After a chance meeting at local outdoor retailer Snowy’s Outdoors, and chatting Heysen Trail maps with Kirstie, we got talking about our businesses (check out Camp Pack their awesome gear rental site) and hiking adventures including the Heysen 55. At the time we met, these guys were in full preparation mode for a 1200km end to end hike in just 55 days. Kirstie and her partner Shane decided to make this hike more than about themselves. They decided to raise awareness around mental health issues in rural communities and fundraise for Beyond Blue as well as the MS Society of SA & NT. I couldn’t help but want to interview these guys on the challenge they had decided to take on and why……
Here’s a snippet of our recent interview just days before they set off….
Lisa: Firstly, why the Heysen Trail? Tell me why you’ve decided to take on this amazing
Shane: Well I guess I’ve been on a career break, a mini-retirement, for the last few months, and I was looking for something to inspire me, to kind of decide where to take my life going forward. I thought, what bigger challenge is there out there than hiking the Heysen Trail in South Australia? So, when I mentioned it to Kirsty I figured that she would have to work, and she would say no, and I would be doing it by myself but-
Kirstie: I’ve wanted to do it forever, like I lived very close to the Heysen Trail, so I’ve always wanted to do it.
It’s close to home. We’ve done a lot, not a lot, but we’ve done many sections of it already. Which, you know, are just so diverse and so varied, and we just love, we’ve loved all the ones we’ve done so far and … like I lived in the Barossa for a little bit housesitting when I first moved to South Australia, and when I first was told about the Heysen Trail I was recovering from being quite sick in that time, and so it was just a dream that I thought was always going to be out of reach. I’m quite a determined person so when I learnt that, “No one really does it in one set go” and you know, “It’s twelve hundred k’s from top to bottom” and I wanted to do it straight away and thinking that I never could, when Shane started being interested in it too it was pretty cool to be able to say “Yes” to that so that’s probably why.
Lisa: You’re doing some amazing fundraising as a result of this challenge. Perhaps give us a little bit of background on the fundraising element of this journey, for you both, and maybe you could tell us a little bit about the charity that you’re supporting as well.
Kirstie: So I guess if you are going to take fifty-five days off work, you should make it for something bigger than yourself. That’s it at the end of the day I suppose, and so we discussed multiple charities that are all close to our hearts. I suppose charities that we believe in, and we want to support, and the first one that we decided on was Beyond Blue. You know we’ve both, at different times in our lives, probably had to do something about staying positive, and we know a lot of people that are impacted by mental health issues as well, and so I guess getting outdoors is a big part of that for us. And so it just seemed very, it was just the obvious choice, you know? Like if we can inspire other people to get outdoors and help them with whatever it is that they might be battling, and make a positive impact, then that’s all we can really hope for. So’ to inspire other people’ and on top to maybe raise a little bit of money for such a worthy cause, that just made a lot of sense to us. And then MS is something very close to Shane so I’ll let him talk about that.
Shane: Yeah, so my brother was diagnosed with MS in 2013, and as well as supporting Beyond Blue, doing something like this, I couldn’t also not support MS as well, and so obviously, MS is a cause that’s very, very dear to my heart. We’d like to raise as much money as we can to support some of the infrastructure that they’re trying to build in South Australia, to support people with MS, and just make their lives a little bit more comfortable.
People may not know much about MS. It’s doesn’t have as much media attention as some of the other causes out there but you know at the end of the day it impacts people in a lot of different ways. It impacts people differently, it has a lot of different symptoms that range from loss of sight and loss of mobility, and we just wanted to do whatever we could to support people who are going through this illness and yeah just doing whatever we can.
Lisa: So in terms of a fundraising target do you have a figure in mind for this?
Kirstie: We do. We’re aiming for five thousand for each of them. So we’re doing that through a few ways. Of course we’re asking for direct donations, a few things that Shane’s been able to kind of manage was to trade us having camping fees for donations. Yeah. On top of that we have some friends and family supporting us and then we’re holding a few events along the way as well. So that kind of has a two-fold, I don’t know, whatever. And so that a: brings people together, which is really exciting you know to be able to really, for Beyond Blue, reduce that stigma around mental illness, and then for MS, really raise awareness I suppose. Yeah so, at the moment, we’ve got three events in the calendar, two of which are confirmed, and one we’re working on. So the first one is in Spalding. So that’s the Barbed Wire Hotel, it’s just a schnitzel night. Jack at The Barbed Wire Hotel he’s putting that on. Basically, he does the schnitzel night anyway every week, but this particular night he’s putting a portion of his schnitzel sales to Beyond Blue, and also just everyone that comes, they’ll get a Beyond Blue wristband and hopefully that gets people talking in the streets about, you know, why they’re wearing it and just, I think in rural communities the stigma is still pretty bad around mental illness in a lot of places. I’m from the country and I know it’s certainly the case where I am from so, yeah, if we can get a few people talking about that out, further out of town, then that would be great.
Then the one that we are yet to organize, or we’re still organizing is the event at Crafers. In the Adelaide hills, yep. So, we’re just looking to do something probably a little bit similar to a schnitzel night maybe. The final one is down at Cape Jervis. Friends of the Heysen have helped us organise that, Melanie. She’s been really, really fantastic, and she is running a bus from Cape Jervis to Cobblers Hill. So anybody who’d like to walk the final fifteen kilometres of the trail is welcome to join us.
(Editors note: To book onto this event on the 8th of October 2017 head to: http://heysentrail.asn.au/walks/1671/beyond-blue-cobbler-hill-to-cape-jervis/view/
To donate to their fundraising links head to:
Lisa: So I guess in terms of preparation, have you done any physical training at all, for this trip?
