A breathless life is one well lived.

I’m sorry.

It seems my life overtook my writing for the past month and as a result left the story of The Long Walk Home unfinished and sitting in limbo. Although only 2 months since I walked into town it feels like years since I finished it, and yet I still get butterflies thinking about how wonderful it was out there.

Not wanting the story to finish on getting chased by camels, which by the way I came face to face with outside the Birdsville Hotel recently (I swear it was planning an attack on me), it is time to write the last part of the story.

Back to the red sand, golden spinifex and cold nights, the last part of the story is about the people and the landscape. When people think of the desert I assume most would think of a barren, empty pocket of land with minimal human encounters and little life. Quite frankly I think even I thought this to an extent before setting off. I don’t think you can truly understand what the Simpson Desert has until you see it from the ground.

The golden spinifex tops swaying in the wind against the red sand of the early morning as the sun reflects off it.The animal prints in the track proving they have roamed the area under moonlight, searching for food and patrolling their territory.

Animal prints on the firm, cool early morning sand.

The look of frost on the sand as the sun strains to reach the dirt to warm it up. The sound of dingoes howling at night, or the noise of a little rat trying to steal parts of the bbq from right under your feet. The bitterly cold morning as you try and make yourself breakfast, the changing colours of the sand and the difference in terrain as you walk step after step.

The people of the journey also played a part in making it an experience to treasure. Meeting the son of a man who had walked it years ago and stopping for a chat with the hundreds of people that passed by. Hearing my parents plane closing in and having them drop chocolate care packages from the air, and running into a film crew whilst atop a dune.

Zoom in and you can see the care package off the tail of the plane! Photo : Steve Collins.

Listening to stories of people who had used the services of the RFDS, and even meeting another walker will all stay with me. On that note a 14 year old boy was walking the desert also and by chance happened to start a few hours after me from Dalhousie Springs. When he caught up just before Peoppel’s Corner we learnt that his Dad had succumbed to blisters after the first day and that he was going it alone. I take my hat off to the young lad who after borrowing a pair of my gaiters to keep the sand out of his shoes, shot off like a rocket never to be seen again by us but making it to Birdsville in one piece.

The people with me on the journey, those who we met, and the natural life that we observed in the desert have made the experience what it is, and I thank each and everyone of you who has supported my walk and helped me to achieve something amazing.

Some of my beautiful friends who supported me throughout the walk.

I am forever changed by The Long Walk Home, and I hope that every person reading this feels proud about what you have done and I firmly believe that the fundraising is an achievement of the people not me. Together you have raised $36,714 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and should feel immensely satisfied that you have helped support a service that is integral to all of Australia including rural, remote, coastal and metropolitan areas. I guarantee you that you have just helped to save a life and you never know but it could be your own.

Nothing can prepare you for life and nothing could of prepared me for the beauty of what laid beyond the horizon of the desert. I am forever grateful that I took an opportunity to see it from the ground and at a snails pace. The beauty of watching the full moon rise over the horizon, the adrenalin rush of having a pack of dingoes a mere 40m behind me before even realising they were following, or the utter amazement of looking up and seeing Wedge-Tailed Eagles circling 5m above me as they rode the wind currents over the dunes will live with me forever. There are a lot of places in this amazing world of ours that can take your breath away and the Simpson Desert is just one of them. So wherever you are in the world don’t forget to stop and look sometimes or you might just miss them. After all losing one breath to a magnificent sight is worth it, and if I lost all my breaths to the beauty of the world then it would be a life well lived.

My guardian angel soaring close on the wind currents.

As I sit here and write thank you for the last time, I can feel the knot start to form in my stomach that signals the end of something great. Signing off from the people who have followed the journey is far more difficult than finishing the walk, and so just once more I say thank you for all that you have done for the RFDS and for me. I will treasure this experience forever.

Jenna x

Camelus dromedarius.

A couple of nights ago I took a drive with some mates to track down Samantha Gash. Samantha was about 16km from Birdsville at the tail end of a non-stop run across the Simpson Desert. After some chit-chat and words of encouragement, we were just about to leave when one of her crew asked “are there really camels in the desert?”…

After remembering the image of a camel running across a dune towards me my reply was “trust me, there are camels in the desert”. Returning later with beer for the crew, they seemed extremely disappointed that they hadn’t seen any camels during their crossing, while I was only wishing I hadn’t seen any.

