Recently I heard a story that made me think about the quirks of human nature. Sometimes people do things that make you stop and think: why on earth would you do that to yourself? Why would you embark on a challenge that would push you to your absolute limit—mentally, physically and emotionally? There are so many people in the world that would never make that choice freely, and yet there are some who would see it as an adventure.
The Bibbulmun track is the longest wilderness track in Western Australia, it’s 960 kilometres from Kalamunda to Albany, to walk it from end to end usually takes 6 to 8 weeks. Imagine walking over 20 kilometres a day—every day—for 6 weeks, and then think how much harder it would be carrying your drinking water, food, a tent and clothing. It’s not for the faint hearted! Why would a couple with three children aged 4,7 and 11, with absolutely no bush walking experience, decide to walk this track? Character building they said.
They were living in Kalamunda and moving to Denmark, a distance of 411kilometres but they decided that rather than driving to their new home they would go on foot. Most people choose to walk the track in spring or autumn to avoid Australia’s harsh summer but this young family began their journey right in the middle of it. I’m impressed but I think it’s absolute madness! They trekked through the Karri forests and the tingle trees, along the coast line, they canoed through inlets and slept in open huts, the father carrying all the food and the youngest child on his back when he was too tired to go on. No doubt it was one of the greatest challenges they have ever faced, at one point they started to wonder if it could really be counted as character building or if it was just child abuse, but they made it and it will be something the children will remember forever.
That story in itself is pretty amazing but my favourite part is that they carried a copy of Lord of the Rings with them. Each night when they settled into their sleeping bags the parents read the book out loud so the children would feel as though they were on a similar adventure to the hobbits. During the day they would talk about the story, their evocative surroundings making the daily challenges easier to bear. It took them 53 days to reach their destination, they made it to the end without any injuries having discovered more about their inner strength and physical capabilities than they would have learnt anywhere else.
Inside each of the huts on the track there is a plastic container to protect important items from rats and weather damage. It’s too small to fit anything but the essentials and when a local organisation heard this family’s story they arranged to have a copy of Lord of the Rings left in each hut so walkers would be able to read it without having to carry it with them. Their story is incredible, I don’t know exactly why they did it but I love that they’ve a little piece of themselves in history. People from all over the world walk the Bibbulmun track and each time they reach a hut and see a copy of Lord of the Rings they will be sharing their adventure.