My name is Helen Tyzack and I have a history working in the visual arts and museology industries, plus an overlay of working in or for many different types of education institutions, government agencies and not-for -profit organisations – not only in my home state of Tasmania but across most states and territories of Australia. Currently I live in suburban Hobart, Tasmania.
All my life I have walked to get around, to keep costs down, to be kinder to the climate, and to experience the beauties of the natural environment at close quarters. Many years ago I sold my car and ever since I have walked or used public transport.
Just over two years ago I retired from paid employment but, before then, I had the ‘great’ idea to walk from the mouth to the source of the Derwent. I completed a couple of stages before I left work permanently and, because of this achievement, I was stimulated to continue. However, my constant fear was whether it was possible to achieve my personal goal, considering the state of my body with its various health challenges. When I started each stage I did not know if I could complete it, but it was a case of ‘mind over matter’ and I kept placing one foot after another. Albeit more and more slowly. And that positive attitude worked. My goal was achieved.
I am on the mature side of 60 years of age, short in stature with an overweight body, and perpetual problems with my feet (at the beginning I did not know that my ankles, knees and hips would become less happy to be involved). But I have refused to let these characteristics and impediments prevent me living; they slowed me but they did not stop me. Over time I have learnt to be resourceful and self-reliant amidst a world of kindness and caring from diverse friends.
I am always energised by the possibilities of discovering new places, and my walk along the Derwent River exceeded all my expectations. Prior to starting the Derwent walk, over the preceding years, I flew off to different countries around the world to learn and experience new adventures. It has been one of the greatest surprises to find the Derwent offered so many revelations, so that my thoughts of overseas travel was halted. I guess it is always easier to think somewhere else will be more interesting yet a place right on your own doorstep can offer ‘the world’.
For all the initial 15 walking stages and then all the other inland walks except 2 short gap ones, I walked alone. During the first 15 walks I was supported only by public transport when buses deposited me at a starting point and collected me from each walk’s destination. This practice could not continue because of the limited or non-existent public transport options available in central Tasmania. Instead, when friends, relatives and neighbours offered to be my chauffeur to starting points, and in some cases to collect me at the end of a walk, I eagerly accepted.
To cope with the constraints of private property restrictions, I worked with locals and others to obtain various kinds of alternative access to the Derwent River. No project ever goes totally to plan and that is the joy of exploration: discovering new ways to meet changing personal expectations keeps my brain active and my mind vitally alive. I was privileged to have the time to take this walk. I was privileged to have the support (and the concern) of friends and family. I am fortunate to live in the state of Tasmania which still has primeval forests that industry has not decimated, and to be able to access some of this territory. I am lucky that researching and writing are skills that I am happy to use to keep records. I am grateful for the ‘likes’, the comments, the emails, and the excellent information which blog readers have supplied. While I can remember many successes and achievements in my life, there are none that have been so satisfying as this walk and all its flow-on effects.
I feel confident that walking, with all the problem solving required at every turn, has to be an activity which lessens depression and is one which slows down the onset of dementia. More than that, I know it keeps you curious about the world and brings you in touch with wonderful people that you otherwise might not encounter. My hope is that my walking the Derwent project will encourage others to think about how to add excitement into their life; that it will inspire others to develop their own projects whether or not such projects have anything to do with walking.
The unflattering photos of me below include one taken by a stranger who I met as I walked, and the remainder were taken by people who drove me to a starting point for a leg of the walk.