Before I left for my walk I repeatedly thought that I really should call Andrew Harper who knows about camels and ask what I should do if I ever came upon them. As per usual I forgot to do this, and instead left town and hoped I would only run into happy camels.

That was not to be.

Although I regularly found myself walking along camel tracks each morning, I don’t think I ever really thought I would run into them, and if I did I just assumed they’d be a long way away from the track.

I was half right.

As I crested a dune early one morning, with my crew still back at camp, I noticed a set of tracks heading north off the road and along the dune. When I got near the bottom of this dune I looked to my left and noticed the silhouette of a camel on the ridge around 800m along it walking away from me. Thinking this was pretty cool I got to the flat ground and took a quick photo before continuing on my way and watching the camel do the same.

Or so I thought.

Looking back in its direction I could no longer see it and assumed it had crossed over the dune and was following a herd of camels whose prints I had crossed earlier.

Lesson 1: never assume.

As I reached the next dune I saw a camel running in its gangly uncoordinated fashion heading across the flat and up onto the dune that I was on. My heart immediately started to pound and what I liked to call “survival instincts” kicked in. Firstly, I thought “WHY, WHY, WHY didn’t I call Andrew and find out how to evade an angry camel!!!”. With that thought aside I focussed on working out how to get away from this giant creature running towards me and looking like it either thought I smelt like a female camel, or like another bull camel coming in to take his ladies away.

Given the crew and I had already repeatedly been called camels numerous times by people in their vehicles as they either followed our prints or saw us on dunes up ahead, I like to think the camel was just confused. On a side note to anyone who called us camels in the desert, I never realised camels wore sneakers with the Brooks logos on them.

Back on track, I knew I wouldn’t be able to outrun the camel so that idea was out, nor was it possible to get downwind of it, so that left getting out of sight and not making any noise. After making what felt like a mayday call to the crew, I threw my bag off in the opposite direction, thankfully remembered to grab my radio off it, and broke right down the dune face to crouch behind some spinifex grass. Watching the camel through the waving spinifex tops standing what felt like 50m away, I crawled on my haunches across to a taller shrub hoping that Mr. Camel wouldn’t notice me moving and eventually managed to stand upright, keeping one eye on the camel and one eye on the horizon praying Clare and Alex would make a mad max style entrance.

At one point I made a very hushed call on the radio through gritted teeth and said something along the lines of “PLEASE COME FASTER”. Thinking my days were over I had one last ditch idea left, and that was that if Mr. Camel spotted me I would curl myself around the trunk of the shrub in the foetal position, and hope that the leaves would give me some sort of shelter so long as it didn’t look down. Given they probably weigh close to a tonne, I doubt leaves would of saved me from a painful crushing death, but it was my last idea apart from running like a kid from “The God’s Must be Crazy” across the flat.

Mr. Camel left his mark. He was big.

Eventually Mr. Camel and his mate who had also turned up started off back down the dune and headed off the direction they were going earlier, although they were always stopping to look back. Once they were gone my support crew turned up in less mad max style then I had hoped for, but it was a relief knowing they were there. We spent some time working out where the camels actually were and it turns out they were more like 100m away from me, and had left lots of camel poo and pee as if to say “stay out of our territory”.

Needless to say my crew were not allowed to go very far away from me for a few days after that.

Given this was also the day that Casino was agitated, she really topped my morning off by saying “I would of paid to see you get chased by camels”. Thanks Cas.

It was a pleasure.

When I took the first steps of The Long Walk Home it was the culmination of months of training and organising, living a life that consisted of practically 2 full time jobs and part-time study. The lead up to the walk was the most difficult situation I have willingly put myself in, both time wise and on a personal level given I find asking people for help or money extremely uncomfortable. It was the end of the most intense period of my life where something had to be done every single day and where never a moment, whether it be while awake or asleep, went by that the walk wasn’t at the forefront of thoughts occupying my head space. If there weren’t sponsorship letters to write, fundraising activities to organise, work to go to or assignments to be submitted, there was training to do, housework to finish, thank you letters to write and a dog to walk.

The start of the walk was the beginning of my holiday.

