When it comes to setting a personal challenge, Andamooka’s Bronwen West is not the type of person to take things lightly. On 2 August, Bronwen will commence a 20-day hike along the length of Lake Torrens in the heart of South Australia’s outback.
Accompanied by her good friend Susie Barr and brother-in-law Oliver Koehn, the trio will trek the semi-desert country on the western side of Australia’s second largest saltwater lake. They will cover about 400km, navigating a track on privately owned stations about half a kilometre from the lake’s edge. They will scramble over loose rock, clamber up sandy hills, tramp through mud and wade through water.
This is no walk in the park.
For the first 170km, they will carry their tents, camping gear, navigational and medical supplies, either on their backs or on a cart specially designed for the rugged surface of the walk. They will depend on food drops buried at designated locations. Bronwen and her support crew have spent recent months locating each pit stop and burying a stash of supplies. The extremely difficult terrain has meant driving nine hours off road between some of the stops.
The inspiration for the walk came to Bronwen a year ago. Two things inspired Bronwen. The first is her natural curiosity.
“I’m terribly curious all the time about what’s over the next hill. I’ve spent a lot of time on the top part of lake. It’s so pretty up there, and I’ve always wondered what’s down the bottom,” she says. Her second motivation is to raise money for Frontier Services.
Bronwen is the Assistant Coordinator of the Andamooka Community Support Service run by Frontier Services, providing support to elderly residents and people with a disability. Along with the Community Health Service which is staffed by two Remote Area Nurses, Frontier Services provides a hub of support for the small outback community.
“I have used the service in Andamooka for quite a few years,” says Bronwen. “It is real lifesaver at times. When my children were young, it really took the weight off my mind to know the service was there if you needed it. I wanted to raise money for something that is useful and this is a really good cause.”
They will also raise money for the Cancer Council, another charity close to their hearts after Bronwen’s sister had cancer. So far, the donations have been trickling in but they are hoping the fundraising will ramp up as the departure date gets closer.
To get behind Bronwen and her trekking mates, you can donate to their cause at http://personalchallenge.gofundraise.com.au/page/WestFS
One thing has been essential to the challenge, and that is Bronwen’s detailed planning. Bronwen says she has not watched TV for a year because she is constantly thinking over the logistics of the walk.
“I like to be organised and well equipped. I am always thinking over what I have forgotten or what tool can I use that does three jobs instead of just one.”
One ingenious idea Bronwen has devised is a pair of boots made from tyre off cuts with Velcro bolted to the tyre creating a set of heavy-duty sandals to prevent her slipping into the mud too deeply.
Each day Bronwen, Susie and Ollie will walk for a minimum of eight hours. They will use a satellite phone to check in each night to give their location and make their support crew aware of any issues.
Bronwen’s two children, aged 18 and 22, are used to their mother taking on significant challenges and this time is no different. “They just shake their heads and say ‘That’s mum’. They know me well enough.”
The long-standing friendship between the three trekkers will be crucial as they are pushed to their physical and mental limits each day.
“I’ve known Susie for 30 years, and Ollie for 25 years. We know each other’s quirks and our strengths and weaknesses, so we’ll be okay. Susie is the type of person who will laugh when something goes wrong. I love that about her. A good sense of humour is going to be very important.”
You can follow Bronwen’s incredible journey and make a donation to her cause on her fundraising page at http://personalchallenge.gofundraise.com.au/page/WestFS