Outback conquerer

By Kelly Theobald

Pictures: Karen Brook

WHEN Jenna Brook walked into her home town of Birdsville after a 445 km walk across the Simpson Desert, she was joined by a dozen family members and friends, including the Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott, who walked the last 40 km in support.

She was a day ahead of schedule and had also well exceeded her fundraising goal.

The walk was in aid of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Ms Brook was hoping to raise $20,000 for the cause.

However, her current tally is over $25,000 and donations are still pouring in.

Almost $2000 was donated by four-wheel-drive enthusiasts who met Jenna along her path through the desert in what is the region's busiest period in a few years.

"There were a lot more people in the desert than I expected," Jenna said. "We were easily passing 15 or 20 cars each day."

Jenna began her walk on June 25 from Dalhousie Springs, a natural hot spring and campsite on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. From there, it was a "Long Walk Home" to Birdsville over 1100 sand dunes and 445 km of rough, sandy track.

"There's 70 km of clay before you get to the real dunes and then you hit sand. That first 10 km of dunes was definitely the hardest part of the whole walk," said Jenna.

During the walk she encountered heat rash, an injured achilles heel, being trailed by a pack of dingoes and being chased by a pair of camels.

"I was terrified of the camels," she said. "They were running towards me so I crouched down behind some spinifex and quietly radioed my support crew.

"I would've looked ridiculous! They were standing what I thought was only 40m away and were looking for me and I didn't know what they were going to do."

She also told the story of warding off a pack of four dingoes which had been quietly following her before she noticed them. She said she tried to scare them away, but only the noise of her support crew's vehicles eventually drove them off.

Four friends accompanied Jenna on her journey as her support crew.

"They were absolutely amazing," she said. "They massaged my legs for me, cooked me delicious meals, packed up the campsite every morning and saved me from the camels. I wouldn't have been able to do it without them."

Jenna said apart from the wildlife in the desert, the walk was what she had been expecting.

She said she began training in September and, living in Birdsville, was able to walk over dunes on the eastern edge of the desert in preparation.

She said a highlight of the walk was receiving a package of chocolate her parents dropped from the air near Poeppel's Corner - the junction of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory, about half way through the walk.

"Another highlight was Queensland winning the State of Origin when all of my support crew are from New South Wales," she laughed. "We'd only just got Queensland radio by that stage."

At Big Red, a 40m high dune that signifies the edge of the desert, she was surprised by a crew filming for The Great Outdoors.

She was interviewed by Tom Williams, who said he was very impressed by her efforts.

Then, the last highlight was reaching Birdsville, where the community met her at the Birdsville Hotel with banners and cheers.

"It's nice to be back because the community spirit is great," she said. "I'm hanging out for that shower, though."

n For more information on Jenna's walk or to donate, go to the website at www.thelongwalkhome.com.au

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