I never once thought I would describe walking across the Simpson Desert as a pleasure, but that is exactly what it was.  It was a pleasure to be surrounded by one of the most unique parts of our country, and to hear the birds chirp, the dingoes howl and the rats squeak. It was a pleasure to watch the satellites overhead, the full moon rise above the dunes and the sun set beyond the horizon. It was not however a pleasure to wake up to ice in the morning, get chased by camels, followed by dingoes, or walk on an inflamed Achilles, but I suppose in the grand scheme of things these are just minor details. The desert willingly gave me more than I could of imagined, and I think more than I will ever realise.

I am fairly confident that my experience of walking the desert is slightly different to most. It wasn’t a race to win, or to be able to rattle off numbers and times at the end, nor was it an attempt to be the first to do it in some different way to others, and nor was I doing it for someone else. I was doing it first and foremost for myself, at a speed that I was comfortable with, and quite frankly I don’t think there are many firsts left given the area was occupied by Indigenous people for thousands of years (however I have since found out that next week a lady is going to attempt a non-stop run across…yes I said non-stop – no sleeping). Although I wanted to raise as much awareness of the RFDS as possible, for me personally I didn’t need nor particularly care if anybody was interested in the story because it was purely about satisfying a goal of mine for me and me alone.

Before I started the walk many would ask why I was doing it and my response was usually “because it will be a challenge”. However since finishing the walk I now know that the desert wasn’t necessarily ‘the’ challenge for me, the challenge was in the preparation and the training, the walk was simply the end result of it and finishing it any faster then was absolutely necessary would mean I would possibly miss out on things.

As I read this over I think I have managed to make the desert seem like this easy stroll, or a walk in the park so to speak, but it’s not. There are still over 900 sand dunes to climb, over 400km to walk, and lots of things that could go wrong. For me though, the 900+ never seemed too many, at the end of the 400k I had a wonderful community waiting to welcome me home, and thankfully nothing too bad did go wrong. I had a lot of luck on my side with weather and animal encounters, but in all honesty I think it was the preparation and support that I had right from the very start that made it what it was.

Firstly, there was the support of family and friends when the idea first popped into my head, which made me believe I could do it. Then there was the selfless act by my support crew to choose to spend their holidays driving at a snail’s pace across 900+ dunes waiting for me to catch up. Then there was Michael, who it isn’t possible to thank enough for the work that he put in to ensure that my body was capable of what I was about to put it through. And lastly there was Olivia Warnes, the sports dietician who helped me prepare and plan my meals, snacks and fluid replacement throughout the day, to ensure that my energy levels stayed constant and where they needed to be.

These people along with everyone who has supported, sponsored and donated, had me ready to go when June 25th came around, and gave me the ability to enjoy the walk rather than fall into an exhausted heap each night wishing the desert would open up and swallow me. Like I said earlier, the walk was the start of my holiday.

Crossing a salt lake near Poeppel Corner

My body held up throughout the walk and I can actually honestly say that the only time a muscle hurt was on day 13 when Clare had to get the deep heat out, and rub my calf muscle to the point I nearly cried. On good advice I chose to take magnesium each night, as well as get regular massages from Casino, and managed to wake up every morning feeling as fit as a fiddle and ready to push on. It is a credit to the work of Michael, Olivia, the crew and good shoes, that apart from a brush with nasty heat rash during the first couple of days, I was able to recover fully each night and only managed to acquire one little blister on the top of a toe for the entire walk.

Ouch, Ouch, Ouch!!!

Enjoying my massage.

The camera makes them look nicer then in real life.

In saying that I did manage to pick up an Achilles issue half way through the walk, and with some help from painkillers I somehow carried it through to the end. At times it literally made me want to shed a tear, or maybe even vomit a little as it felt like I was walking on a massive raw blister on the back of my heel (however there wasn’t one), that was getting a knife stuck into it with every single stride. I am told it is called Achilles bursitis. I am also told the last 200km I walked with it probably didn’t help the situation. I suggest never trying it. After taking half a rest day to see if it would settle down, my only choice left was to start popping painkillers which I did until they made me feel spaced out, nauseous and walking in a slightly crooked direction. On day 14 I received a new type of painkiller that took the edge off just in time for the last day of walking!

“And here is the rare Gumbious Bootious species found only in the Simpson Desert”. My mates keeping me amused while my heel pain wore on.

