We drove for hours through the vast expanse of flat, arid terrain in the Australian outback, with the occasional sight of vultures picking on carcasses being the only diversion from the otherwise monotonous drive. It felt like we were driving into an uncharted land and had been transported back to primitive times when only the aborigines roamed this land.
Nothing has changed much really in this part of the country, except for sealed roads that cut through the unforgiving immensity of nothingness and a few small communities, which I was always grateful to see after hours of staring at the road that seemed to stretch into eternity. You so seldom see other travelers here that people actually wave to each other when they see another car approaching.
I was about to drift into zzzzz mode while on our way to the Gulf of Carpentaria when we passed by this couple walking along the highway with trolleys in tow. Normally, we would ignore it and let it go without much fuss. But since we hadn’t seen a single soul for hours and it was quite odd to see anyone walking on a highway in the outback, we pulled over and talked to the couple.
We found out later they have been walking for 8 months across Australia and would reach their final destination in another month. We reached that destination about two hours or so after meeting them, and to think I was complaining of seeing the same things for just a few hours!
The Hong Kong based French couple Sebastien Guesney and Lara Jaillon are experienced travelers and had visited Australia on several occasions. Their expedition attempted to follow the footsteps of Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills - the first explorers to cross Australia from south to north in 1860. They plan to produce a book and documentary film showcasing their adventures.
The couple’s story was such an inspiration for me that I immediately checked-out their website where they document their journey. I learned later that Burke and Wills didn’t really reach the Gulf of Carpentaria and died of starvation due to their lack of bush craft knowledge and distrust of the local aborigines. But unlike them the French couple managed to reach the end of their expedition successfully.
“Burke and Wills expedition should not only be interpreted as a colonisation success story, but their fate should always remind us that only knowledge and respect for Nature can ensure our human specie survival.”
Imagine traversing this vast continent on foot
I still could not believe they had traveled across Australia on foot especially through the outback where water and food sources are as scarce as good and honest politicians. Imaging towing a week’s worth of food and water (and sometimes more), walking under the intense heat of the sun and camping almost every night in the bush for 9 months. It was surely a cheap way to travel and an interesting way to get to know the culture, the landscape and the people, but it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.