2013 Diary of a Canning Walker

Day 6 - The First of the Blisters

Day 6

Day 6, 05 June 2013
Photo's - Solo Walk - Billiluna to Kunawarritji 657km

My next supply drop was a little over 5km from where I had slept, about 500m past the windmill of Well 51. In the early morning light I stopped at the broken windmill and made my mark on it, writing ‘Gaynor www.canningwalker.com 05 June 2013.’ The second I finished the number three, regret overwhelmed me. I had graffitied a piece of history! Ashamed, I tried to remove the blue ink by rubbing it down with meths, only making it worse, giving the whole area a blue sheen that drew attention to the words. (Two years later, I was relieved to see that all trace of this graffiti had been removed from the windmill through weathering.)

Arriving at the supply drop situated on a low ridge under a lone bush, I dug out the supplies to discover that one of the two five litres bladders had leaked most of its water, leaving me with a total of six litres from the stores. I sat back on my bum digesting this. There was still about two litres left in my backpack bringing my total water supply up to 8 litres before rehyrdation, breakfast and cleaning. Despite being short on water, I decided to take care of the first of the blisters on my toes. Pouring a little water into my 10 litre Sea-to-Summit kitchen sink, I squirted in Aqau Salveo to kill the bacteria on my blistered feet, giving them a good soaking whilst I ate a meal. The Aqua Salveo was my drinking water disinfectant. If it killed bacteria in my water, I reasoned that it would do the same for my feet.


Right footCarefully I inspected the skin damage. Most of the toes on my right foot were showing signs of hot spots (angry red skin caused by friction) or blistering, the worst affected being the little toe on my right foot. This little toe was swollen with blister water on the inside where it rubbed up against the other toe, and extended over onto the top of the little toe. The left foot was in much better condition, with only small hard blisters on the tip of the big toe and the toe next to it.

Keeping my feet as healthy as possible was important, for without my feet in good condition, I did not stand a chance of completing the two to three month desert trek. These hot spots should have been taped up with protective Fixomull the moment I felt them warning me. Now it was too late and I had blisters. The only thing left for me to do was nurse them and make sure they did not become infected. Feet clean and thoroughly inspected, I dried them off and taped the toes up individually with Fixomull. On the very bad toe, I first applied an ampoule plaster and then Fixomull over that. This was the first time I was using ampoule plasters and Fixomull and I was clumsy in the wrapping, allowing a few creases and ridges to creep in which made for friction points later. With practice, my technique improved. Steve Parish had shared this hikers’ Fixomull tip when he heard that Pam was suffering from a monstrous blister on her first few days out. The blister became infected, blood poisoning following, requiring antibiotic treatment and two days rest. I was very grateful for Steve's advice and as a result, managed to avoid Pam's fate.

Whilst I had to constantly manage hot spots and blisters, especially in the first few weeks, they always remained healthy, clean and infection free. In my first aid kit I carried a wide range of blister treatments, but found that Fixomull stuck better than any plaster tape and is gentle on the skin at the same time. There was only one thing that stuck better than Fixomull (that I have used as a plaster) and that was gaffer tape, but it could not be applied directly to the skin as it did not allow the skin to breathe and might pull the tender blister skin off. Gaffer tape required a gauze dressing or Fixomull in between it and the skin.

In those first weeks I used a variety of blister ampoule plasters like those made by Band Aid, but in retrospect, I would just take Fixomul in future and keep the blisters and my feet clean with water and an antiseptic solution, putting a spot of Bactroban ointment on open blisters. The reason I don’t like ampoules is that whilst they made the blister comfortable, they softened the skin in the whole area, making it jelly like. As a result of this moist environment, healing took a long time and I lost a thick cap-like layer of skin off my little toe and almost the nail with it eight days later. Had I used Fixomull and the blister allowed to dry out in its own time, I don’t think this would have happened.

Antibacterial wipes were used to clean my feet and the rest of my body when water was scarce. Taking care of my feet from this day on was something I did every single day, especially at night before going to sleep. This is when the wet wipes were particularly useful.

With only six litres of water left, enough for one day of walking, I had to keep moving to my next supply drop 21km away. The supply drops were my daily focus; they were the way I measured water security and my progress through the desert. Each bag was numbered and I was counting down to Wiluna.

A couple came by with their dog and I gave them a food parcel to take to Kunawarritji where the CEO's were collecting them at the shop. The travellers offered a cold drink and chatted awhile, thoughtfully waiting for me to return the empty can. It was hot. After the obligatory photographs, the travellers left and I kept on walking to a big, beautiful desert oak just before the intersection to Well 50.

left footMy next drop was a few kilometres further on, but this camp spot was too beautiful to pass up. If my water situation became critical, I knew I could walk those 5kms with ease and resupply, hopefully finding they were not compromised. Finding a supply drop that might be destroyed by animals or water container failure was always a concern. Arriving at each drop, I tried to ensure that I had at least two litres of water in reserve that I could use in an emergency hike through the cool of the night to the next drop about 21km away, if need be. It was unlikely that two drops in a row would be compromised. Plans don't always work out, however, and there were times to come when I would come in dry and thirsty, with only a mouthful of water in reserve.

At my desert oak campsite, two vehicles passed by going south. The one from Perth took another food parcel to Kunawarritji. The motivation to get rid of every bit of excess was strong, the struggle with weight resuming with the recovery of each supply drop. It is a struggle that repeats itself sometimes twice a day, all the way to Kunawarritji. Just 500g makes such a difference to the enjoyment of the walk.

The problem of too much food was a result of doubling up on these northern parcels during the supply run. At the halfway mark I realised that I had calculated the distance of the walk incorrectly. I had thought it was 1,850km but discovered that the distance between Wiluna and Billiluna was going to be a lot less, 1 657km to be exact. This doubling up was a big mistake. Eating so much food was simply impossible for me, and the quantity grew with each day, weighing me down.

Before the walk I was worried that I would not have enough food to eat and literally spent every last cent I had to my name on additional food, leaving no cash in reserve. I was 100% committed to this walk and I gave it everything I had. The additional food proved unnecessary however, and in fact a burden. The 4,500 calories I had originally calculated for each parcel was enough. At least I thought so in the first two weeks. It was after that that my body began to visibly waste despite the same calorie intake.

The little toe blister on Day 15

Day 15 blister

CSR Survival Tips

Walkers, take good care of your feet. You cannot do this without them.


Well 51 has a distinctive windmill, but it is not maintained and although the vanes turn, the connecting rods to draw the water up are broken and so the open tanks are dry. In the concrete shaft next to the windmill, there is some water. I tested it in 2015. The water was stale and not good tasting. Treated it might be okay for emergency water. The depression that was once a ground water source was also dry. It is a place water would collect if it rained.

Map Note

The small yellow blocks with numbers each represent a supply drop, the numbers decreasing/counting down to Wiluna. Decreasing numbers gave me a motivational boost. With each supply drop reached, I was closer to the finish line. 



Last Updated on Sunday, 04 February 2018 17:57

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