2013 Diary of a Canning Walker

Day 1 - Taking that first step

Day 1

Farewell at Billiluna

Day1, 31 May 2013
Photo's - Solo Walk - Billiluna to Kunawarritji 657km

It was 10am in Billiluna and time to go, the late start preceded by a round of hellos and goodbyes with excited members of the Aboriginal community who gathered to greet me. 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’, his words,  offering $100. I did not fear rape from him, but the sexual interest indicated a need for caution.

Both men and women had asked whether I was concerned about men or featherfoot, an aboriginal term for a man with special powers to kill or make trouble for me alone in the desert. Whilst I did not fear harm from travellers in the desert, I was concerned about the possibility near Billiluna where boredom, frustration and illicit substance abuse often resulted in women and children being hurt. I was very grateful to Andy for shadowing me that first day. It proved a prudent decision for a man did follow me out of Billiluna.

He was driving a white double cab ute. Drawing up alongside as I walked, he announced that he was travelling alone and would I like to travel with him?  And would he (indicating Andy parked up ahead) mind if I went with him? In the back of the Ute was a blanket and large bottle of water. Nothing else.

Alarm bells went off in my head. I was very grateful that Andy was parked on the side of the track a hundred meters ahead, watching in his side mirror. I replied that I actually wanted to walk, that I was walking all the way to Wiluna and that Andy was going all the way with me as my safety support driver. The man then asked for a light. I told him I had none but why not ask Andy.  The man drove his vehicle the short distance ahead and got out of the car. He was very, very tall. Unusually so for an Aboriginal man: almost seven foot! I did not like the situation one little bit.

The man walked around his own vehicle to speak with Andy still sitting in the driver’s seat and asked for a light, chatting awhile. He then got back into his car, did a U-Turn, driving back past me in the direction of Billiluna from whence he came. The man had told Andy a bullshit story that he thought we had broken down. Andy, a seasoned overland driver who does not get fazed by much, looked worried. The man was up to no good. What if Andy had not elected to drive with me the first day?

There was lots of traffic that first day (relatively speaking), including people we had met on the way up the Canning whilst establishing the supply line. We had met Brendon, his wife and a Dutch couple many times over the past 11 days and shared a campfire with them from time to time. They had pulled us out of the mud when we got bogged near Lake Disappointment and Andy had helped repair a hose that burst underneath their car. There was also a friendly Aboriginal family in a big white truck who waved and smiled as they drove by. They seemed to be involved with fencing near Lake Stretch.

My first supply drop was on the track opposite Lake Stretch, 16km out of Billiluna. It took me six agonising hours to walk this paltry distance ... And I was knackered! How on earth was I going to do this?  The pack weighed too much!!!!  Before the walk, I had the best intentions of keeping my pack weight to 15kg because of my damaged spine. But in the end, it weighed a ridiculous 38kg!

Every 5km Andy would stop the vehicle and have a cup of tea and a chair waiting for me to occupy and I would give him something that was not as important as I originally thought. We had been through my kit over and over to try weed out the excess weight, but both of us were at a loss. Andy did mention that I might reconsider my Bodum Vacuum Travel Press Coffee Mug, but I was aghast. Not the coffee press mug! Some things are worth carrying for a good cup of coffee. No, I will be keeping the mug, thank you!

Kneeling down to dig up my first supply, I noticed Andy watching with interest. I think he had been wondering how I was going to dig my supplies out of the 2 ft deep holes. With my hands?

I would like to say I smugly pulled out my Trangia cooking set and started digging with the pan, but the smugness was just inside my head. I was too tired to display any smugness. Supplies retrieved, Andy said his good-byes, giving me a kiss directly on the lips, nice and firm. We had been lovers years before, but now we were just friends. Drawing his head back slowly, he looked at me searchingly.  Slowly our lips found each other again.

'Please ask me not to go. Please ask me to return with you', I pleaded quietly in my head, 'I would bear the embarrassment of failing to start this walk, if you would just ask me not to do it' … Instead I whispered: ‘Thank you so much for what you have done for me, Andy.’

‘Just do this’, he replied huskily and kissed me again.

‘If anything really bad happens, get word to me and I will come and fetch you’.

We were both thinking about the tall man up to no good.

CSR Survival Tips

The most dangerous animal on the CSR, for a woman, is man. The danger is primarily close to the Aboriginal Communities where boredom, alcohol and drugs influence a negative behaviour.


Good clean tap water available at Billiluna Community. No treatment required.
Milky brown fresh water at Lake Stretch/Nyarna. Boil or alternative treatment required as plenty of animals access the water.

Animal Life

Cattle, horses and a wide variety of birds including pelicans sighted. Donkeys, camels, kangaroos and perhaps fish, a possibility. Easy meat are the mud mussels, thigh deep in the water, lying on top of the slippery mud. Feel for them with feet and collect with hands. Suggest allowing mussels to purge mud over night in a bucket of clean water and then boiling them up in the morning for a feast. They are fat, fleshy and filling, but taste bland. Go down better with seasoning.

Map Notes

The daily maps with tracking points are from my SPOT which was live and public during my walk and verifies my journey. For those who know how to use this program, you can zoom in to discover fine detail about my 'speed' etc. 2013 Canning Walker TRACK.

When a white dot is surrounded by a slightly thicker black ring, this indicates that I stopped; perhaps I was tired or having something to eat or talking to a passer by for a length of time. When the white dots are close together, this indicates I may have stopped briefly or was walking very, very slowly.


Last Updated on Saturday, 20 January 2018 22:04

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