to have your creativity - and a world of people who love and care about you. Oh - and not to mention Ralph! thanks for making me laugh - and cry xxx
Stephanie Parkin
Hi Raymond and Ralph, good to hear from you.  Sorry things are not going as planned.  A fork in the road You didn't plan on taking but will lead you to who knows what sort of adventures. Take care, you guys are special
What a lovely heart-felt post. In a world where I can barely watch the news on some days and am deeply saddened by the inhumanity that abounds, your story, your photos and your sharing of such a personal challenge restore me, gives me hope, make me happy! Thank you so much. With love to you and your gorgeous boy, Ralph.
Chris Roles
So lovely to hear from you Raymond. Have missed your poetic posts. Never believe you have nothing to say, don't believe it for a moment. Understand your back issues having coped with same for many years. A wise woman said to me several years ago, the secret of a fulfilling older age is to concentrate on what you can do, not what you can't. Advise I have lived by, even though I often get carried away with the old enthusiasm., love it. So I still go to Woodford Festival every year but not for 7 days but 2 or 3, still get the rush of love & joy. Still walk daily but no mountains. Feel blessed I can still walk. You'll find new challenges & spread your obvious talents in new ways. Best thing about Musio's is never matters how old you are, the music is in your soul. Curiousity is just the best quality I've decided. Always wanting to see round the next corner is a blessing. You still have many corners, just shorter ones. Wishing you exciting new beginnings, looking forward to hearing about them. Keep your glorious photo's coming. Lift our spirits daily. Big Love  Chris
Hi Raymond,bad luck about your health but at least you are still mobile.  Take care and I look forward to seeing you and Ralph about soon.
Terry Latham
Another page has turned. I am sure you will find there is much more to read in this "book of life". Hope you don't get too sad. Ralph needs you. Thanks for the update.
Maria Tresols (Taffijn)
Thank you Raymond for your inspiration and bravery. It takes great courage to surrender. Best wishes for whatever endeavours you undertake. I shall forever be grateful for the experience I lived with you and the rest of the participants during our desert walk. Take care.
Beautifully written Ralph and Raymond, very moving, enables ready to feel a clear understanding of how it is now and was then - giving you many wonderful experiences to share with us, thank you.  With you both, we are ambitious for your plans, we will enjoy reading about all you achieve, look forward.....very best.
Skubi Testa
Ray. Sometimes it takes time to redirect the creative spirit after it hits a bump in the road. Even staring at length into the distance is therapy for a bruised artistic drive and dare I say...ego. No-one one would begrudge the changes you have been forced to make to your plans and of course everyone would just like to see you and Ralph enjoy your experiences and repay us buy sharing your beautiful photos. Take care & be gentle with your creative soul.
Rowena Harding-Smith
Broken? I can't imagine it. There are many more ways than one to go from the coast to the heart of the country. Take care Raymond. I'm pleased that you and Ralph are back on-line. 
Dear Ray, I understand where you are coming from, it is so upsetting that our minds tell us we are still young and full of life and healing powers internally, then our bodies let us know that we have used so many of those things up and it is time to slow down. You my friend are and always will be a great inspiration to so many others in this world. You have done things others can only dream of and you have shared those experiences with us all. I for one look forward to reading your blogs on what comes next. But I also want to know that you are giving yourself some respite when needed. Take good care of yourself and do try to accept what you cannot change, I am sure you will find that the proverbial other door is just opening for you and your faithful friend Ralph. 
So sorry to hear of your travails Raymond - I can't begin to imagine how heartbreaking it must be to realise you can no longer do what you've done for so long and which has been such a source of joy. But you can still write and given how well you do, there must be a book in there somewhere that chronicles your interesting life. Stay strong.
