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The Amateur Tramp – A Walk of Ten Thousand Miles Around Australia (greatestadventurers.com)
132 points by corpmedia 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 87 comments

Crossing the Nullarbor on foot must have been insane. I did the same route but with camping gear and a car in the 90ies, and had the time of my life. The scale of the distances between points on the map are not comprehensible (to a kid from Europe at least). I wanted to do a day trip to Monkey Mia right after getting off the plane and started planning out my journey from Perth. I didn't believe (understand) that there is often nothing between 2 points on the map. A map entry would often just be a literal petrol station (that is also a pub and a shop and a farm) and nothing else. I had to learn the hard way that when they say "there's f*k all there mate" that they really mean it.

I guess the reason for him cutting short the Kimberley's and Northern tip of Queensland, was that it must have been inaccessible or too dangerous back then. Anyway it seems like travelers have already been advised 100 years ago to stay clear of these places.

There is an Ed Stafford "Marooned" episode where he tries to survive in the Kimberley's. (much endorse).

edit: If you have visited Australia (or plan to go) don't miss out on Bill Bryson's "Down Under" (must read if you like travel literature that is also hilarious) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_Under_(book)

> I didn't believe (understand) that there is often nothing between 2 points on the map.

I drove around Namibia once. Just the same. One set of directions was little more than "drive 120km North of [small town whose name I can't remember] and you'll see a signpost to our Lodge on your left". There was literally nothing else between the two points.

One day a car overtook us (in the middle of nowhere) and then stopped and waved us down. They were lost and wanted directions. They were headed in the right direction (east to west) but the road they should have been on was a parallel one about 50km to the north. They'd turned too early.

It turned out that there is a tourist loop that kinda tracks the perimeter of the country. On one particularly busy day we counted more than 30 vehicles. In the whole day. If you drove clockwise around the loop, most days at around midday you'd encounter the traffic coming anticlockwise. They'd left their accommodation in the morning and were driving to their next place.

In addition to being “nothing”, even the side of the road is often not suitable for an overnight tent. The vegetation may be dense. There may be dingos too (had some around my tent, not pleasing) and worse, humans (stories of barfights on restareas are common).

>'I guess the reason for him cutting short the Kimberley's and Northern tip of Queensland, was that it must have been inaccessible or too dangerous back then. Anyway it seems like travelers have already been advised 100 years ago to stay clear of these places."

What are the specific issues in the Northern tip of Queensland exactly? Crocs? Also is the issue the the Kimberley's the same as the usual interior/outback? I didn't realize Bryson has an Australia book I will definitely look for that. Thanks for the tip.

yes wildlife (crocs, box jelly fish, snakes, scorpions, ...) but more annoyingly sand flies that will feed on the puss from infected mosquito bites and lay their eggs into them. ability for the most benign scratches to heal is much reduced in this place which is perpetually wet.

Wikipedia notes that the first time somebody made the trip wasn't that long before our protagonist in this post decided to skip the peninsular:

> The tip of the peninsula (Cape York) was finally reached by Europeans in 1864 when the brothers Francis Lascelles (Frank) and Alexander William Jardine, along with eight companions, drove a mob of cattle from Rockhampton to the new settlement of Somerset (on Cape York) where the Jardines' father was commander. En route they lost most of their horses, many of their stores and fought pitched battles with Aboriginal people, finally arriving in March 1865.

Disclaimer, I have spent a bit of time north of Daintree rainforest in my childhood/teens.

Poisonous plants, poisonous animals, crocs, snakes, spiders, Scrub so thick you'd wear out a knife cutting through it, local aboriginals that may also hunt you. Mosquitos with Dengue Fever, the daintree ulcer, the list goes on.

> local aboriginals that may also hunt you.

really?? which year was this?

1900s. Obviously not current.

Definitely crocs up that way. But there if bugger all on the northern tip even today. It would have been more than 1000km in tropical conditions and not sure if they even had tracks up there back in the day, let Lone shops to fill supplies, and no coastal road around the Cape even today. Have a look at Google maps of the towns up there. Its hardly a town, a lot of traditional owners and tourism support as it's popular to 4WD to the tip these days as an adventure experience.

Thanks, yeah it's amazing the number of perils an unprepared adventurer could encounter on that continent. I would be curious to hear any of your thoughts on how difficult or foolhardy trying to do an Adelaide to Darwin road trip would be solo.

Adelaide to Darwin is a cakewalk in comparison. The Stuart Highway is fully paved, excellently maintained, and has roadhouses every 100 km or so. It's completely doable by a regular sedan or campervan, and if you run into any trouble, there's enough traffic that you won't be left in a lurch.

