Murray Rankin & John Foulsham

Word count 8337, excluding newspaper text

Murray and John's story has never been published in such detail. It includes an in-person three hour interview with John Foulsham. Should you wish to see more stories of CSR Walkers and Cyclists, pop along to mycause and make a donation that will encourage me to keep writing and sharing. 

1973 John Foulsham and Murray Rankin

John Foulsham and Murray rankin

 

In Easter 1971, Perth Bushwalkers, Murray Rankin of New Zealand and solicitor John Foulsham of Sussex, England, were looking for a challenge. Pouring over the maps of the Canning Stock Route they noted that there were wells within daily walking distance of each other and assumed there must be some sort of track linking them.

A chat with Noel Kealley, the first to drive the whole of the Canning Stock Route in 1968 with holidaying government surveyors David Chudleigh and Russell Wenholz, visiting every well on the way, brought them up to date with the reality of such an undertaking. Noel told them that whilst there were some vehicle tracks they could make use of, a walk of the Canning Stock Route (in the 1970’s) would be mostly through virgin spinifex, bush and sand dunes … and it was isolated, and therefore risky.

How would they do it? Murray felt it was possible with carts. John thought he was crazy and that was the end of it for him. But Murray was not letting go. The idea of walking the Canning Stock Route had sunk its claws into him.

In 1972 he persuaded two English brothers John and Peter Waterfall to join him – pulling three carts loaded with food and equipment. The carts did not last the distance, and one by one, were abandoned. The first cart broke down near Well 7 and John, who was suffering with blisters, elected to pull out, getting a lift back to Wiluna with a newspaper reporter who had driven out to scoop their story. The last cart was abandoned between Wells 15 and 16 where it can still be seen today.

Without the trailers, Murray and Peter loaded their backpacks with everything they could carry and continued north. By the time they got to Well 20, Peter had had enough and returned to Durba Springs (near Well 17) to wait for Murray. Murray continued on alone for another week, walking around the top end of Lake Disappointment to Well 24, close to the halfway mark, before finally turning back. Rejoining Peter at Durba Springs, the two men walked back to Wiluna.

They may have failed to walk the Canning Stock Route in 1972, but by continuing on to Well 24, Murray was able to confirm that there was still water in most of the wells and felt they could get over the sand dunes with better carts. Murray was already planning a comeback before he reached Wiluna.

another attempt by desert walker

 

Come 1973, in the face of Murray’s enthusiasm, 29 year old John Foulsham, reconsidered his decision and teamed up with Murray for another attempt to walk the Canning Stock Route unsupported. The walkers were no strangers to each other, having shared a house and gone on bushwalks together for the past three years as members of the Perth Bushwalkers Club. They got along well. From their bushwalks John knew Murray to be an excellent navigator and tireless walker. If anyone could make a success of this walk, Murray could. The two intrepid explorers put six months of their lives aside to plan and execute the walk, allowing four months for the latter. This time the walk would start in the north from Old Halls Creek and follow an old track from the town’s cemetery, through rugged terrain, to join up with the Tanami Track at Ruby Plains Station. From there the going would be easier along the Tanami Track to Billiluna Station and then down the Canning Stock Route following Sturt Creek to Well 51 and into the desert proper. They were certain they would succeed without any outside help.

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Day 2 - First camel encounters

Day 2 of the solo CSR walk

Day 2

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. Lying  nervously in my little tent I listening to the howls and 'yips', sleep being fitful. The tall man on my mind. Would he come out again? My camp was only 16km south of Billiluna. My hand reached for the hunting knife by my side, hoping I would not have to use it.

Day Two's walk begins just after sunrise at 6.30am. The weight of the backpack is a struggle. It is stupidly heavy. A convoy of travellers pull up beside me mid-morning, full of the joys of adventure. Turns out they had camped at Wolfe Creek with Dave and Helen and their Blue Heeler dog Missy. Andy and I had met the couple and their dog near Billiluna yesterday as they finished their CSR journey and I began my walk. This convoy now entering the desert knew all about ‘The Artist’ and ‘The Walker’ (as Pam and I became known respectively) walking the track, and of the pink ribbons marking my drops.

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The Canning Walker's Challenge for 2013

End of the CSR for Gaynor Schoeman Canning Walker

Starting from Billiluna in the north near Halls Creek on 31 May 2013, Gaynor Schoeman walked 1657km 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.

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. Media interviews - TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines.

 

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