Beach boys trekking trough terrain to fund All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) for Sydney Wildlife Rescue

6 inspirational group of youngsters (Connor Greig, Alex Burton, Ben Harris, Jonty Earp, Yannick and Harry) have chosen to sacrifice 6 weeks of their Uni holidays to trek 680km to raise money for wildlife rescuers. They braved leeches, blisters, storms, gruelling ascents and terrifying descents - all to fund a Search-and-Rescue vehicle for wildlife rescue crews. We asked them a few questions aftern they reached their final destination.

Firstly, can you tell us about your memories of the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019/2020 and how they influenced your decision to embark on this 680km trek to fundraise $20k for an All-Terrain vehicle andtrailer for wildlife rescuers?

Yannick:  I remember seeing a map of Australia showing all the active fires and it looked as though the whole country was alight!  Watching footage of the walls of flames, my only thought was “How could anything possibly survive that?”  


Connor:  Well, my Mom is a wildlife rescuer and she was gone for months – embarking on Search and Rescue missions to rescue surviving wildlife.  She had a very tough time and we wanted to do something to make things easier for her and all the other rescuers in the future. 

What was your parent’s reaction when you told them you were planning a six-week trek through the Australian Alps and how have they been involved in your fundraising campaign?

Alex:  I think my parents thought we were going on a 5-day stroll through the mountains.  When eventually mentioned that it was 6 weeks, they were much more concerned.  


Harry:  At the Planning BBQ with all the parents, one of the gang daftly said “Well, don’t Google The Button Man”…. So guess what they all did…?  After that, they were a lot more concerned…

The parents were all assigned a Food Drop location. There would be 5 Food Drops and a final pick-up location.  

Yannick’s Mum and Auntie drove the boys down to Walhalla (2 days’ drive) and then camped with them for the night before the hike commenced.  They also did the first and third food drop at very remote locations. Jonty’s parents did the second Food Drop in Hotham. Alex and Connor’s parents did the fourth one in Thredbo and Ben’s dad will be doing the 5th one in Kiandra.  

Pick-up in Namadji in the ACT will be done by Ben and Connor’s parents.  

What did your mates think about your adventure and how are they supporting you?

Yannick:  Everyone was invited to join the expedition but only the very brave (or silly) accepted the challenge.


Connor:   A few have donated and some are following us on Instagram.  We will be expecting them to organise a Ticker-Tape Parade for us through Hyde Park when we return…(without the environmental hazards, of course lol) {chuckles}

How would you have spent your time if you’d stayed in Sydney over summer?

Alex:  Probably going to the beach, playing games online or catching up with mates. Nothing very inspiring.

Connor:  My Mother would have dragged me out on wildlife-rescue missions.  Climbing ladders, crawling under spidery houses, carrying heavy critters.  Maybe this was the easier option {laughs}.


You’ve known each other for years, but how have youbeen getting along together since you set off on 3 January?

Jonty:  We have been getting on fine, most of the time.  There have been some tense moments when we were running behind schedule, though… Watching Yannick and Connor argue is like watching King Kong and Godzilla battling it out!

Connor:  When your past-time is picking on your friends, tensions flare every now and then…

Alex:  I think it’s normal for people to drive each other bananas after 26 days, but everyone seems to move through it pretty quickly and we also joke around every day which helps.

Ben:  There has been some Tom-Foolery as you would expect – putting rocks in each others’ packs on the sly, throwing each others’ belongings across the river, occasionally pretending to reach out to help a mate up the river bank and then snatching your hand away to watch them fall into the water again.  

What’s the food been like – have your supplies lasted or did you need to resort to bush tucker?

Yannick:  The food rations have lasted well!  Most weeks we even have some snacks still left over.  


Jonty:  Which is rather fortunate as I would end up eating poisonous berries and needing a MediVac out of the mountains…


Have you experienced any wildlife encounters on your trek apart from leeches and ticks?

Jonty:  We’ve had a bit of a Snake Count going and we are up to 19 snakes!  Mostly copperheads and red-bellies.  I have managed to inadvertently step over at least three and they have been very tolerant,thankfully.  


Alex:  We’ve seen wallabies, some fat, lazyblue-tongue lizards that refuse to move off the track and a couple of eagles.  There have been a few introduced species such as deer and brumbies as well.


Connor:  We were hoping to see more but perhaps we make too much racket or smell so bad that they all high-tail it out of there before we can see them!


Can you describe the most testing/challenging part of the trek?

Ben:  Having a BIG spider travelling in my pack with me for hours and only making itself known when I pulled out my waterbottle!  (And the knee injury.)


Connor:  For me, not being able to shower or sleep in a bed at the end of a hard day of trekking.


Yannick:  The lack of music. We resorted to singing ABBA tracks to get ourselves up the gruelling ascents!


Alex:  Not having chairs to sit on when you are so exhausted.


What’s your most memorable moment so far?

Yannick:  Summiting Mt MacDonald.


Connor:  Coming out into open space after bush-bashing through face-height vegetation for hours and hours and hours!


Ben:  Crossing the border from VIC into NSW


Jonty:  Food Drop days.  (All the others chorus in unison:  Jonty is very food-driven!)


Alex:  Mt Magdala – it was just amazing!


What’s the first thing you want to do when you get home around 10 February?


Connor:  Hug my family and animals and then sleep for 3 days.


Jonty:  Raid the pantry.


Yannick:  Probably start planning the next Big Trek!


How do you plan to celebrate your achievement?

We all plan to do Go-Karting in Canberra!


Would you do it again? ‘Australian Survivor’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity – Get Me out of Here’ are casting for applicants for their next seasons!

Yannick:  Absolutely! Wouldn’t do any of the shows but I am already planning a 900km hike in WA next.


All the others:  Groan…


And finally, what would you say to anyone who’s been following your journey and is thinking of contributing seeing your almost halfway to your $20k goal?


Group:  We say Thank You for following our expedition– your support has definitely buoyed our spirits!  And if you are thinking of contributing –don’t hold back! {chortling}  

The wildlife and the rescuers have done it tougher than us and we have a huge respect for what they went through in the Black Summer Fires.  

The boys reached their $20,000 goal and are very gratefull to anyone who contributed.

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