That said, there is still a whole lotta nothing along the way, and you still need to keep your eyes peeled or you'll run into wildlife or get flattened by a road train. It'll also be extra tedious if you can't alternate driving with somebody else.

Thanks yeah I think there's some interesting points(Flinders Range, Coober Peddy, Uluru) along the way there just not on or directly off the highway correct? I was unaware of a road train, is that where the train track do not have a proper crossing signals?

road trains are very long trucks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_train#Australia going through the dusty red center (the dust from them often takes very long time to settle so no fun driving behind one :)).

the road to coober peddy, uluru etc should be maintained will enough today and provided you don't make shortcuts (or "go exploring" off the main road) but you still need to watch for large kangaroos, emus and dingos crossing. Dead or alive, they're no fun to crash into - although a road train will not stop for them (they probably couldn't even if they wanted to stop).

Wow that picture of the Shell Oil 2AB-quad tanker really merits the description of train. That's impressive.

4 trailers on one truck sounds insane[1]. I wouldn't get close to the triples in Oregon, and it's not dusty.

[1] But must make a lot of economic sense.

Coober Pedy - isn't that the town where people live underground because of the heat? I remember seeing it on some TV show. Fascinating stuff

Yeah it's an Opal mining town in South Australia. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/lens/living-underground-t...

Assuming car as transport, no issues.

Some golden rules are;

1) Take a few more days water than you expect the journey to take.

2) Let someone know when you should hit checkpoints so they can report if you don't show.

3) Don't go off track if you don't know what you are doing.

4) Dont leave the car if you break down.

5) If a crossing is flooded, don't take it.

But I think that's a relatively well trafficked route if you take the main roads.

This advice is spot on. If everyone took this advice we'd have considerably fewer issues in the outback.

Do you ever contemplate that perhaps there is a dog after all?

I do stay awake at night and wonder yes.

Based on the map, it looks like he walked along Highway 1, which also avoids the Kimberleys and the Top End.


Reminds me history of Kazik Nowak [0], who traveled alone on a bike through Africa. The expedition took him 5 years (between 1931-1936).

He wrote a great book about his trip, prizing amazing African nature and giving a hard time colonial powers for making this continent such a miserable living place for its natives. Book does not have English translation unfortunately.

Nowak died soon after coming back (trip was really exhausting, he got Malaria) and for many years his achievement was forgotten. In 1962 his daughter managed to publish a book her father trip, but it didn't attract much attention (communists didn't like to promote anything positive about pre-communism times achievements). Finally it was reedited in 2000 and become very popular in Poland.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazimierz_Nowak

Tangent: take a look on "Another day of life" from Ryszard Kapuscinski. Most unbiased look at Angola decolonization (and decolonization in general) I know.

edit: Ryszard Kapuscinski[0] style, a mix of journalism with literature, definitely worths a read. I believe his legacy is underrated even in his own country.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryszard_Kapu%C5%9Bci%C5%84ski

Here's a map of his journey, which is buried on that page:


> Book does not have English translation unfortunately.

It looks like there actually is English translation: https://sorus.pl/produkt/across-the-dark-continent-bicycle-d...

It also reminds me of Tschiffely who spent 3 years riding on horseback from Buenos Aires to New York City in the mid-1920s:


Title should read "Bloke walked around Australia - alone and with no assistance"

the first Bogan to ever walk around all Australia just so he could shout "get f******ed" to as many inhabitants as possible.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogan

Made me think of Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged.

A little more meat in the wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aidan_de_Brune

Title needs something like "between 1921 and 1924".

There’s this funny thing where all these 19th century explorers claim the first ever crossings on foot of this or that area of Australia, a continent that has been inhabited for 70,000 years at least.

See also:

Robyn Davidson (born 6 September 1950) is an Australian writer best known for her 1980 book Tracks, about her 2,700 km (1,700 miles) trek across the deserts of Western Australia using camels. Her career of travelling and writing about her travels has spanned 40 years.


That wikipedia page doesn't seem to reference that her book was the basis of a beautiful picture book by National Geographic, From Alice to Ocean, perhaps notable here because the book included a CD-ROM, making it an early attempt at multimedia presentation.



Some reviews of the CD-ROM from a 1994 college class:


(Scroll down to Multimedia Reviews and there four student reviews of the CD.)

I recommend her book, it was quite enjoyable. There is also a movie, though not as good as the book.

The saddest part of the book is when her dog dies, eating poisoned meat.

Quite a story

From the headline, I was certain this article was going to be about Jon Muir.

TIL about Aidan de Brune.



TIL about Jon Muir. Thank you.

Until I looked it up, I thought you meant John Muir, a famous American naturalist who founded the Sierra Club. It's crazy that there are two famous explorers with such similar names.