Although wounds and scars are sometimes part of taking on adventures like this, I didn’t want to arrive back home with shredded feet, wasted muscles and a body that took months to recover. As much as it would have made this story far more interesting, it would of made the walk a nightmare. I wanted to be prepared for what I was literally walking into, I wanted to know how my body would react, and most importantly I wanted to be able to enjoy the desert. Obviously I didn’t train by walking 400km across the desert, but I knew what my body was capable of on the dunes before I started which helped. I think that in most cases careful preparation and acknowledgement of what you are entering goes a long way in preventing unpleasant incidents and injuries.

Where’s Jenna?

Happy Canada Day to my Canadians!

I don’t ever remember feeling like I had walked 100, 200 or even 300 kilometres, all I ever really felt like was that I had walked for a long time that day and some days I would be tired when I got into camp, and some days I would stay up later then Clare! The only thing that I can put this down to is preparation and training. Having the desert on my doorstep allowed me train over the exact terrain and enabled me to get my head around what it looks like, how the sand feels and how fast I could actually walk. Throughout the walk I found myself walking on average 1km/hr faster than I had planned, and where I could have then chosen to walk an extra 8km per day, I instead chose to finish 2 hours earlier to spend time with the crew, and relax and recover. To me there was no benefit in finishing any earlier then I had intended, even though I did end up coming in a day earlier then expected.

Finding these markers was great for the mind, not sure about their numbering though…hmmm.

Each day I was extremely methodical in my hydration and food intake and would religiously stop every single hour for 10 minutes to eat my snack and drink my fluids. At times I would even instruct the support crew to stop in “about um….550m”, which seems a little pedantic I know, but as I walked further I could accurately judge how far I would walk in any given timeframe. In setting the days up like this there was always a break coming up, the energy levels stayed constant, and we could count in how many breaks until lunch or camp (i.e. 1, 2 or 3) rather then in hours. It may seem minor but planning is so crucial to success and not just for the physical side of the walk, but also and almost to a greater extent for the mental side.

Break time – Casino sitting in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern territory.

Knolls Track Junction

Even though some people may read this and think it sounds easy, there is nothing easy about walking over dune after dune, but I think that unlike some people who cross the desert on foot, I enjoyed the whole experience in each moment rather than just the finishing part. Towards the end my crew seemed to know when I was in pain and when to walk with me, even if they didn’t know it. I have been asked if there was ever a time when I thought it was too hard, but nothing is ever really too hard because “It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop”. With a little uvumilivu (perseverance), a top support crew, a good pair of shoes and some painkillers, I never really had a reason to even think about giving up.

Laughter. Fun Facts. Agitation.

Just before leaving Birdsville for the start of The Long Walk Home, I received a call from the satellite phone that had been put into Steve and Casino’s vehicle to communicate with family, and god forbid emergency services while on the road. I hesitantly answered and was greeted by the news that Clare and Alex’s car had broke a shock but that they were still poking along slowly, and could I please pick up a new one or (preferably) two before heading off. Not exactly the best phone call one could ask for, but luckily for everyone concerned the Birdsville Roadhouse happened to have a pair in stock and the adventure could go ahead almost to schedule.

After saying goodbye to friends and family and loading the plane with an excessive amount of food, Dad and I headed off for Hamilton Station on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. Although I had contemplated wearing an eye mask for the duration of the trip to reduce the depth at which my heart would sink as I flew over the hundreds of dunes, I instead chose to grin and bear it and watched as dune after dune rolled by beneath me.

Heart sinking moment.

Shortly after landing at Hamilton we were greeted by Tim and Kristy, and after handing over the thank you gift of fresh zucchini and squash from our garden and having a cup of tea, I cautiously made the phone call to Casino to check up on the whereabouts of my support crew. Being told that two shocks were now broken wasn’t exactly comforting news, but hearing that Cas and Steve had left the other car behind and were proceeding to Hamilton to pick up the new shocks, before returning to Oodnadatta did give me a glimmer of hope that we could be sleeping at Dalhousie Springs tonight.

This was not to be.

While Cas and I were entertained by the Hamilton crew and enjoyed a delicious meal; Clare, Alex and Steve were sitting on the pad at Oodnadatta Roadhouse being fed sandwiches by Lyn, and fixing two broken shocks by torchlight. Not exactly how we had intended on spending the first night. Eventually they made it to Hamilton at close to 2am and given I was already tucked up asleep by this time, I can only assume they quickly followed suit.

