Dental hygienist treks Outback in memory of husband

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Broxden dental hygienist Debbie Proudfoot has raised over £10,000 after taking a six-week trek through the Australian desert.

Here she describes her epic journey through The Outback.

main dental hygienist treks outback in memory of husband (5)“One foot in front of the other, then repeat…

“I decided last year to spend the whole of 2018 fundraising for Cancer Research in memory of my husband Gordon – so far I’ve organised a coffee morning, pub quiz, car boot sale, Broxden lunch, Halloween party, trip to Australia and a 1000 mile cycle. My daftest idea by far was to walk 10 miles every day of the year!!

“My trip to Oz to travel the deserts and visit Birdsville was on Gordon’s and my bucket list, and when my friend Kay agreed to go with me I was super chuffed.

“I flew out to join Kay in Perth at the beginning of August. Heading off after only a few hours sleep we left the centre of Perth and got lost within the first mile – not a great start! The weather was awful so we spent the first couple of nights in Dongos (single room cabin) and an evening in a tiny hotel where the only other guest was William, the stray horse, who came in the bar when it was raining to get fed and to blag a packet of crisps.

“We travelled up through the Goldfields and onto the great central route. Very quickly the land became dry and barren and there were fewer people, tarmac disappeared and the roads became more difficult to drive on – deep corrugations then suddenly a pit of bull dust that could bring us to a stop very quickly.

“Kay slept in the back of our 4×4 and I slept in a little tent or my swag. We camped out in the bush most nights – pretty safe – although one night dingoes surrounded our little spot and howled for most of the night which was extremely unnerving. To make matters worse they took off with my last bottle of tonic. Walking early next morning I turned round to see two dingoes trailing me. It was the quickest 10 miles I’ve walked all year. We carried all our food, water and fuel and topped up at planned stops.

“By the time we had reached the last Outback town before the Simpson Desert we had had two punctures, a hole in our radiator, lost a box of tools off the roof and nearly lost Kay as a 64 wheel road train thundered past and sucked her and a water container off the roof.

Crossing the desert to Birdsville was hard work. With 1101 consecutive sand dunes to cross, it is one of the world’s biggest driving challenges. Some days we could change tyre pressures 10 times and never drove above 30km per hour.

“It was hot during the day and bitterly cold at night. Our one luxury was to allow ourselves half filled hot water bottles at night; that water was then used in the mornings to clean our teeth and do dishes. Wine wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity,  so there was a crate of cheap, warm chardonnay strapped to the roof. We had no facilities or fresh water for eight days and didn’t see a living soul for six days. Our only proper scary moment was when I tipped the 4×4 and it took 6.5 hours to winch/dig ourselves out.

“After crossing the magnificent Big Red sand dune we arrived in Birdsville for the horse racing event, having been the only all woman team to cross the French Line, Simpson for many years.

“What with our accents and our decorated cruiser, we quickly became celebrities and had a great few days enjoying the experience. We were interviewed on Australian and Japanese TV. The poor Japanese interpreter struggled with our accents made worse by a few gins on race day.

“I arrived back in Scotland in mid September, 1.5 stone lighter, with skin the texture of a crisp packet, great memories and a real feeling of achievement. It’s back to walking in the damp, dreary evenings, more events to organise and several hundreds of miles still to walk. My thoughts are already turning to what I can do next year but having walked for 1240 hours this year I should maybe just concentrate on catching up with the housework!”

As of 20 December 2018, Debbie has raised £10,096.15.

If you would like to sponsor Debbie you can do so at

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