Australia's Climate Crises: Drought and bushfires necessitate major changes for Big Horse Trek.
Ok. Things haven’t been going great. And I’m not just talking about the many hurdles I am currently facing with horses, equipment, etc. (most of which are not made public on social media, believe it or not!).
But that all pales in comparison and significance to what my fellow humans and their animals along the east coast of Australia are dealing with. If you are Australian, you will know exactly what I am talking about. Devastating drought, now exacerbated by insane, prolonged bushfires.
These are major environmental crises that are spread across the most ridiculously large area of Australia. These people and their livelihoods are suffering, and it’s already been a long struggle in some regions, with no view to things improving any time soon. And the forecast is for a long, hot, summer with little rainfall and high fire danger.
The last thing I want to do is make these issues about me – they are NOT at all. Only insofar as I was planning on passing through a LOT of these areas on my Big Horse Trek. If you look at some of the maps showing the drought or the bushfires, it literally covers about half (or more) of the Bicentennial National Trail. This was where I was going to travel.
I'd like to think I am pretty sensible and not very reckless. I’m not going to put myself or my horses in any unnecessary danger or threat. And I would not consider myself selfish enough to do something that would take away resources from the people and animals that need it the most (read: water (!!!) and horse feed!) to fulfil what one could consider to be a selfish goal of a long-distance trek.
You can probably guess where I’m going here. It was only about a month into my trek planning last year in 2018 when the drought started to become quite a serious issue, and sections of the BNT were closed off for trekker’s safety. It was then I first freaked out and thought maybe I’d chosen the wrong goal in attempting the entire BNT (especially with animals). But rather than freak out then (too much, lol), I decided I would just continue to plan for with my original goal of the entire BNT, and re-assess it all with the drought in October 2019.
Well, October 2019 came and went, the drought only got worse, and the bushfires had already taken hold too. Now I was freaking out more (exacerbated no doubt by other things going a big ‘wrong’ impeding my ideal preparations). I knew it was unlikely then I would be able to do a straight run from Cooktown to Healesville, but it has only been in recent weeks that I have made the decision that starting from Cooktown will not be the smart thing to do. If I continued with my original plan of starting in Cooktown, I could probably spend a month on the trail before hitting drought areas, and between drought and fire, I’d have to somehow then get myself and my horses off the trail, and bypass most of Queensland and NSW. Not really a smart option to get us all the way up there just for that (let alone the financial costs of all of that). Or to then hang-around up north for months (or years!) waiting for the conditions to improve.
I need a new plan.
This has been really hard. Australia does not offer much in terms of safe places for long-distance horse travel.
And I actually don’t have a full new plan.
BUT, I am working on it (trust me, it is all-consuming!).
At this stage, I am aiming for this: I will still commence on the BNT in March 2020. However, I will now start from the southern end (Healesville/ Melbourne) and work my way up the trail. At this stage, the conditions up to Canberra should have enough water and grass, so I envisage I will trek Healesville to Canberra and either re-assess (or by that stage have more plans in place – I have one idea that I quite like, but not committing fully to yet). It seems a lot less (it is a lot less) distance-wise than the full BNT (Healesville to Canberra is about 1000km, compared to the full 5330km). But really- considering I’ve never done anything with packhorses until this past year, it’s still a big effort that I shouldn’t chortle at. And the Victorian high country is notoriously the most remote section of the BNT, and the toughest physically (hence my freaking out a bit right now about my, and my horse’s, lack of fitness).
There are other things that are looking to change my plans too: I may just have to take 2 horses now, which although disappointing, would be easier on me to manage. It would though mean I may now have to change some of my gear to be even more lightweight, and have more food drops (figure something out there!) as one less horse will mean less packing space (as I was going to half-pack the third horse). But all of this is still up in the air while I deal with some more veterinary tests and advice for both Tyson and Banjo (both of whom are having a few issues, and I need to be 100% sure they can handle long-distance travel).
More to come as plans unravel.
I do have a few other secrets up my sleeve with these new plan changes that will be revealed in good time. 😊
Thanks so much to everyone who has helped me out so far with everything. My amazing sponsors, and everyone who has donated to my Love Your Sister fundraiser, or chipped in some money on my Go Fund Me page to help with my crazy running costs.
If you have a few $$ to help me get on the trail (I’m still short, and plan changes are surprisingly expensive!) this is the link to my Go Fund Me page:
To help me help Love Your Sister with vanquishing Cancer, go here:
And if anyone would like to do some back-up in Victoria for me, let me know: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Have a safe and happy Christmas!
(and Dusty, Tyson, & Banjo)