‘A Desert Odyssey’: A Tale from Adventurer, Author and SURVIVAL Guest Blogger, Benji Brundin

8 August 2019

The sun beat down as I inspected my torn rear tyre. Looking around for a solution, I thought about packing the rear with grass and foliage - but there wasn’t a blade of grass or greenery anywhere.

I was deep in the heart of the Tanami Desert, completely alone, and with only a few litres of water.

Normally, this sort of situation would have the best of us feeling uneasy, but after all I had been through, I couldn’t help but laugh, and so I decided to keep riding my WR250R into a mine site, about 40 kilometres from my current position.

My back end wagged up the road like the tail of a dog. My feet were blistered, eyes bloodshot, and I hadn’t shaved or changed my dusted clothes in over a month.

I looked like I had ridden straight out of a Mad Max movie.

The security girl on the gate had a particular type of look on her face; one I had become pretty accustomed to seeing during the past month. I met her gaze with a big, cheesy grin, and she looked confused - my face just didn’t match the sight she was presented with.

“What the hell are you doing out here, mate? Where the hell have you been?”

“I just came out of the desert.”

“Jesus, you’re bloody game. Why are you so happy?”

“I just set a new Guinness World Record.”

Hunting Fear - Benji Brundin

Back in January of 2019, I had just come back from a trip that had seen me ride into some of the wildest parts of the country.

Within hours of returning to Melbourne, I was back at work and being bombarded with questions as if nothing had ever happened. I wasn’t ready to go back to real life, and I knew that, after all that had happened on my last adventure, I had so much more to give the world.

My mind is an active one, so before too long, I’d hatched a plan that would see me push myself into some of the largest deserts in the world. My friends and family expressed their concern for my wellbeing, but I knew I could do it.

I knew - after all I had failed and fallen short of in life - that I could get this job done. If nothing else, I had to do it for myself.

I had always wanted to push the limits of my abilities; however, at the age of 36, for whatever reason, I hadn’t reached those heights. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I could do something special.

Crossing the ten deserts of Australia would see me traverse over 6,000 kilometres of sand dunes, track and corrugations, not to mention the 2,000 kilometres it would take to get me there.

And to cover that ground, I only had a 2008 Yamaha WR250R dirt bike, with a homemade set of panniers holding my postie bags on.

The first real challenge of the trip came in the Simpson Desert.

I woke early and sat atop the second of 1,100 sand dunes, watching the sun rise up over ‘Big Red’. It was an impressive sight, but as I looked out across the endless dunes in front of me, I knew I would need to dig deep.

My bike was loaded for 40 days in the desert, with a lot of pushing up the dunes, as well as unloading and reloading the bike. Knowing it was going to be a challenging day on the bike, I took my SURVIVAL Handy First Aid KIT off my pack and strapped it to my waist.

The First Aid KIT itself was well-stocked with bandages, painkillers and everything in between, and I’d memorised each compartment and unpacked the bandages so I could access them quickly should I need to.

The nights were cold in the Simpson, and I woke with ice on my tent each morning. It took me three full days to cross, and by the morning of the third day, I was just spent. At times, the sheer physicality of it had nearly broken me.

Riding through to Oodnadatta the next day, I spoilt myself and ate three T-bone steaks for dinner, before heading on to Coober Pedy and the next leg of this crazy expedition.

Benji Brundin - Guinness World Record

From Coober Pedy, the next challenge was the Great Victorian Desert, where there was no fuel or water resupply for nearly 800 kilometres west of my position.

On the second day, the sand kept getting deeper, the track tighter, and I couldn’t shake this uneasy feeling I had.

During the afternoon, I rode through a long stretch of badly burnt land. I felt so uneasy – it was as if, although the fire had gone through years ago, nothing had ever returned to life.

I couldn’t help but feel like the charred bodies of the dead trees were staring right through me, offended at my presence, with their clawed branches pointing at me to move on.

It wasn’t long before the problems started to pop up.

On the third day across, sometime around mid-morning, I crested a sand dune and bounced my bike like a pinball off a tree. Somehow, I managed to keep the bike upright and power out of the sand. But when I pulled up, I had burst one of my water bottles - 1.5 litres of water, which equates to about six hours of life in the desert.

Not long afterwards, I lost the nipple on my bladder, and another 12 hours of life went out of my backpack.

