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Written by Matt Gore (@ut_mbg) with help from Giles Penfold (@gilespenfold).
What does it feel like to run 650km+ along the toughest trail Australia has to offer? We’re not sure yet – but on the 21st of November, Giles Penfold and I will begin our journey to find out. We call our mission – 655fortakayna.
The Australian Alps Walking Track (‘AAWT’) is a rite of passage for many of Australia’s most experienced hikers. Beginning in Walhalla in the foothills of Baw Baw National Park (a couple of hours outside Melbourne), it passes over Victoria’s tallest mountain ranges before traversing into NSW’s remote wilderness areas; finishing just 30 minutes outside Canberra. The track is stunning and exposes the traveller to some of Australia’s most pristine alpine wilderness, but brutal – containing over 30,000m of ascent and descent. Throw in the infamous alpine weather, a 9-12kg pack weighing us down, and our lack of running years/experience (we’re both in our early 20’s), and you can see why this run excites, but also terrifies, us.
So why put ourselves through what is guaranteed to be the greatest challenge we have ever faced? There are three answers to that.
The first – we simply love it. The wilderness, the distance, the challenge; everything about it. This is often the hardest part to explain to someone who asks us, but I know that this running audience shares that same visceral feeling – whether you’re a 5km racer or ultra-runner. When someone says you can’t, or that it’s not possible, I say I will. You get it.
We also want this run to showcase – and help people rediscover – the beauty of nature and Australian wilderness. Giles and I worry deeply about this jarring disconnect between humanity and the natural world. We work, live and breathe in concrete jungles, and in doing so we lose a part of ourselves. This run is not only a journey of our own personal reconnection to country, but one that we hope inspires and facilitates a similar journey for others. We are lucky enough to be joined by a film crew that share our passions and goals, and want to capture and share this journey. It’s our hope that the film we create will inspire people just that tiny bit to get outdoors and begin to rediscover their own relationship with nature. As our director Ji Yoon said in my first meeting with them – ‘We can’t make someone an activist. But hopefully we can inspire a feeling of that need to get into nature, and the rest will take care of itself’. With the help of our key sponsor Salomon, an abridged version of the film may even be released on Salomon TV worldwide – showcasing the beauty our Australian Alps to millions of people around the world. Pretty cool, hey?
Finally, it would be remiss of us not to address the elephant in the room. Australia may have some special wild places, but most of them are at risk of destruction at the hands of loggers, miners or climate change. One such special place that we want to help drag into the Australian spotlight is the destruction of takayna in Tasmania.
Australia’s largest temperate rainforest, takayna is a final sanctuary for many endangered species including the Tasmanian Devil, one of Australia’s richest Aboriginal cultural landscapes, an essential carbon storehouse, and an incredibly rare gem of natural intactness. It is almost unheard of for people to visit takayna and not feel a sense of awe and belonging to the land. However, we are witnessing its irrevocable destruction – with 95% of takayna open to mining leases, and 86% of its forests currently threatened by logging. As part of our AAWT traverse, we are therefore raising funds for the Bob Brown Foundation – a brilliant not-for-profit grassroots campaigner that fights night and day to protect this special place by challenging mining leases in court, occupying the rainforest for months on end so it literally cannot be bulldozed, and running public awareness campaigns. The BBF is in desperate need of funds to continue this fight, and we hope to use our AAWT run as a platform to help them gain this financial support.
We hope you can support our mission by following along, donating what you can, and sharing our cause with your friends and family. By ourselves, we are just two young men running across the mountains, but together – we are a movement. Please join us on our mission to reconnect people with nature, and to help save takayna.
#655fortakayna. Donate to Matt and Giles HERE
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