For nine days 14 brave trekkers took on the Simpson Desert; walking 250km from Poeppel’s Corner to Birdsville. It was a challenge of a lifetime – isolated, rough underfoot, all of life’s simple luxuries taken away from our desert warriors. It was a harrowing journey, but it paled in comparison to the lack of choice and loneliness young people living in aged care face every day.
One of our desert walkers reflects on her adventure below…
“I’m sitting in my bed after a nice sleep-in; I am warm and comfortable and it’s sunny outside. I’m grateful for all of life’s simple pleasures, but I am surprised to say that I am missing the beauty and relentlessness of the desert.
Waking up to a whip cracking, the crackling of the fire outside of my tent, our trek leader bellows out his “commmonnn, git up!” I feel the anticipation of what the day will bring, knowing it will be painful but wanting to do it anyway. My legs and feet are sore from the day before but I force them out of my sleeping bag to do it all over again. I squeeze my swollen feet into my hiking boots day after day for nine days.
I so badly don’t want to be in the blistering cold outside of my tent, but even more-so I don’t want to wish this experience away, so I head out into the darkness. I’m stumbling with the pain in my feet and the shock of the cold, but I have a job to do and I will be by the fire soon enough.
There are pleasant ‘good mornings’ and conversations about the night’s sleep. Not one word of the pain. These warriors are the epitome of positivity and strength and I’m inspired to be that for them too.
We quickly eat our ration pack breakfast – instant coffee, oats and two fruits – around the fire and it’s quiet but not uncomfortable. We are united in a common goal and we are all deep in thought about how we will get through the day. Time moves fast and we hear “five minutes!” There’s a scramble to wash our bowls and get our packs ready and before we know it there’s another announcement “packs on!”
I know today is going to be a big one but I know that whatever I feel is temporary, the challenge is life-long for my friends with high care needs.
I feel privileged to have the Youngcare flag tied to my backpack today as we set off into the windy, unbearable cold. We are in the centre of the desert, surrounded by sand but I’ve never been so cold in my life. I can’t feel my fingers, my toes are working but they aren’t present. We trek through this for a couple of hours until the sun starts to come up.
Orange, pink, blue, white. A vast horizon of colours that don’t even exist in my imagination. There is nothing, but that is everything we need. Not a building. Not a plane. Not a cloud. Just sand and sky. And it is magical.
The sun pops its head over the horizon and the pain in my legs disappears for that moment. I know the others are embracing this like I am because we were told time and time again; don’t wish it away. And so we keep going.
Hours and kilometres pass. Countless sand dunes are climbed and sharp burrs stick into our pants and socks.
In moments of weakness I think about why I am there and each step is taken for those who can’t. I remember the resilience and strength of the people Youngcare helps and I draw on their determination to finish what I started.
After nine days my adventure has come to an end. But the harsh reality continues for our young Australians with high care needs living in aged care. Over the coming days my life will be back to normal, my legs will gain strength again and the colour in my toes will come back. But unless we fight for change, our friends living with disability will always feel pain and isolation.
I know this problem can be solved, and it is up to every single one of us to make sure that happens.”