After loading the cars to near capacity, filling up the water, taking some photos, saying thank you for the wonderful generosity of Tim and Kristy, I found my cubby in the back of the Hilux, settled in to the last car seat I would sit in for a while, and then we were finally off on the adventure.

Time to get the show on the road!

Once we had twisted and bumped our way to Dalhousie Springs, a quick dip in the warm water followed as well as a nibble of the legs and feet by the little fishes (and it is about now that I fully expect my sister Karen to cringe and say “ugh that’s disgusting Jenna”), which was quickly followed by a mad dash to the towels in order to escape the freezing wind.

Not wanting to hold up proceedings any further, after a quick lunch, debrief on the trip plans and a pit stop, I had the sneakers laced up, SPOT tracker on and was ready to start striding out. At this point the story starts to part as I don’t wish to bore you with a day by day description of the walk, so instead we’ll talk about laughter, fun facts and agitation.

As we were going to be living in and out of each other’s pockets for the next two weeks it didn’t take long for us to start taking bets on when Casino would crack. I love Casino dearly but unfortunately for her (and me when the silent treatment starts) I struggle to take her “agitation” seriously. Most gave her 4-5 days, however much to our surprise she lasted until day 7 before the “agitation” set in.

Somtimes I just get a little agitated. Photo: Steve Collins

You will note my use of the term “agitation” rather than angry, and this is taken from a direct quote by Casino. The day started off glorious as they all did, the morning was crisp (albiet icy and freezing), I got the fire going, had my brekkie and then set off for the morning. At some time after this the crew at the camp had decided to make pancakes, however they didn’t brown.

This was agitating.

Next I was chased by camels (the story will come later), and when the crew arrived Casino was disappointed because she was desperate to see them and hadn’t. Her exact words were “I would of paid to see you get chased by camels”.

This too was agitating.

Then there was the fact that we had been showering with baby wipes for a nearly a week, we were dusty, and we were smelly.

This was also agitating.

I have to however take my hat off to Casino, because by the end of the day the foot stomping had subsided, the silent treatment had worn off, the pancakes had been forgotten, she had seen her camels, we had all had a wash in a bucket of water, and there was no more agitation…for now.

Just on a side note, Casino wasn’t the only one who became agitated throughout the journey, but I find it so amusing that I couldn’t help but tell you about it. Clare also became agitated on more than one occasion when her darling husband Alex (i.e Cledus) would come near her with bugs, sand or other creatures or objects that were not appreciated.

Being an outsider was certainly an entertaining experience on the trip.

As for the name Cledus (correct spelling is optional), it came about as Alex could be seen catching flies in a bottle, while wearing his straw hat and playing the harmonica around the fire. All that was needed was the rocking chair and the shotgun to complete the picture.

Cledus on the harmonica. Photo: Megan Stace

Speaking of fires, Steve and Alex brought out a little Bear Grylls each night as they stubbornly would repeatedly refuse to light it with matches but would instead pull out the flint and knife, and take 10 times as long to light it. If you wanted a fire lit quickly at camp I would suggest asking one of the girls, who would happily utilise the packet of matches that had been brought along. Entertaining words would be sent back and forth between Steve and Casino regarding this matter.

Not wanting to be biased in my sledging of team members, I too was regularly pulled into line for not following what I affectionately referred to as “camp etiquette”. One such item that was constantly up for discussion was my choice of bush to relieve my bladder.

80% of the camp usually deemed my choice to close.

I did get better over time though and eventually I would walk a good minute or so away from the camp, however when the nights were cold no one ventured much past the camp boundary i.e behind vehicles or tents.

I will also admit that I was extremely useless in camp at night, and not once did I do anything of group benefit apart from collect wood to start the fire in the morning. The morning fire was my baby, I would wake, dress, exit the tent and effectively feel my fingers snap when they hit the cold, then stoke the fire, put the chairs out and put the billy on. That was my input. Minimal I know.

The group also learnt that I was incapable of sharing one particular food item: Top Deck chocolate. You can do whatever you want, but DO NOT touch my Top Deck without prior permission. It was a simple rule.

All other chocolate was fair game.

