JUST because Rob Dreyer is going to walk 750km across the Simpson Desert doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy some freshly grown greens.
The 59-year-old Byron Bay builder and artist will set off on his trek from west to east across sand dunes between 10m and 20m high on August 1, and expects to complete the marathon walk to Birdsville in 35-40 days.
He’s doing it to raise awareness and funds for the Chrysalis Girls Program, which provides counselling to at-risk adolescents, set up by his daughter Amie.
Rob will pull a custom-made 3m long, 15kg aluminium trolley, laden with 80 litres of water (he will top up at a floodplain 21 days into his trek which he expects to have lots of water) and a total of 150kg of supplies – including plastic jars in which Rob, a vegetarian, will grow mung beans so he can eat the sprouts along the way.
"I want to take stuff that tastes nice – I don’t want to be bored silly," he said, listing his other food choices which includes grains, tinned fish and damper he will make en route.
Rob was inspired to make the trek – he will be the first person to walk unassisted along the Madigan Line named after explorer Cecil B Madigan – after visiting the Central Australian desert on a four-wheel drive expedition, with seven vehicles and friends last year.
"I liked the idea of being out there without having the vehicles and the people around – just being alone in that landscape," he said.
And the idea was hatched to make the trek – and it was a no-brainer to use his journey to support his daughter’s counselling program.
Rob describes himself as being pretty fit, generally. He surfs every day.
But he has been doing extra training for the past four months to prepare for the physical challenge of walking up and down some of the largest sand dunes in Australia.
He does Bikram yoga, soft-sand running, weight training and has been stepping up his walking regime – with his trolley in tow.
So far, he has completed walks along the beach from Byron Bay to Brunswick Heads and from Broken Head to Lennox Head.
Last weekend, he completed an overnight trip along South Ballina Beach.
Rob is well aware of the dangers of being in such a harsh environment – the nights will be "freezing", though he expects the temperature during the day to be mild.
He will take with him a Global Positioning System, map and compass to follow the route, which is one of the least-travelled routes across the desert.
He also will have a satellite phone to keep in regular contact with family, and an EPIRB emergency alarm which he will use "as a last resort".
He will also express his artistic side during the journey, with plans to use whatever he finds to make sculpture along the way.
He admits that no one will see them, though – except the feral camels and the dingos.
Rob will turn 60 on August 20 while he is in the desert.
He said he will save the party for when he gets back.
Meanwhile, the Chrysalis Foundation was set up six years ago.
Amie Dreyer, a professional counsellor, was working in a local high school as an aide when students told her about sexual abuse and bullying of girls.
She established the foundation, which operates holistic group counselling, including a sexual assault counsellor, in Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and Kadina high schools, without government funding.
Rob hopes to raise $20,000 from his trek, which is the cost of keeping the foundation operating for a year.
For more information on the trek or to donate, see the website www.robsexpedition.com
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