One journey across the Simpson Desert on foot may be enough for most people, but not Berowra NSW man Graeme Gates, who will follow in the footsteps of an early explorer as he tackles the desert for the second time to support Beyond Blue.
Graeme, 43, first crossed the Simpson with a friend in 2013, travelling from west to east to get people talking about depression and anxiety and they raised more than $12,000 for Beyond Blue.
For his second attempt, he will set off on June 12 from Mac Clarke Reserve near Alice Springs NT to walk approximately 520KM in an easterly direction until he reaches Birdsville QLD around July 1.
The route he is taking, known as ‘The Madigan Line’, was forged by explorer and geologist Cecil Thomas Madigan when he crossed the desert with nine others on camels in 1939.
While Madigan’s journey took him 35 days, Graeme plans to take only 20. A close friend will be about 100KM behind him in a 4WD vehicle for the first week of the journey, to provide assistance if needed.
Graeme’s ongoing support for Beyond Blue is anchored in gratitude. He called Beyond Blue’s Support Service himself when he was doing it tough and found the person who answered his call incredibly helpful.
“Having experienced depression and called Beyond Blue’s Support Service in some of my darkest moments, I want everyone to know there is help out there if they need it. I also want to raise funds for Beyond Blue to help keep this service running,” he said.
“Looking after your mental health is a life-long project. I still have good days and bad days, and it’s comforting to know someone is there if I need them. I find it can be easier to open up to someone you don’t know.”
Graeme said his first crack at the Simpson Desert was as much fun as it was challenging, and he’s excited to apply what he learnt the first time around to master this difficult route.
“As far as I’m aware, I’m the first person to follow ‘The Madigan Line’ on foot unassisted, and there’s a good reason for that – it’s bloody hard,” he said.
“I plan to take the same approach to the walk as I did last time, which is to get into a particular mindset and just do it. One thing I will do differently is tape my feet, to prevent those pesky blisters.”
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman thanked Graeme for using his love of physical endurance feats and adventure to support other people affected by depression, anxiety and suicide.
“To cross the Simpson Desert on foot once is impressive enough, but to do so twice is really something. It’s even more amazing when the motivation is to help people who are feeling helpless and hopeless,” she said.
“We’re grateful to Graeme for tapping into his inner explorer to promote our work and break down stigma around mental illness. I’m sure his tales from his adventures on the road will rival Madigan’s.”
You can follow and read more about Graeme’s journey on his ‘Walking for Talking’ blog, or donate to Beyond Blue through Graeme’s trek on his Everyday Hero page.