Camp life was relatively peaceful, the crew became experts at cooking exactly the right amount rice, we became experts at finding satellites in the night sky, watched shooting stars burn up into our atmosphere, listened to the howl of the dingoes, and caught little rats out as they attempted to steal and eat parts of the camp; namely a tent and swag. It was a relaxing time when we huddled around the fire and slowly turned in a rotisserie style to warm each side of the body, while watching the lads expertly cook marshmallows and learn about fun facts.

Searching for satellites. Photo: Steve Collins.

Fun facts were an early creation of the walk and unfortunately I am unable to recount all my fun facts which I delivered to the crew, but I think the final count was around 14 or 15. One could regularly be heard saying “wait, wait is this a fun fact? What number are we up to?”. They ranged from fun facts about animals, to ones about plants and science. Given I effectively have the memory of a sieve I am hoping the crew will be able to remember some of the fun facts and post them in the comments section. Towards the end of the walk after listening to fun fact after fun fact they got their own back and created “Fun Facts for Jenna”, which of course I don’t remember.

After all the satellites were spotted, the marshmallow packets grudgingly put back in the car by sweet-toothed Steve, fun facts delivered and rats chased away, we all retired to the warmth of our tents or swags and settled into a peaceful sleep under the stars, only to be woken by dingo/fox/rat/full bladder.

On the subject of sweet-toothed Steve he was also the camp oven king creating a delicious damper one night, and creating what can only be described at sugared apples on another night. The level of sugar contained in the apple crumble had to be tasted to be believed and left both Casino and I in fits of laughter at nothing in particular, as well as leaving me with the worst sleep of the trip…I am sure I only slept 8 hours that night.

Even though the crew were all family I quickly slid right in and perhaps sometimes shared more than they wanted to know, but after all sharing is caring right? Perhaps it wasn’t camp etiquette to issue a spoken statement each time “the” shovel was taken for a pit stop, and perhaps there are certain bodily functions that one doesn’t need to share with the family, and maybe the camp fire isn’t an appropriate spot to shave your legs, but neither is standing on the swag while answering nature’s call when you are sleeping next to my tent, so I think I can be forgiven.

Casino and “the” shovel. Photo: Steve Collins

The support crew were amazing at doing what they did best, which was supporting. I never once had to set up my tent, no matter how hard I sometimes tried and nor did I ever have to cook dinner, or make my Sustagen drink at the end of the day. The crew were there when I needed them, walked beside me when each step made me want to cry (also another story), made me laugh when I was a little tired, and helped me when dingoes and camels found me far too interesting for my liking. I am confident the walk would have been almost impossible without them, so for choosing to give up their holidays and spend 2 weeks in a dusty desert with 1 smelly walker I say the biggest thank you possible.

NB: I should also point out that my support crew were all from New South Wales, and as such listening to the State of Origin on the radio was a wonderful experience for me, given that Queensland defeated them for the seventh time in seven years. It felt good to be me that night.

Alex and Clare. Call sign: Cledus Photo: Megan Stace

Steve and Megan. Call sign: Sportsbra

Jenna. Call sign: Mono, Jetpack, Rafiki. Photo: Megan Stace

Over the next few posts I will write more about the walk itself and how the body held up, the above mentioned animals, as well as the people we met and the things we saw. There is certainly more to the desert then meets the eye.

I’m back!!

Hello everyone…it’s me!

I am safely back in civilisation with my feet propped up on the couch eating copious amounts of chocolate and a tin of rice cream while replying to emails, comments and phone calls. The past few weeks have been an amazing journey with many highs and quite honestly no real lows (apart from each descent down a dune). Having crossed hundreds of dunes I have been left with nothing more than a niggling heel injury (which the RFDS doctor has just been poking and prodding and making me yelp), while my body and muscles feel like they could keep going. That said I don’t think I am capable of writing about the entire walk right now, but over the next few weeks I hope to put together a few posts about different aspects of the walk including that infamous camel chasing experience that everyone seems to want to know about.

Many laughs were had, many steps were taken and many people came together to make the experience what it was. I hope that the pieces of writing to come can somehow describe not only what it was like to walk through the desert itself, but also what life was like on the road and how when all was said and done our crew were still speaking to each other at the end.

The arrival into town on Monday was a wonderful experience and from the bottom of my heart I thank everyone who came out for it, and also my wonderful family, support crew and friends who joined me on the road for the last leg of the journey.

The Finish Line!

