Friendship spawned by adventure
Tuesday, 22nd April, 2014
By Nick Gibbs
A chance encounter while trekking through the Great Sandy Desert has spawned an enduring friendship for adventurers Graham Burgess and Elaine Taylor.
As if bumping into another in Australia’s second largest desert wasn’t coincidence enough, they also live less than a kilometre apart in a suburb of Lake Macquarie near Newcastle.
“It was a million to one chance,” Graham guessed.
“We’re kindred spirits, we both see the adventurous side of life.”
The pair arrived in Broken Hill following their latest journey, walking the length of the Nullarbor Plain with a custom built cart weighing 180kg fully loaded.
Taking turns to walk with the cart and drive in a support vehicle, they were able to average 40km per day.
“It worked well, we were able to get out and go full tilt,” Graham said.
Originally they planned to walk together and recover pre-buried supplies along the way, however the rock hard dirt and lack of available space roadside meant an alternate system was needed.
Although they shared the walk and had the option to carry supplies in the car, the pair still opted to use the cart Graham custom built for the trip.
“We were told it was flat!” he exclaimed of the expansive landscape.
“When you’re pulling a cart weighing 180kg you find out pretty quick that it isn’t.”
Both aged in their 70s, their active day-to-day lifestyle was all the training needed before taking on the Nullarbor.
“The first day I thought I’m not going to be able to do this,” Graham said referring to a niggling hip injury.
“The second day I thought this is painful, on the third it was ok and by the fourth I was fine.”
“75 per cent of it is up here,” Elaine said tapping her head.
“If your mind says you can do it, you can do it.”
The advice appears to be well credentialed as they listed off their prior ventures.
Graham’s history includes treks through the Goby Desert in Mongolia and pilgrim trails in Spain as well as a skydiving expedition at the North Pole.
Elaine has travelled extensively through Africa and South America delivering aid as a nurse and according to Graham “has been down every dirt road in the country”.
“I know Australia pretty well,” she agreed.
While they met relatively late in life, the two mates don’t show any signs of slowing down and are proving to be well suited travel partners.
“My concern was that you don’t want to keep your partner waiting or even worse than that, you don’t want to feel as though you have to walk slower than usual,” Elaine explained when Graham first mentioned a joint trek.
A few walks around Newcastle helped minimise her concerns and after a chat with Graham’s wife to ensure she was fine with the plan, it was settled.
The next trip will be a little less strenuous on the body as they prepare to take a renovated 1929 Austin 7 on a camping holiday around Tasmania.
The pair also set aside a couple of days to take in the sites of Broken Hill.
“We’re going to see everything,” Graham said as Elaine listed off the Sculptures, Pro Hart Gallery, Miners’ Memorial and Silverton as among the attractions on the itinerary.
“I’m very impressed with the management of the tourist industry,” he continued as he detailed his background as a former board member of the Hunter Region Tourism Authority.
“It’s well prepared and well presented for tourists, there is so much to offer here.”