Six Northern Beaches boys have just returned from a 680km journey trekking across the most challenging track in Australia in order to raise money to purchase a Search and Rescue All-Terrain Vehicle for Sydney Wildlife Rescue.
The 2020 Black Summer bushfires that swept across our nation were the worst on record, destroying much of our precious bushland and wildlife. The devastation was felt near and far but hit particularly close to home for Northern Beaches student, Connor Greig. Assisting his mother, Lynleigh Greig, who is a volunteer for Sydney Wildlife Rescue, Connor experienced first-hand the difficulties that wildlife rescuers came up against when trying to help injured animals whose homes had been decimated.
“You really get a sense of the devastation when you’re immersed in it,” Connor explains. “Millions of animals were killed, huge sections of the country were scorched and so many people had their lives disrupted.”
Inspired to make a difference, Connor and his five mates, Ben Harris (20), Yannick Muller (20), Harry Peters (20), Alex Burton (19), and Jonty Earp (20), embarked on an expedition to raise money for Sydney Wildlife Rescue. They hoped to purchase a Search and Rescue All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), which would assist volunteers in future rescue efforts and relieve them of walking through burned and exposed areas with no shade, water, or toilets, whilst carrying heavy rescue equipment and sedated animals (including 80kg kangaroos)!
“Yannick came up with the crazy notion to tackle arguably the most challenging track in Australia – the Australian Alpine Walking Track (AAWT). Ben noted that it was the perfect parallel for our charitable cause: hiking difficult terrain for an All-Terrain Vehicle,” Connor explains. “In addition, the alpine region was badly affected by the Black Summer Fires, so it was a meaningful correlation.”
A trek involving six boys hiking 680km across three states (VIC, NSW, and the ACT) and climbing 27,000 metres (equivalent to more than three ascents and descents of Mount Everest) was going to need an epic name, and so The Alpine Odyssey was born.
The trek was every bit as challenging as the boys anticipated, and they realised how much they took for granted having dry feet, feeling warm, or even just having a comfortable place to rest.
“It was always bittersweet to find ourselves on a 4WD track because although it was easier to follow and more visible, the hard gravel surface really scrapes at your feet when you have a heavy pack and tired legs…,” Connor says. “The burnt areas were ridiculously hard to follow, particularly in the Victorian section down the back of Johnnie’s Top. Scrub has re-grown to head-height, and you literally have to bush-bash from point A to B using a GPS, walking through spider webs, being scratched by branches, and getting covered in parasites.”
Although the challenges of the trek took their toll, the rewarding views and generous donations kept the boys motivated. A joint highlight for the team was seeing the panoramic views, swirling mists and distant lakes on the ridgeline when sumitting Mount Kosciuszko. However, their proudest moment was hitting their $20,000 donation target on the final day and being able to reflect on what they had achieved.
“When the ATV is in use, we will have a huge sense of pride that the suffering we underwent resulted in something meaningful,” Connor says.
The boys initially thought they would struggle to raise $2,000 so they’re humbled and amazed by the generosity of everyone who has supported them. After their amazing adventure, they’ve now returned to work and uni and football coaching, but have already been approached by two other wildlife rescue organisations to raise money for them. So stay tuned for more!
If you would like to donate – it’s not too late, please visit this link:
You can also see more of the incredible Alpine Odyssey here: https://www.instagram.com/alpine.odyssey/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/294650426043455/
By Melissa Woodley