It looks like he ducked inland quite far on the southeast. Really wanted to avoid Canberra I guess :)

More seriously does anyone know why? Just personal preference? My understanding is that it's mostly national parks down there in VIC but I'm not sure how it would be to walk since I've never even driven there. It makes sense to avoid the Snowy Mountains but I think that could have been achieved by swinging around closer to the coast?

This reminds me of how equipment required for such an endeavour have been way heavier a hundred years ago. I'm not particuarly experienced with outdoor activities but if I engage in one I have to notice how overloaded and heavy everything is. But most of the stuff is reasonably modern using various lightweight metals or plastics. Realistically people have been stronger back than anyway.

Shackleton ‘South’ is an amazing book on how one can survive on little, with almost no gear and for a long time. It’s truely awesome how they survived and it’s a great book.


How do you change shoes after 6 months, when in the middle of the outback?

I assume they did with less. No change of clothes. Cook meat on sticks rather than a pan. A blanket and no tent type deal. No medical kit, torch or GPS etc.

I'm not convinced that you'd need a blanket in those areas ;) 40C (104F)+ regularly in summer.

Some warmer places drop amazingly at night, more arid regions have reputation for this. Less in tropical. Also even if 18 overnight doesn't seem cold when you're used to 40 by day, anything under 20 seems cold.

Im Brisbane and one time my partner was skyping with her Nordic family. I was getting the fireplace going and they asked the temperature, I cant remember exactly but it was about 20 and any the look on their faces was priceless.

Slightly more achievable walk around an island which I intend to do one day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikoku_Pilgrimage It's a mere 1200 km and takes a month or two, rather than two+ years.

> ..averaging about 30 miles, or 50km per day

Wow, this is impressive; more than a marathon a day on terrain like that for 2.5 years.

He did not skip leg day once in that time.

It's interesting how many Brisbane suburbs are misspelled in the PDF, not sure if it's done similarly else where. Kearon -> Kedron Chernside -> Chermside Ball Hills -> Bald Hills

I walk around Australia alone and unassisted everyday......

It's amazing, but he went around the coast. I really doubt he could have done it by going through the Red Centre.

crossing the Nullarbor is not a mean feat either

I was thinking that, that ~2000km between port Augusta and the Kalgoorlie is pretty dry.

> It's not often if you're driving around country Australia you see swagmen these days. Imagine spending more than half of your life walking. Grant Cadoret decided one day to pack up his life into a backpack and start walking.

I do similar stuff on and off, though not at that scale (trips lasting up to a year when I was young but now they're more like 2-4 months max with a year or more break in between).

what I know from personal experience is that it's incredibly difficult to stop. the routine somehow becomes all consuming and takes over your life.

a farmer once told me after losing his cow that timing for finding it is critical because leaving them isolated from the herd they will get used to it and then have problems fitting in from that point onward. they lose their ability to be part of the group and do no longer need the herd. perhaps there is a similar thing with humans.

If you successfully cover 1000 miles across a terrain alone, and found a way to not "just survive" but "thrive" it can be hard to stop (especially if there are no kids or family to return to). Why not make it 2000 miles? Why stop at all and instead break a rekord? Getting off my butt and go traveling is IMO a lot harder than stopping yourself. The isolation changes you so much you will come home crazy (you will need some way to reintegrate yourself into civilization. but there is also a beauty in not being understood since nobody can take it and the memory and experience is your treasure. there is no point of sharing it too much. even if you tried explaining it people wouldn't get it. they might get what you have seen but not how it changed you. so just enjoy it as something that belongs only to you and that only you can enjoy).

damn, now I wrote myself into a state of mind where I want to pack my rucksack and leave at once. perhaps a pandemic is a good chance to disappear for a couple of months. Europe is still too cold for now but perhaps in a month is a good time ...

Maybe this is why people who have lived alone for a some time simply get used to it and find it difficult to live with other people later (if they get into a relationship etc). Not the same, but similar

thanks that is really great perspective

Doing that was out of this world. It has encouraged me alot.

Good for him. Lucky guy by not dying to nature.

Perhaps knowledge and skill also helped?

Obviously he did not bump into any spiders.


He visited every port on all 4 coasts of the island, roughly covering the perimeter. We understand this to mean in common speech that he walked "around" the island even though he didn't truly circumnavigate it. We know what the title means.

Some islands, you can definitely walk around, even in the mathematical sense. Examples are https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_island and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrounded_Islands (if you timed your visit at just the right time).

One could also argue that wading through the sea in knee-deep water would be walking around the island in the strict mathematical sense. That’s doable for some islands.

