Cad Cadigan and Coffs Coast

This post is a little bit different. I needed to write about Andrew Cadigan. It’s a very brief flashback to the West Coast and Kimberley.

I stayed with one of the band members from the Sunburnt Celts while walking down the Coffs Coast. Mark and Denise Feeney hosted me for a night in the green rural hills behind Woolgoolga. Denise is an accomplished aerial acrobat. When I arrived at their place I thought someone had set up a training course for Ninja Warrior but it was Denise’s aerobatic gym. Very impressive!

My nephew Brodie is in a traditional bush folk band called The Button Collective so that night I was able to swap music videos with Mark. Here’s a great little mashup from the Sunburnt Celts.

The next day I dropped into the Woolgoolga Retirement Village and shared my story with the elders. They also shared theirs stories with me, which was much more interesting.

The Yuraygir Walk was catching up on me and I was getting very tired, physically and mentally. On a quiet beach I stopped for 2 hours of meditation and watching the surfers, the rest helped find enough balance and strength to get to my Aunty Lucy and Uncle Graham’s at Sapphire Beach. Lucy and Graham have been inviting me to visit for decades. I was so spoilt by Lucy, it was great to catch up with them after 30 years.

It felt so good to just sit back and enjoy the view and boy what a view. To get to their apartment I met Lucy on the beach and we travelled up in some kind of elevator, a little glass box pulled up the side of the hill. There is nothing buy pines and garden between them and a spectacular ocean view from high on the hill. The sun was out so Sapphire Beach turned it on!

Andrew ‘Cad’ Cadigan

Just before reaching Sapphire Beach I met an aunty and uncle of Andrew Cadigan. Andrew ‘Cad’ Cadigan was the 3rd person to walk solo unsupported around Australia.

Andrew Cadigan
Photo by Dean Osland for Newcastle Herald (2012)

Near Carnarvon I met Dan who U turned on the highway and drove back to have a chat while I walked the west coast. He asked if I had heard of Cad, I vaguely had a memory of writing to him while planning my walk. Dan told me of his meeting with Cad up north as Cad walked to Halls Creek and the memorial Dan and his mates set up for him. I had no idea that my letter to Cad didn’t make it because he is no longer with us. Cad was struck off his bike in Thailand just months after completing his circumambulation, while on retreat to write his own book from the journals he kept while walking.

Cad’s dad Neil Cadigan has written a book about his son’s walk, reflecting on it from a father’s perspective and transcribing many parts of Cad’s journals and videos. Dan sent a new copy of the book to collect at Karratha. The book is called With Every Step – A Man A Pram Two Feet and a Heartbeat

Andrew Cadigan
With Every Step by Neil Cadigan from Black Inc Books

I read it twice! It was uncanny how many similarities our walks had. In every one of his journal entries I was reliving my own early experiences, it was very weird while reaffirming I was doing it right. We improvised using the same techniques to overcome the exact same problems, simplified and relaxed into our walks at the same respective times. The most poignant part of Cad’s story was how much we shared in our struggle to capture the imagination and belief of those who could help us but wouldn’t, how our chosen charities ignored us and potential sponsors didn’t believe in us. I cried and cried when I read this. I thought I was alone in that struggle and the relief of reading Cad’s experience was immense, he unburdened me from that heavy weight.

From Derby Cad’s walk became a nightmare as he pushed on into the buildup to the wet season.”wet season” is deceptive because he not only did the heat and humidity hit him hard but he wasn’t getting enough water and became dangerous dehydrated on numerous occasions. For this reason I began practicing an old tradition I picked up trekking in the Himalaya years before. Before I drank any water or ate I sprinkled a bit out for Cad and toasted to his memory. I walked through the Kimberley in dry season while it was cool and carried up to 45ltrs of water in my barrow, I often reflected on how easy I had it in comparison.

Andrew Cadigan
Photo by Tony Martin for Mackay Daily Mercury (2012)

There were as many differences as similarities between our walks. Cad walked with friends from time to time (but never a support vehicle) I had company for 7kms in total. Cad’s walk was over 15,000kms with only one short break midway, I walked 17,200kms in seasonal sections. His walked a lot faster and a daily average distance almost double mine. His longest day was 126kms (3 marathons), I managed 67kms tops. He switched charities to one who appreciated what he was doing and raised a whopping $180,000, I stuck it out unsupported with Lifeline for 16,000kms. Lifeline’s fundraising team still haven’t bothered thanking me for raising $20,000 (i wish I had followed his example there too).

It often felt like Cad was walking beside me during some of the loneliest and hardest parts of my walk.

Funny thing, his Aunty Al was following my walk on social while I crossed the Kimberley and sent me regular little encouragement messages. And a few weeks ago I joined my Uncle Bill for one of his walking tours in Sydney and met another of Cad’s uncles, Will, who was part of the Central Coast Walking For Pleasure group. Hey Cad, you will always be a part of our lives.

Andrew Cadigan