Kirstie: We have done day hikes and a few other things I suppose. I’ve been trying to strengthen my back. I’ve got a very dodgy lower back, which is quite problematic if you’re a hiker. So, I’ve been working on that all year basically, through strengthening the rest of my body, the muscles that are required to make that non-issue.
We’ve definitely been, pretty much day hiking every weekend with at least a little bit of weight, if not full packs and a few hikes in New Zealand. For me really, it’s been about strengthening those bigger muscles. Yeah Shane’s pretty good with the hills, I’m not so much so I’ve been working on that, and then just general fitness really. And we keep calling it carb loading.
Lisa: So, getting ready for this trip you’ve obviously had to do a lot of planning, from the day to day itinerary, to working out how many kilometres you need to do in order to get to your destination, because you’ve got events along the way it’s a highly-programmed exercise. So perhaps talk us through some of the challenges you have with your programming and maybe your biggest fear as well, leading in to this walk.
Kirstie: My biggest fear is running out of water. Definitely. Which is a pretty big deal to me actually, because I would have thought my health would actually be my biggest fear but I managed to really, I don’t know, get through a lot of that, and yeah now I’m not worried at all about my body’s capabilities. I think I’ve proven, definitely in Tassie, doing the overland and a few other things, that I’m definitely fit enough and, you know, I’m strong enough and I’m comfy enough now. But water is a big thing because we planned this hike for this time of year, for many reasons but one of which was that it was perfect for the weather, because that’s why we’re going from north to south because Shane doesn’t deal with the heat and I don’t with the cold. So we’re a great match. So we thought yep, this is going to be great, we’ll be in the flinders at the end of winter there’ll be all water in the tanks. Turns out this is the driest winter we’ve had in quite a while, no water in the tanks. So we’ve actually been really lucky in that some amazing people have helped us out, Friends of the Heysen are running an end-to-end in that area at the same time that we’ll be there so Melanie, who Shane mentioned earlier, has been amazing with us, helped a lot. The actual schedule, just making sure, can we actually physically walk twenty-eight k’s in a day with full packs? And so then we’ve got to go okay well, no we can’t, especially if that’s following a twenty-three k day, and so we’ll rearrange that a little bit. I had this big thing about like, is it cheating if you get off the track for a night? But we’ve come to the conclusion, that it’s fifty-five days, it’s twelve hundred kilometres you can’t … it goes basically around a major city. There are sections that there’s just no option but to stop in a caravan park.
Shane: We’ll have our supply boxes there as well.
Lisa: Tell us about what food you planned on taking and how you came to the decision to pack certain foods and all that sort of stuff because food becomes so important when you’re doing a multi-day walk, and sometimes it becomes the most exciting part of the day. Particularly on a very tough day so talk us through your menu.
Shane: The menu, well Kirstie mainly picked out the menu but we used the book that actually you recommended – the Xtreme Gourmet Book by Sonya Muhlsimmer.
Kirstie: We’ve based them off that. We modified a lot. So, we were originally thinking that we’d be buying, doing a mixture of buying the dehydrated meals that you can buy that are pre-prepared and-
Shane: Then we realised that we were going to go broke after about day five.
Kirstie: So that option kind of went out the window pretty early on and then we just went, okay well what are the options? So now we’ve decided to go with five meals in a rotation. We do have, I think there is nine designated schnitzel nights along the way. Whenever we see a pub. Yeah so we’ve got those five in a rotation for dinners, or lunches if we mix it up, and then lunch is tuna or salami and cheese, every day, and crackers. We’ve got lots of nuts, lots of dried fruit, a few chocolate bars in there. So breakfast is a bit gross. Quinoa flakes and then dried fruit and nuts. We looked it up and to make porridge with oats is like a third of the nutrients of making porridge with quinoa flakes, and it tastes, well it looks the same, but it tastes revolting, so we’ve decided now we’re going to half/half, so we’ll mix in the same bowl half quantity of oats, half quinoa just to take away some of the quinoa thing. We originally had almond meal but we’re now just going to do a little sprinkle of that because that’s very powerful.
Lisa: So any idea how much your food would weighs?
Kirstie: Yeah, a kilo a day per person.
Shane: I think yeah, maximum, so it’d be more like 750gm probably.
Lisa: Have you done a test with everything in the bags yet guys? Everything in the bags?
Shane: That’s tomorrow’s task.
Lisa: Do you have strategies to help work through these things together while you’re walking?
Kirstie: We spoke about this just last night and I said to Shane, “everyone keeps saying this will make or break us, are you worried?” and what did you say?
Shane: Well I said we are going to rely on each other, effectively for survival, so we have to trust each other, and we have to look out for each other.
Lisa: It’s just going to be an amazing challenge, and one that we don’t see very often, with the Heysen Trail. There are a lot of people that do it as a through walk but certainly to do it in fifty-five days as these two are proposing and to be raising funds for two wonderful charities along the way is nothing short of amazing.
We believe that active travel and hiking like this changes not only us, but the people around us as well. So we are right behind these two every step of the way and we look forward to sharing their story, and of course we will be there at the finish line to cheer them on as well.
You can follow Kirstie and Shane from Camp Pack on Instagram, Facebook and their website. At time of publishing, these two were on rest day in Melrose after 17 days into their trek!
To join in on the final 15km from Cobblers Creek to Cape Jervis head to the Friends of the Heysen website: http://heysentrail.asn.au/walks/1671/beyond-blue-cobbler-hill-to-cape-jervis/view/
Proceeds of this event will be donated to Beyond Blue.