In a trance, I walked for a further two hours, pausing to rest briefly whenever I encountered a watercourse too deep to cross while keeping my shoes dry. At one of these, I lifted my pack, felt a small but decisive tug and howled silently at the moon as searing pain soared up my right leg. If you’ve ever wanted to see a middle-aged man hopping on one leg while clutching his other foot, then you should have been on 90 Mile Beach around midnight at about the 35 kilometre mark. When I dared put my foot on the sand, I picked up my rucksack and shoes and held it like an overweight baby in my arms as I crossed the stream on my heels.
On the far side, I sat on the pack and by head torch inspected the damage. A strap must have caught the nail of the left big toe and lifted it upwards, separating the nail from the toe as neatly as Pete filleting that possum. The nail was loose and oozing blood and septum.
After cleaning it with purified water, I bandaged the nail down before gingerly easing on a sock and shoe and attempting a few steps. Well, I could walk and the pain had subsided. I didn’t want to think of the consequences of this stupid accident so I decided to soldier on.
An hour or so later, I made out the dark mass of The Bluff looming out of the mist. The tide was rising, the light from my head torch dim in the humid salty air but it was bright enough for me to follow a stream inland where I found a spot to camp.
A last sweep of the bushes around my hammock revealed two pale green pinpoints of light about three metres away. Comically, two clawed feet parted the branches of a shrub and a pointed furry face appeared.
“Brrrr! Geddoutofit!” I muttered hoarsely and then added under my breath, “Or I’ll eat you!”
As if taking the hint, the branches closed silently and the eyes winked out.
And so the day started with a wild pig nearly 22 hours and 34 kilometres ago and ended with a possum.