Starting from Billiluna in the north near Halls Creek on 31 May 2013, Gaynor Schoeman walked1657km solo for 66 days, carrying a backpack of 30kg, finishing on the 05 August 2013 in the tiny outback goldfields town of Wiluna.
Gaynor was raising money for quadriplegic wheelchair rugby players under the banner Walk 4 Wheels and Walk 4 Wings in memory of hangglider pilot and friend, Bruce McClunan, who broke his neck on 1st April 2011.
Many class this walk as unsupported, done in the same way as the first successful walkers lead by Murray Rankin in 1976.
Timeline for Canning Stock Route Cyclists, Walkers and other Notables.
Whilst I did not walk with vehicle support, or with another person, without the help of Andy Sutcliffe in establishing my supply route before the walk, and my food sponsors, this walk would not have been possible. For this reason I class my 2013 desert walk only as SOLO .... by my own standards. For Media interviews on TV, Radio, in Newspapers and Magazines ~ click on this link
Day 3, 02 June 2013
Body and mind rebelling. Late start. On the track by 7am, half an hour later than yesterday. Not eating much, consequently the amount of food in my pack is growing as is the weight (groan). Will have to let go of my travel mug and excess food. Cannot go on like this.
As Murphy's Law would have it, I meet no cars today so cannot not offload the weight. It is crippling me. My back is holding up well, but hips in front are sore and swollen from the pressure of the hip strap. I take up the weight with my shoulders and arms, but this cannot go on. By midday I have only walked half way to my drop - a difficult 12km with many stops under any shady bush I can find.
Day 2, 1 June 2013
Photo's - Solo Walk - Billiluna to Kunawarritji 657km
The dingoes were noisy last night. Sounded like they were tracking a bellowing bovine bull near Lake Stretch, about a kilometre away. Sleep was fitful as I lay nervously in my little tent, listening to the howls and 'yips'. The tall man was also on my mind. Would he come out again? My camp was only 16km south of Billiluna. My hand reached for the hunting knife I carried, hoping I would not have to use it.Read more...
Day1, 31 May 2013
Photo's - Solo Walk - Billiluna to Kunawarritji 657km
It was 10am in Billiluna and time to go. The late start was preceded by a round of hellos and goodbyes with excited members of the Aboriginal community who gathered to greet me, and a quick internet update on Facebook and the Canning Walker website courtesy of the Administration Offices Satellite link. A check to see that SPOT was working, a photograph to record the start and we were off.
Andy decided to accompany me that first day out of Billiluna to make sure I got away safely. On one of my previous visits a young girl, barely a teenager, was allegedly raped the month before. Her attackers were teenage boys with strong family ties. The boys walked free within the Community and attempted to intimidate me on more than one occasion. In a non-related incident, one of the sons of powerful Elders approached me for ‘sexual intercourse’, offering $100. I did not fear rape from him, but the sexual interest indicated a need for caution.
Finding a suitable 4x4 for under $13 000 including Roadworthy and Registration whilst still in South Africa was not without difficulty, but I did get the right vehicle for me. An ex-Australian Army Land Rover named Les, as in Les Hiddens, The Bushtucker Man.
Next challenge was to equip Les with everything a woman might need for a solo remote desert crossing lasting last up to four months.
Vehicle preparations can be viewed here 4WD Gear and Sponsors 2015
Researching the availability of additional water sources and bush food was my focus in 2015. My goal was to determine whether I was capable of doing a future live-off-the-land traverse of the Canning Stock Route, WITHOUT resupply. This has never been done by a walker before.
My research entailed driving the full length of the Canning Stock Route from Wiluna to Halls Creek (about 3000km with side trips and backtracking) and with the aid of detailed maps both modern and old locating little known soaks and wells, visiting with Aboriginal Communities to learn about bushtucker, and putting my new found knowledge into daily practice. Then finishing with an easy drive back down the CSR with a passenger from Halls Creek to Wiluna (1850km) and finally Perth (1000km)
Alone for most of the time and being female, having never done any real 4x4'ing before, some thought this might be a bit of a challenge, me included.
I also wanted to get over my fear of walking at night, specifically the one where I might bump into camels in the dark. My 2013 experience with a charging bull camel in rut had left its mark.
Experiencing the tail end of the wet season was also of interest to me. February is traditionally the wettest month on the Canning Stock Route. It is is also one of the hottest months. Mid March might be a good time to test my ability to handle more extreme temperatures. The painfully cold winter nights and early mornings I knew, but could I handle the tail end of the summer heat? I wanted to explore my outer limitations.
So why am I doing this?
Walking the Canning Stock Route alone in 2013, I was terribly vulnerable. My recently broken spine might incapacitate me at any time under the untested weight of my 30kg backpack. Any of my seventy supply drops each wrapped in a single black garbage bag might be compromised without warning. I would only find that out as I dug them up. One spoiled supply drop would leave me in a state of emergency, compelling me to walk the another 21km at night to my next drop. At night in order to conserve water consumption. Two spoiled drops in a row would put me on the endangered list ... water-less ... conserving my energy ... toughing it out in the dubious shade of spartan scrub ... waiting to be rescued with water by a passing 4x4 traveller ... if I lasted that long.
Whilst many people mistake me for a desert survivalist because I go into the desert alone and on foot, the reality is that whilst I am careful and prepare well with Plan B, C and D in the wings, I do not know how to find food and water. I am a city slicker with the guts to go outside of my comfort zone, but in survivalist terms my supply drops were the equivalent of a walk to the local corner store. I was reliant on store bought food and packaged water. Without them I could not survive for more than a few days. I did not like that feeling of vulnerability. I wanted to be self sufficient in the desert I loved so much. 2015 was about increasing my skills in self-reliance ... adapting to, and learning more about the environment I walk.Read more...