Photo: Karen Brook

Friends, family, visitors and even The Great Outdoors! Photo: Karen Brook

Below are a couple of links to different media circles that have written about the walk or that I have spoken to over the past couple of days. The walk was also forever engraved in the Hansard of Federal Parliament when it was mentioned by our local MP Bruce Scott, who also joined me for the last leg. During the walk I also did an interview with 4WD Touring and The Great Outdoors but I’ll have to keep you posted on these ones.

Courier Mail

ABC Western QLD

ABC PM

ABC NET

Australian Federal Parliament Hansard

I am extremely proud of what we have achieved in terms of fundraising for the RFDS as well as raising awareness for their service, and I can very happily announce that we are over $28,500 and still accepting donations.

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for more posts and photos from the trip, as well as updates on the fundraising tally. Unfortunately the internet connection out here is a little slow so I have only managed to upload a few photos into the gallery for now.

Thanks again everyone. You are all stars!

Even more donations!

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Jenna has raised over $1000 from people she’s met in the desert. It’s a busy time of year in the outback as people from all over the country take advantage of the school holidays to make their Simpson Desert crossing.

Jenna says that about 50 per cent of people that she passes are donating, which is great. Thank you, everyone!

Although she’s got a sore heel, she’s powering along. She expects to be at Big Red, the 40m high dune on the edge of the desert, by lunchtime today. Then, she ‘s meeting family and friends, and MP Bruce Scott, for a BBQ at her final campsite before an easy, flat walk into Birdsville tomorrow. She hopes to be at the Birdsville Hotel in the early afternoon.

If you’re in the area, we’re encouraging as many people as possible to meet Jenna as she walks into town. She’s such an inspirational young woman who has achieved so much over the past 9 months or so and we’d love you to join us as we show her our appreciation.

I’ll keep you updated with her expected time of arrival and will hopefully see you at the pub!

A wave of encouragement and chocolate falling from the sky…

On Wednesday, Jenna’s parents planned to fly over the Simpson Desert and drop Jenna a parcel of much-deserved chocolate. I was lucky to be able to tag along with them and threw Jenna a parcel that contained the comments that have been posted on this blog since she left that I have been unable to approve for publication on the blog. But, she is getting your words of support!

David and Nell Brook departed on Wednesday afternoon and reached Jenna as she approached Poeppel’s Corner, the junction of the Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory borders. She was 6kms short of the corner when we flew overhead and she had stopped for the afternoon, ready to relax for a few hours before walking over 30 kms the following day.

From the air, we could see the group waving and were glad to hear Jenna’s voice on the UHF radio. She seemed very glad to hear from her parents and sounded like the walk was going very well. In fact, she may even be slightly ahead of schedule and maybe, hopefully, will be in Birdsville a day earlier than anticipated. However, time will tell and for now we’ll rest content that she’s approaching home, is healthy, enjoying her time in the desert and is raising more and more money for the RFDS every day.

Update from Jenna!

It’s been a week since we waved goodbye to Jenna at the Birdsville airport as she headed off to meet her support crew. In that time, she’s walked 200 kilometres and reports that she’s on schedule and doing well. However, her Long Walk Home has been far from uneventful. From wary wildlife to generous people, Jenna is having one heck of an experience out there. So far she’s encountered:

  • Being trailed by a pack of dingoes (her support crew warded them off)
  • Being chased by two camels (she hid behind a tree to evade them)
  • Heat rash on her legs and feet
  • Realising that her body is holding up quite well and her feet are nor sorer than what you’d expect from walking 200 kms
  • A very supportive support crew who give her massages and cook her delicious meals
  • A busy desert with lots of people stopping to say hello and donate to the RFDS. Jenna has raised a further $1000 from generous people in the desert, bringing her tally close to the $24,000 mark
  • Hearing that there’s also a 15-year-old boy walking across the desert. Conflicting reports say he’s somewhere behind her but may catch up at some stage
  • Three days of walking over sand dunes after the first 70 kilometres of clay
  • Very green growth after last-year’s bushfires
  • Peace and quiet

“I’m really enjoying it, but not so much being chased by camels,” she said. “It’s so peaceful and lovely!”

If you would like to donate to The Long Walk Home, you can head to http://www.everydayhero.com.au/jenna_brook or send a cheque made out to the Royal Flying Doctor Service to 38 Florence Street, Birdsville, Qld, 4482.