Jenny everson
It is with much sadness that I hear of your misfortune. Life changes are hard to accept but I know that you will have the strength and courage to get thru it. You have you best friend beside you who loves you too bits so be just enjoy life and take one day at a time. Give Ralph the biggest pat. Miss your adventures kept in touch and stay well Raymond😃🐶
Anne Kuperus
Hi Raymond, I've missed your beautiful photos and your fantastic posts on Facebook. I'm really sorry you won't be able to do the Big Walk. But I'm sure you'll find new ways of going on adventures ... Take care of yourself and of Ralph ! Big hug !
sharon chapman
Its ok raymond know what u going through a line dancer and have back problems and am in constant pain would love to do competitions but also realize this far and no more its too painful, but hopefully u will still post random stuff miss seeing u and ralph and enjoying your good sense of humour, God bless xx
Ronna Fiori
I'm sorry to hear this has happened to you, Raymond. I do know how it feels, because I went through it some years back. It will take time to adjust, but remember there's still beauty and adventure for you to enjoy - as well as your beautiful dog and your many friends. And I, for one, don't expect any repayment for my contribution to the Big Walk. Consider it a way to show my appreciation for all the pleasure your posts and pix have given me over the years. Be well, my friend.
Nancy Jenkins
So you are done with the walk. Why don't you come over to Canada and USA, not sure if Ralph could come. Come and relax. I have partial suite in basement for you and Ralph to relax. Keep us up to date, and take it easy. I am in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. Can drive you and if Ralph comes show you some neat places. Got a Cafe and a Pub/Eatery and BBQ place not far to walk.
Anita Miracle
No worries mate, you'll be door closes and another opens....promise!!!!  Hugs from Waterloo, NY ❤️🇺🇸 Anita
Denise Hansen
Hoping Burra can be your new spiritual place for now, Raymond. Look forward to meeting r.

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veronica mcdonald
aaahhhh....but you can still sing...and that's lovely.
Lesley Hampton
So sorry to hear your news Raymond. Unfortunately I myself am in the same boat. Back problem and knee ops. Makes me mad when I think how active I use to be. I hope whatever you do next in life everything works out well for you and Ralph.
sorry to hear you have to retire from the BIG walk but it gives you a great chance to do explore a new chapter in your life. Great to know you are still bringing so much to so many in Burra.
The Japanese lovingly repair beautiful old pots with gold inlay, and say they are "even more beautiful for having been broken".  Be well and happy!
Hey Raymond, you are an inspiration! I know the day will come when I’ll be joining that same club, the NMWC. I am not looking forward to it either and am trying already to immerse myself in something else, not with great success, though, but I shall keep trying. //// The following is what Earl Gano, who was suffering from a lifelong illness, wrote, in DREAM (2003): The gift of dream is the head of steam that drives a man to win. It’s the dream, I’m sure, drove me to endure all the tough spots I’ve been in.// Now it’s very hard when they’ve drawn your card, and your number’s up, they say, and you’re to regroup and fight next day.// It was dreams that led me far across the sea to the land of golden soil, where I met my match diggin’ out my patch in the Territory’s rock-hard soil. // Dreams can be a lure that can kill or cure, leave Midas without a dime. It’s the friends you’ve made, while the game you’ve played that will balance the scales in time.// If it’s dreams that drive, then you’ve got to strive, to build more when hope is gone. It’s the dream to win that keeps Aussies in, makes us toil from dusk to dawn. // Fly Eureka’s flag, back that Phar Lap nag, and play cricket like Sir Don. We’re not quitters here, have no bloody fear! Pull your socks up – and carry on! //// Raymond, you have a wonderful gift of writing. It is always entertaining, thoughtful, and witty. And you can talk like no one else I know! Ok with me to “watch this space and keep the conversation going!” Have a great time in Burra!
a thought .....when one door closes often another one opens. Looking forwRd to lots more photos and posts.😊
Hi Raymond, only 4 more sleeps before Dave and I head out from New Zealand to join you again at the Burra Festivale. Last year's singing workshop was such fun, and the comeradrie was so good that we couldn't resist coming back. Last year you managed to make sure that we were all well entertained and looked after the whole time and your sense of humour kept us laughing throughout.Looking forward to seeing you again and meeting Ralphie. Cheers, Chrissie