Maree Stephenson will leave her Griffin home on May 1 on a 10 Desert Challenge - which could see her ride into the history books.
The 53-year-old plans to return in mid-September as the first woman to cycle 10,000kms on tracks across all 10 Australian deserts.
She will face some of this country’s harshest terrain, with no support team, temperatures down to minus 5 degrees and limited access to water and services on the way.
The driving force behind this 140-day adventure is to raise $10,000 for Beyond Blue, the mental health and wellbeing support organisation.
“Basically, out there I’m it,” said Maree, whose only companion will be Banjo, her “fat-wheeled bike” named after an Australian dinosaur.
“I thrive on edgy adventures in the natural world putting me outside my comfort zone.
“There is no better time to promote mental health. Living with COVID is a mental challenge for all of us to build resilience together.”
While the route is new, Maree is no strange to marathon rides having cycled around Australia and to Mongolia. It was on the former that the idea of a desert challenge began.
Maree went through part of the Great Sandy Desert: “I loved those parts of WA and realised you could do a bike ride across desert. Now is the time to do it.”
This adventure will start in Brisbane, taking the Adventure Way to Birdsville and then heading down to Maree in South Australia, up to Alice Springs and then the northern most point of Halls Creek in Western Australia (WA).
Maree then turns south to Leonora and east across the Great Victorian Desert finishing in Birdsville on September 17, to be met by her partner and their seven-year-old son.
Maree will send food parcels ahead to towns which have a postal service but said: “Water is the main thing. Physically, I don’t sweat much, but get dehydrated and next day is a horror.”
She will drink on the hour to ensure her fluid intake is sufficient and will have two-way communicators in case of emergencies.
“Landscape out there can be deceiving on the tracks,” Maree said, “orientation is crucial, very, very important. I really don’t want to get lost.”
Maree welcomes donations and sponsors to her fundraising target to help Beyond Blue’s 24/7 support services.
Toowoomba to Birdsville – via the Adventure Way 1650km
Birdsville to Marree – via the Birdsville Track 518km – traversing Sturt Stony and Strzelecki Deserts
Marree to Oodnadatta – via the Oodnadatta Track 613km – traversing Tirari and Pedirka Deserts
Oodnadatta to Alice Springs – via the Old Ghan Heritage Railway Trail 1050km
Alice Springs to Halls Creek – via the Tanami Track 1051km traversing the Tanami Desert
Halls Creek to Wiluna – via the Canning Stock Route 1764km traversing The Great Sandy and Little Sandy Deserts
Wiluna to Leonora – via the Goldfields Highway 299km
Leonora to Yulara – via The Great Central Road 1260km traversing The Great Victorian and Gibson Deserts
Yulara to Mt Dare – via the Red Centre Way 571km
Mt Dare to Birdsville – via K1 and Rig Road 709km traversing the Simpson Desert
Great Victoria Desert (348,750sq km)
Great Sandy Desert (267,250sq km)
Tanami Desert (184,500sq km)
Simpson Desert (176,500sq km)
Gibson Desert (156,000sq km)
Little Sandy Desert (111,500sq km)
Strzelecki Desert (80,250sq km)
Sturt Stony Desert (29,750sq km)
Tirari Desert (15,250sq km)
Pedirka Desert (1250sq km)
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