Moving mountains for local wildlife

Published:
01/04/2022

 

It’s not every day that six 19 to 20-year-olds decide to take it upon themselves to trek through the Australian Alps to raise money for local wildlife rescuers. 

For six weeks Northern Beaches locals Connor, Yannick, Harry, Alex (aka Sanchez), Jonty and Ben trekked through the Victorian wilderness to raise funds to purchase an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for Pittwater-based Sydney Wildlife.

Peninsula Living caught up with the boys once they successfully returned home with their heavy backpacks, a few blisters, and the experience of a lifetime in tow. 

“We decided we should do something that challenges ourselves and something that can help the environment,” Sanchez explains. 

“A definite seal on the deal was the idea to attach a charitable cause to our trek, because it would help us to know that the tough walk was going towards something worthwhile,” Connor says. 

Sydney Wildlife seemed a natural fit, with Connor’s mother, former Pittwater Woman of the Year Lynleigh Grieg, a lead wildlife carer with the local organisation. 

After planning and preparing, the boys embarked on their journey on New Year’s Day, starting at Walhalla, Victoria before finishing 680 kilometres later in the ACT. 

“Week one was the biggest challenge for me. My belongings, clothes, pack and tent were all wet the entire time and my hiking boots weren’t as worn-in as expected, so my feet were taking a beating on one of the most challenging weeks of the journey,” Connor says.

Meanwhile, Ben was battling a knee injury and missing ‘all the simple things’ he left behind at home. 

“Things like being clean, eating proper food and sleeping in a bed,” Ben laughs. 

“Collecting water could sometimes also be a pain, having to walk extra kilometre out of your way just to drink some nice muddy bog water,” Yannick adds. 

For Jonty, one of the biggest obstacles was the ‘dreaded, deadly, disgusting peanut butter wraps’. 

“You may think that I am being a bit dramatic but jeez, after having peanut butter wraps every lunch for six weeks straight it makes me cringe at the thought,” he says. 

The boys came across many species of animals on their trek, including snakes, leaches, houseflies, birds, brumbies, kangaroos, wallabies, fish, and birds. 

“In the first two weeks in particular it became normal to take a ‘leech break’ and have to use our fingernails to try rip leaches off out legs, arms and even necks,” Jonty says. 

Sanchez says some of his highlights included the general comradery and spending time laughing with his friends – an experience he says he will ‘never forget’.

“It was the most incredible feeling to be finished with the entire six weeks. I think we all looked at each other and congratulated one another. 

“It then took a week to properly set in that we had actually finished the entire walk.”

The boys embarked on this tough journey with the goal of raising $20,000 to purchase an ATV for Sydney Wildlife. 

In times of bushfire, the vehicle would allow wildlife rescuers to access injured native species in remote bushland instead of carrying heavy rescue gear many kilometres. 

At the time of catching up with the boys, they were searching for an ATV to purchase, having smashed their target thanks to their heroic efforts and the support of the community. 

“I am absolutely prepared to continue this tradition and keep close with the other hikers,” Harry concludes.

Author:
Jess Clarke, Journalist, Peninsula Living Magazine

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