Some stories deserve to be told, others don’t, but the story of the time I met Alex and Fred in Rockhampton is one that definitely needs to be told.
It’s pretty much a given that you will meet some incredible people whilst travelling, and I met so many cool people whilst travelling, however Alex and Fred had to be the most amazing people I met on the road.
I smelt them, before I met them in my dorm. Rockhampton YHA was pretty much deserted apart from me and Miffas, a Finnish YouTuber I met in Agnes Water. The smell of feet hung in the air of the dorm, which unlike other hostels on the coast had doonas on the bed instead of just sheets. I had chosen the bunk in the corner away from everyone else and was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when I overheard Miffas talking to Fred and Alex when they came into the dorm.
“We’re walking the entire length of the East Coast,” they said, and got a map to show us where they’d started in Cape York, taking a plane to one of the small islands before crossing over to start at the very top of Cape York before walking down. It was day 69 when they’d arrived in Rockhampton and taking a rest day, they’d only taken ten so far.
Alex a kiwi, and Fred from Belgium had met walking the length of New Zealand, it had taken them three months to complete. Walking the length of the Australian East Coast, starting in Cape York and finishing in Tasmania, was a journey of over 5,000km and would take them until January to complete, I met them in August.
The walk wasn’t for the faint hearted they told us, on the map they showed us they were following an old horse trail, and for the first part of the trek they had had to carry fourteen days worth of food. “The first thing you miss is cold drinks,” Alex said as he told us the story of how at the beginning of the trip they had been approaching a town that had a pub, Alex had begun to fantasise about having a cold can of coke. He was devastated when they reached the town only to find that the pub was closed, and had been closed for years. It was a ghost town Fred told us, with one shop that was luckily open by the time they reached it. They laughed remembering how Alex had collapsed in front of the shop, whilst Fred went in to get supplies.
“If you can get through the first two days, you can do the whole thing.” Fred said referring to any walk. He recommended the Great Ocean walk for beginners, saying that walking is good for the soul, improving your mental health by giving you an escape from everything. After hearing Alex’s story of fantasising about ice cold Coca Cola, I asked him if he’d read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, had he been inspired by her at all? Definitely not surprisingly, “She didn’t even walk the whole Pacific Crest Trail.” He responded, telling me that Tracks by Robyn Davidson was a much better story. After meeting them I read it, and I have to say it is an epic book, possibly the best travel book I’ve read so far. Starting from the beginning, with no experience in rearing camels, Robyn sets herself the challenge of acquiring a trio of camels, training them and then walking across the Australian desert with them.
Alex and Fred hadn’t met any other walkers on the trail down the East Coast, and this they thought was a shame, as with any travel experience the people you encounter along the way are usually interesting or inspiring in some way. Whilst walking along roads, people have stopped and offered them lifts, which they usually refuse unless they can returned to the exact same spot. Getting lifts is cheating, and on the occasions where they had taken lifts, Alex has found it amusing seeing the driver react to their stench, “once you explain what you’re doing they usually understand, but they also put the windows down.” Alex laughed.
Unusual for this day and age, and the reason why I’m blogging about them, is the fact that neither of the guys have social media. They did not want to publicise the walk, because they were doing it because they wanted to, “I just thought on my deathbed I want a really cool story to tell my kids,” Alex said. This lack of publicity unfortunately worked against them , despite explaining what they were doing to the people who organise bookings for the Overland trail in Tasmania, the hike was fully booked for January, and without a secure arrival date the guys couldn’t say when they’d arrive to begin the walk.
After a day of resting and arranging food boxes to be sent to planned rest stops along the way, the pair set off for another strenuous stretch, walking 40kms a day. I text them 11 days later and they’ve reached Mount Perry. It was oddly emotional saying goodbye to the. Both, partly because I don’t think I’ve been so in awe of anyone like those two before in my life.
“Go for a walk Holly,” Fred tells me as he pats me on the shoulder, before Miffas and I watch them walk away.
I wonder where they are now.