Shit.

I did a quick sit rep.

I was nearly 500 kilometres from the nearest town. I had only seen two cars in nearly three days, and at the current rate, I had nearly two days of travel to get to my next resupply, with less than a day of good water left.

While the situation wasn’t horrible, I knew I had to make up some ground or spend a very thirsty day on the bike. I bottled my urine from then on.

A sandstorm soon came blowing in, and gusts of wind pushed me across the track and blew the wheel ruts clean.

As I stopped to fix yet another water leak, I watched my own tracks get blown over. Suddenly, I felt very alone, vulnerable and afraid.

On the morning of 23 July 2019 - my 14th day in the deserts - I wrote the following sit rep:

Feeling sore.

  • 5 days on pegs.
  • 3 days no cars.
  • Muscles sore.
  • Back and traps sore from heavy pack – 15 kg.
  • Feet, palms blistered.
  • Hands numb, no feeling in my right three fingers.
  • Hard work.
  • Freezing, shivered all night.
  • Feel my clothes getting bigger, losing weight.
  • No human contact, bike has been tortured, how can it keep going?
  • Only halfway.

I chose this life, I reminded myself. I wanted this life, this challenge. My friends and family told me I was crazy.

‘Who do you think you are?’, they asked. ‘It’s pure insanity. No one has ever done it!’

Yet I spent the money, I persevered with it. Love it or hate, it was up to me.

I can go home any time. Win or lose, live or die, it’s all on me, and it all depends on how I perceive it.

Get up, Brundin, and own this life!

For me, that morning was a real moment out there. With gritted teeth, I pushed on, and a few days later, I pulled into the isolated town of Wiluna and then onto Canning Stock Route [CSR].

I spent a day in Wiluna resting up and servicing my bike. Other travellers told me I was crazy, but after all I had come across, I knew I could do it. I knew that I would do it.

I had just on 2,000 kilometres left of the wildest, most remote desert track in the country to traverse, and that just didn’t scare me at all. I went into the CSR with excitement and open mindedness, and in my heart, a feeling much different to the other legs of the journey.

By the time I got 850 kilometres into the track, I started to realise that what I was doing was a bit special.

I set camp one night and made a camera diary where I spoke about not being able to go back to my old life.

After all that I had overcome and achieved out here, I felt like this ride was the journey that was going to project me into my new life - whatever that may be.

The riding itself didn’t get any easier. The track could change so dramatically - from deep sand to sharp rocky outcrops - that there was never a time I felt I could relax.

There were some real ‘oh, shit’ moments, and some I just don’t know how I survived.

I can remember bouncing off yet another tree and falling into the sand face-first; the soft First Aid KIT that I strapped to my waist saving my hip from crashing into the rock.

That last day on the Canning Stock Route, I was racing through the bush with all the confidence of a man on a mission.

I was tearing across the dunes all day; it was reckless, dangerous, and I nearly had a head on with a Jeep at one point.

Every now and then, I would reach down and touch my hip, comforted by the knowledge my little SURVIVAL First Aid KIT was still there and in one piece. Out in the wild places, it was at times the only reassurance I had that I could get through.

I even used it as a pillow at night as I slept on the cold-baked earth.

The next day, I finally made it up onto the rim of the Wolf Creek Crater. I had envisioned myself standing there a thousand times. I had even drawn a picture of it and put it above my sink at home.

I had made it. I had successfully crossed every desert in Australia. And it was just the Tanami Road to get past to finish it off.

It had been the journey of a lifetime. My saddlebags were held together with over 100 cable ties, the bristles of my toothbrush were stained red from the fine dust, and I had lost close to 10 kilograms during my time in the sand.

It had been nothing short of an odyssey and I owed it to myself to make sure something came of it.

By facing my fears out there in the desert, I had learnt so much about myself and what I am capable of.

I get a bit nervous when I think about what I could achieve in the world. But that’s the exciting part. You just never know what is coming at you again. And sometimes you just have to smile, grip the bars and go with it.

Life is a daring adventure, after all.

 

To read more about Benji’s wild, World Record-beating adventure, grab his new book, ‘Hunting Fear’, or visit his website: www.daring2venture.com.au

About the Author - Benji Brundin

AdventureBenji brundinHandy first aid kit

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