And of course, the true nitpicking topologist realizes that, topologically, walking in a circle with radius 1m anywhere outside Australia is the same as walking in a circle with radius of almost 20,000 km that encompasses Australia, and thus is ‘walking around Australia’. I just did that. Took me a few seconds, at most ;-)

To "walk around" means to roam or wander. Most people understand this use of the phrase.

But in this case, the man seems to have actually walked the perimeter of the island.

To "walk around" means to roam or wander. Most people understand this use of the phrase.

Except they clearly didn't mean that the guy roamed Australia, because that's not particularly noteworthy. He "packed his backpack and walked around the entire continent of Australia by the coastline". The grandparent is pedantically correct that well actually you cannot walk around island. Must be fun at parties...

What are you on about? He walked around the island - walked the length of the perimeter. Just like swimming around it but on the land. What's confusing about that?

It doesn't mean anything unless you specify the maximum allowed distance to the coast (or the average distance to the coast along your ride, or the median distance to the coast). Notice that you probably want to define the distance of each point of the coast to some point in your traject, and not the other way round (which would make your endeavor trivial).

Really, it seems a very complicated concept to define precisely, and it would entail a lot of seemingly arbitrary parameters.

You are confusing “it is complicated” with “I am over complicating it”.

But why do you need to define it? What are you trying to achieve? Any reasonable person already understand what it means to walk around an island.

> But why do you need to define i

Wait, isn't this Hacker news? I want to be given a definition and analyze it deeply.

For instance, looking at the wikipedia page it seems that the closest that De Brune got to Cape York Tip (the northernmost point of Australia) was about one thousand kilometers. If this "counts" as a complete tour, he might as well had walked consistently 1000km inland for a much shorter tour (but maybe harder, due to the desert?).

> I want to be given a definition and analyze it deeply.

Well that's anti-social and not welcome here. Please check the guidelines for the site for how to communicate.


> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says

> don't cross-examine

Dude, what the fuck.

Mathematics is pretty much on topic here. I made a valid point, just for fun, that giving a precise mathematical definition of "walking around an island" is a tricky issue. Of course everybody knows what does it mean roughly, but making that point, about a mathematical definition cannot be construed as anti-social. Unless you consider mathematics anti-social.

> Of course everybody knows what does it mean roughly

So you know this goes against

> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says

But you've generated such a strong negative reaction that you've been flagged and the comment has been removed, so it's a lot of people saying it, not just my random opinion!

I think the following definition is well-defined and would be acceptable to the vast majority of people:

A minimal-length, non-intersecting loop for which every point on the coast is within d metres of at least one point on the loop.

The only parameter is d, which I think most people would happily set to 5 or 10 km for a country the size of Australia.

It may not be unique, but I think anything obeying this would count.

I like this definition. Not sure that the "non-intersecting" condition is necessary. I was thinking about a different one, given by the condition that the path never goes farther than d meters from the sea (while encircling the part of the land that is farther than d meters).

From the Wikipedia article someone else posted:

In September 1921 he began a walk around the perimeter of Australia, from Sydney to Sydney, anticlockwise.


I honestly doubt this - especially if the photo is indicative of his ‘rig’

Why? Judging from the photo his pack looks fairly light and minimalist. His clothing seems robust. Effective-looking head cover. Boots are probably heavy but nailed. Typical and practical working clothes of the time it seems to me.

I wonder how many supply stops he had to make and how this was funded. I doubt a pair of boots would last a fraction of this walk.

I'm not sure. I want to believe in that kind of perseverance and exploration, but to give a glimpse of the "Aidan" here's an excerpt for the end part of the book:

"Little is known about Aidan de Brune following the conclusion of his walk. We catch a glimpse here and there. On 28 March 1933 an article by de Brune appeared in the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser as one of a series of articles about Australian novelists. The article was about de Brune himself, in which he outlined his life. It was mostly fictitious. As we know, de Brune was actually Herbert Charles Cull and he did few, if any, of the things mentioned in the article." .. so if he's known to embellish or fabricate details...?

What is supposedly missing from his rig so that you repute it fit for a walk?

The light load is a great sign he knew what is important during endurance adventures.

Funnily enough I had the same sort of "doubting people" while I walked across Spain and Portugal with a 20 liter day pack.

What special 'rig' do you think you need to walk?

Food? Water? Unless he was close to civilization at all times and just stopped into taverns to eat.

The book says there were stations every few days all the way around.

I can't speak for non Queensland parts of that map.In the 1900's there was more than a week of walking between even the most basic of civilization (Between mackay and townsville, the A1/Bruce started construction in 1930)

Hardly “unassisted” then.

Unassisted just means you don't have a dedicated support team.

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