There are times when you have the maddest thoughts. There was I in ‘thinking about walking challenges’ mode, taking stock of the commitment to walk from London to Brighton next year, when I wondered whether I can carry on until 75 when I will break the record to become the oldest person to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats. And why not? I have done it before, I don’t have to prove to myself that I can do it, but you can bet your bottom dollar (I love that phrase, my maths teacher used it all the time) that when I am about 73, some smart arse aged 82 will beat the record. Aaah. More years to wait and I really don’t want to be wishing my life away just for that.
Anyway, yes, that mad thought. I don’t know what made me think of it – the brain is a strange thing for wandering – but I could walk across Australia. For a good hour, I really thought seriously about it. I even went to town on the internet to see how viable it would be. Yes, it’s been done before, it is possible. I could start in Fremantle, just west of Perth and walk to Sydney. If I was to keep very far south, there are plenty of roads, long-distance trails and, most crucially, towns. Around 4,000 kilometres – that’s about 2,500 miles – and that’s only just over twice the LEJOG distance, so six months and that would be it. Find the right time of year when the weather would be reasonable, yes, it could be done. I even Google Earthed and Street Viewed some of a prospective route.
Hah! Then reality kicked in. Yes, about 40 people have walked across Australia, and I hunted down some of the remarkable stories of people who had done it, starting from a very simple search on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_walked_across_Australia
But it is so sad when reality kicks in and that a dream has to die due to practicalities. Fly to Perth, stay about four or five days to get rid of the jet lag and then walk east, ending in Sydney. But it seems that many who have walked this have pushed a buggy with a massive amount of supplies and, worst of all, had to camp. It would be bad enough in this country to pitch a tent but I managed to avoid it due to there always being accommodation available and a roof over my head. In Oz, I saw a couple of spells where there were at least about 70 kilometres between towns and that is just unwalkable in a day, and tough even to do in two, when you’re walking pretty much every day, as opposed to a one off. I would also be in mortal fear of scorpions, snakes, spiders or dingoes invading my tent and delivering a sting or bite that would be the end of me, and quite possibly in a place with no phone or internet signal. That may or may not be the reality or just my prejudices but certainly my fears. Then getting at least six months off work unpaid and embarking on something that would take all or most of our life savings – we might even have to sell the house. I would be going without Pammy’s blessing too, apparently, so she told me in no uncertain terms, so that was the end of that.
But it’s nice to dream. I would be only the second Englishman to achieve a walk across Australia (and the first, William John Wills, did it north to south rather than west to east, and then died on the return journey). The legendary Scottish woman Ffyona Campbell, walked from Sydney to Fremantle in an amazing 95 days as part of an even more amazing 11 year walk around the world. She is no lower in my opinion even after failing to complete the entire circumnavigation and admitting to taking some transport in USA in order to fulfil obligations of her sponsors.
So I have to lower my sights a little. Could do North to South of France, Calais to Vignemale or something like that – bizarrely that’s 1,026 kilometres (whereas Land’s End to John O’Groats was 1,026 miles). No, let’s not run before I can walk, so to speak. Next May. London to Brighton in a day and a bit as part of an ultra challenge. That will do for now. Just keep fit and healthy until I’m 75…..