This time last year I had just finished doing the best adventure of my life. I was only meant to go away for a few months, to walk the Rabbit Proof Fence, but I ended up being away for over a year. The whole journey had such a profound effect on me that I just couldn’t come home to England. I fell madly, deeply and head over my desert boot heels in love with the red dirt of the Australian outback and the Rabbit Proof Fence - my fence.
I had wanted to walk the fence for about 8 years, since becoming acquainted with the story whilst back packing and then finding inspiration in Molly’s strong character when my dad passed away shortly after. If I was going to do it, it had to be done in Australian Winter/English Summer, and I always seemed to have something on, so I always put it off. I also put if off because I didn’t even know if the fence was still there, if the route would be safe and I couldn’t get any answers no matter how much research I did. I couldn’t find any information that anyone else had done it and I also didn’t want to offend anyone. I was so attached to the story but was fully aware that it wasn’t my story. But, each year I would have a niggle in the back of my mind, and it would never go away. So, when I got rejected from a few jobs last year I took that as a sign as my time to go for it.
Never having set foot in the outback before, I wanted to eliminate any possibility of being another person rescued from the desert and did Bob Cooper’s Outback Survival Course. I joined an anti uranium protest walk, which was located in the area where I would be finishing. I borrowed a sat phone and bought any essential gear I needed for safety, and obviously found a walking trolley, which ended up becoming my best friend. I made every step I could to cover my back and ensure I did it safely. I was totally broke before I booked my one-way ticket to Perth, but knew if I didn’t go for it then, then it may not ever happen. So, I used whatever savings and credit cards I had and just grinned and bared it and thought I’d worry about finances when I got home. Eeek!
I was also fully prepared that I may have to pull out if it got too difficult, but thought it would be better to do that than to not try at all, so I took each day as it came. And, I’m so glad I did. Every day I surpassed my expectations. I was never scared; I was only scared of the prospect of a random stranger appearing along the fence, but they never did. I loved being immersed with the wildlife; they were as interested in me as I was in them, and if you don’t mind the cliché, I felt at one with them. I learned to ration food and water, because if I didn’t then I wouldn’t make it. I normally have no portion control or my eyes can be too big for my belly, so it was enlightening having to learn to regulate that if I wanted to make it to the end.
It wasn’t until I made it to half way that I knew I had it in the bag and was going to make it all the way to Jigalong, and that feeling made me feel so empowered. All the doubt and anxiety I had leading up to that point made that moment feel even more special. Nothing was going to get in my way. Molly was the epitome of a hero: strong, courageous and determined. She embodied all the characteristics that I needed when I was in a dark place when my dad had died, and I finally felt that I may have acquired a dash of those characteristic too. For one of the first times ever I was really proud of myself. I felt invincible.
Throughout my journey I had stayed in touch with Molly’s daughter, Maria. Every time I received reception I’d give her a call to let her know how I was doing. I never knew if she would turn up to meet me at the end, so when she rocked up with her family and walked the last 5km into Jigalong my heart danced and sang, like it had done with stars each night I camped on my own. I couldn’t quite believe a family member of my hero had joined me on my journey and taken me into their home. It really was quite overwhelming. And, being at 96 year-old Daisy’s bedside, who made the same journey back in 1931, because she had to, to get home to her family, made it all the more impossible for me to return home. It had taken me ten weeks to walk to Jigalong; there was no way I could hop on a plane for 60 minutes back to Perth. I hitched with truck drivers, who all dispelled any misconception I had of them. I was fascinated with their lives and characters, so, I just kept going and circumnavigated Australia with 12 different truck drivers, enough to make up a calendar! I told them about walking the Rabbit Proof Fence and the girls’ story and they empathized. We spoke about relationships, politics, the environment and society. We’d often have opposing views on topics but it was great to be able to see where each other came from, and respect that. Above all, they were kind. Most people are.
It was the most special moment of my life and although I never knew I was going to make it at the time it was the greatest lesson I’ve learnt; to follow your dreams and take each day as it comes, step by step. We all have highs and lows throughout life, but if I had listened to my doubts and others about not making it then I would have missed out on the most profound experience I’ve ever had. I look at it now like an old boyfriend, the biggest love of my life, but one that I wish I’d never broken up from. But, I couldn’t carry on walking forever; sometimes all good things must come to an end. Now I’m home, I’m trying to stay positive and take on those invaluable lessons that I learnt whilst walking along my fence.
Lindsey will be telling her story at two upcoming EC Stories events in Bristol and London. Find out more...