Welcome to the first blog for my new expedition, Breaking the Cycle Across Australia. This is going to be a 6000km+ journey from Cape Byron, Australia’s most easterly point to Steep Point, the continent’s most westerly tip.
Starting from the Cape Byron Lighthouse, the route is going to track across the Great Dividing Range and through northern NSW via Moree and Bourke, the Corner Country (Tibooburra to Birdsville), across the Simpson Desert to Oodnadata and Coober Pedy, then the length of the Anne Beadell Highway, along a part of the Rabbit Proof Fence, through the Murchison region to Shark Bay and Steep Point.
Along the way, and in keeping with the ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ theme of my 25,000km Great Australian Cycle Expedition (2004/05), I plan to seed the journey with stories related to sustainability and indigenous knowledge and culture.
Following the success of the Diamonds in the Sand TV series, the journey is going to be filmed to a broadcast standard, thanks to three highly-qualified filmmakers – Mikey Matthews, Morgan Cardiff and Gavin Rawlings, who will cover the different sections of the 11-week journey.
The vehicle support is in the experienced, highly capable hands of three of the most well-travelled 4WD specialists in the country – Neil and Helen Cocks and Martin and Sandra Bailey have driven me to Byron Bay and will be with me all the way while Rick Hunter will join us in Birdsville.
My education partner, Belouga is going to translate the information from my blogs and the team’s short videos into lessons for students around the world, accessed by educators through my Breaking the Cycle Belouga Channel. These will become available in about 3 weeks.
As usual, pulling this expedition together has involved many weeks of very little sleep, and effectively a detraining regime! I’ve been juggling several big projects at once – its all good but I can’t wait to get on the bike and away from the computer screen.
We allowed four days to reach Byron Bay, the highlight was meeting explorer and adventurer, Peter Treseder and his wife Lyn. Peter has walked unsupported to the South Pole, kayaked across the Timor Sea, and crossed all of Australia’s 13 deserts unsupported. With his wife Lyn, he has entered a new chapter of his life, developing a beautiful property near Wauchope, central NSW coastal region. The 300 acre farm has been de-stocked of cattle and they have several projects on the go. Camping beside the Hastings River, evidence of the recent floods about six weeks ago was easy to see. The water here rose more than 10m, and many of the trees below the high water mark had been uprooted and the walking tracks washed away. Premium chalets are constantly in use and the profits go to various charities. Much of the land was carpeted with freshly mown grass. They had designed and planted a maze and in one corner of the property, eucalypts were being planted to provide food for the nearby koala hospital.
But the highlight for me as an explorer with Antarctic ambitions was when Peter casually pulled out two priceless relics of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. The first piece was the goggles worn by Sir Douglas Mawson. Mawson was the sole survivor of the three-man Far Eastern Party, which travelled across the Mertz and Ninnis glaciers named after his two deceased companions. Their deaths forced him to travel alone for over a month to return to the expedition’s main base. Sheltering alone in an ice cave for from the base, he made running repairs by hand stitching them. I can’t imagine how cold and alone he must have felt, uncertain whether he would survive – the odds were fairly stacked against him.
The second item was Roald Amundsen’s good luck charm – the expedition cook hand carved what looks a bit like a door knob, from either bone or a tusk while he waited for Amundsen’s crew to return from a reconnaissance expedition. Amundsen carried it to the South Pole with him on the expedition that saw his party become the first to reach the Pole.
From Peter’s and Lyn’s property we took our time to drive the last 400km to Byron Bay, arriving on the morning of the 30th April in time for me to do a couple of interviews, one for ABC Radio journalist, Glynn Greensmith for his programme, It’s Just Not Cricket. (Streaming for the next weeks: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/itsjustnotcricket/episodes/)
There was much to do on the final afternoon to prepare for the journey ahead. When Neil collected Gavin Rawlinson, the filmmaker for the first week, from Ballina airport it was great to have the starting team together and set to go on 1st May.