Hayley's mission: hike the Clarence surviving off the land
ANGOURIE'S Hayley Talbot has never shied away from a challenge. In her early 20s, she joined her family's international shipping business, Harwood Marine Group, as a paralegal including assisting with litigation.
She then moved to Sydney to work in maritime and aviation law while studying full-time at the University of Sydney. Cue a segue into a full time career in the creative industries, gigs as a jazz lounge singer, creating one-off knitted artworks, appearing as poet, conquering Bridal Couture Fashion Week, working with International designers and styling for some of the Australian Fashion Industry's world renowned names.
Stints on film and directing world class photographers, wrangling two wildling sons and supporting her husband's own career -- friends of Hayley aren't quite sure when she sleeps, but she manages to appear wildly stylish while juggling her personal life, family life, and career.
And course the natural next step for the 'woman who does it all', is to literally do it all.
All of the Clarence River.
Hayley has spent the last 18 months jumping into Great White infested waters in Hermanus; South Africa, climbing to the peak of Table Mountain with Namibian Hikers, wandering through poppy fields in Provence, accidentally gate-crashing the Cannes Film Festival, riding horses through the snow across the mountains of Cardrona, hiking towards the summit of Ben Lomond Saddle; New Zealand.
All of these moments have guided her here to her next adventure.
Hayley is preparing over the next 11 months to hike to the furthest source of the Clarence River with her kayak on her back and to paddle down to the mouth at Yamba and back in at Main Beach solo and unsupported, surviving entirely off the land and the river.
I've watched Hayley over the years and have no doubt if anyone can tackle this, she'd be the one to do it, wildly, wisely and with style. The first question off everyone's lips though when Hayley announced her plans to the world last week, was of course WHY? followed closely by HOW? and then usually WHY? again.
So here we are, another profile of an amazing Clarence Valley woman who is both stylish and wise…
ALJ: So.. the WHY?
HT: I've been called to it. There was no one moment when the idea arrived, no lightning strike, it just rose to the surface in my heart like it was there before I was born, like an immemorial path waiting for me to step out onto it.
I grew up in a maritime family on Lake Wooloweyah, went to Yamba Public and Maclean High and feel strongly connected to the river as we all do in the Valley. I seek to unlock the old secrets of the river, to spend time with our Aboriginal elders and to proceed with their blessing and guidance, and to share these secrets and inspire our young people to get out and experience it all for themselves. I know how hard it is to be a teenager in the Valley. It is heaven on earth but for some, it is a very trying place to be as a young person. The arrival of the digital age has brought us more into our minds and that is a dangerous place to be when you are young and navigating the rocky path of self-discovery, especially as social media never sleeps. I hope to connect with and inspire people in the Valley who may have lost their way somehow, to reassure them that that soft whisper in their hearts that they are mistaking for unhappiness and unrest is really their true self calling them out of their minds and into the wild and into the remedial power and beauty of nature where we belong.
Sometime ago, saddened by the disconnect in my hometown, I started the Instagram page @of.the.ocean to inspire through poetry my younger friends back home to get out and live, and to connect with each other in nature and in the real world. I'm still passionate about inspiring a connection and love of the written and spoken word but it occurred to me that actions speak louder...
There is no feeling in the world like the feeling of your essence, the fibre of your being, your soul, finding true north. It can be hiding in people, places, experiences, dreams, but when the needle spins and finally settles, welcome to the rubicon, there's no turning back.
I needed to communicate this through leading by example and taking on the lifeblood of our Valley myself. If I can do it anyone can.
ALJ: HOW on earth are you preparing for this, and what have you taken into consideration?
HT: It's a journey of over 400km and I'm doing it solo and unsupported, surviving entirely off the land and the river. So for the next 12 months I'll be journeying toward the journey, an ordinary woman with a not so ordinary goal, turning myself into everything I need to be to be successful on my mission. I'm learning wilderness navigation, bush survival, how to hunt and trap, bush first aid, how to treat ailments the way the local Aboriginals used to, and taking my family along for the ride, teaching my boys as I prepare.
I've just finished four days completely off the grid in the NSW bush testing my survival skills and I'm typing this so I obviously survived. Leaving behind the tap mentality of civilisation (and entering the scrub in the absolutely oppressive heat we've just had) your life very quickly depends and entirely revolves around finding water. Any less than 6L per day and serious dehydration is swiftly setting in. I ate things I would never have dreamed of eating, and confronted things I desperately needed to in my journey to where I need to be to succeed. Contrary to my expectations, hunting requires zero skill, it was a categorical necessity. I lost 2kg in the first 24hrs and my body desperately fought for it back. By the third day my restored factory settings started to thrive; my energy returned, my hunger remained but instead of repressing me it motivated me.
I had to kill a rabbit to eat in the bush (I don't even eat red meat) and I had to prepare the body carefully so as not to contaminate the meat etc. It was pretty upsetting but an incredibly conscious experience. You can't not feel overwhelming sadness to take something's life yet complete gratitude that it surrendered its life for yours.
I'm learning Flint Knapping (percussion and pressure flaking of crystals for primitive tool making) to make my own arrowheads. I've also learnt to make rope from Gymea Lily (doryanthes excelsa), which is one of the most versatile plant species in the Australian bush.
By the fourth day it felt like home and I didn't want to leave. It was tough. Really tough. And completely magnificent. A big re-pegging of the perimeter of my comfort zone, and a pleasing step forward in my journey towards The Mighty Clarence.
ALJ: So again, remind me… Why?
HT: The first lesson I have learned, is that dreams are elusive creatures of the pre-dawn; they start running from you long before the sun opens her eyes the only way to catch them is to beat them out of bed. "Set a goal so big you can't achieve it.... until you grow into the person who can."
Follow Hayley's journey
You can follow Hayley every step of her #themightyclarence journey on her Instagram pages https://instagram.com/hayleytalbot/ and https://instagram.com / of.the.ocean