What’s left for Australia’s greatest living adventurer?

Photo credit: Julian Kingma

When Jon Muir needs a bit of time and space to think, he likes to go for a walk. There’s a lot of time and definitely a lot of space to think about things while walking 2500km from Port Augusta, South Australia to Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria. You can think about the entire span of human ­history and how you’re no different from the ­people who have survived here for 60 or so thousand years, living entirely off the land. You can ponder how simple and fulfilling life can be out here in the desert as you haul a cart through dry creek beds and over sand dunes and clumps of spinifex, your Jack Russell terrier Seraphine ­trotting happily beside you, breaking away to dive into rabbit holes, happy just to be with you. But mostly you think about where your next drink of water is coming from. You think about staying alive. You maintain vigilance, processing information about the terrain, your supplies, what the weather is doing, if that wheel nut on the cart is still coming loose, how many bullets you have left, and always where the water is.

Some 128 days later, when Muir arrived in ­Burketown after becoming the first and only ­person to walk unassisted across the continent, he felt despondent. Seraphine had died not far from the end after eating poisoned dingo bait; both their journeys were over. But his footprints would forever be represented by a squiggly line on a wall map running the vertical length of ­Australia, and three small words: Jon Muir, 2001. A centimetre to the right is another line: Burke and Wills, 1861. You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep…

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