17 October 2022

Crossing the ACT on foot, in thongs, in a day? These ANU students didn't see why not

| James Coleman
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Man in front of ACT sign

Luke Adams and the team set off across the ACT. Photo: Luke Adams, Facebook.

“We’re always asked, ‘Why?’. There is no ‘why’.”

Last month, Luke Adams and three companions walked across the width of the ACT on foot, armed with a video camera, some crisps and a pair of ‘flip-flops’. Needless to say, he gets the ‘why?’ question a lot.

The 25-year-old arrived at the Australian National University (ANU) to study financial economics in February, as soon as the borders opened to allow him to leave his job as an English teacher in China. His journey began growing up in Manchester, England.

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And it seems all the stereotypes are true: despite a chill wind ripping through the campus, he’s comfortably wearing a pair of shorts.

“That’s what’s really nice about Canberra – having blue skies every day because where I’m from, it rains nearly every day,” he says.

“I was bored of life in the UK, so hopefully, Australia will be my future home.”

It was in the UK where Luke first came across the YouTube adventures of GeoWizard, a British vlogger famous for his videos of walking extraordinary distances in a straight line and – no matter what’s in the way – never deviating by more than 20 metres.

Man standing next to a pond

That could be snow on the ground and Luke Adams would still be wearing shorts. Photo: James Coleman.

“The week prior, I’d watched a video of him kicking a football across the width of England in 24 hours.”

Luke is also a budding photographer – with a reputation around campus – but he was getting bored of all the usual Canberra sights. His own GeoWizard attempt sounded promising.

Some searching on Google Maps later and he had concocted a similar route across the ACT. It measured 35 kilometres from Hall on the northwest border across Belconnen and the city to Queanbeyan.

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“It had to be a goal that could be done in a day, within daylight hours, if possible,” he says.

All he needed was people to come with him. He put the word out around the student block and for some reason or another, three others agreed to join – Dylan McHatton (19), Jasmina Xu (18) and Anneysha S (19).

At 7:10 am on the appointed day, they caught the bus to the National Dinosaur Museum and walked an hour to their starting point on the border, at the large stone ‘Australian Capital Territory’ sign along the Barton Highway.

It’s easy to say nothing could have prepared them for what followed, but also that they weren’t really prepared. With water, for instance.

“I know when I arrived at the bus stop in the morning, I was the only one with more than 500 millilitres of water in my bag,” Luke says.

In Dylan’s case, shoes other than thongs (or, as Luke calls them, ‘flip-flops’) would have helped too.

“I don’t know why he thought that would be an appropriate thing to wear over what is basically a marathon.”

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To be fair, Dylan had a spare pair. The others might have been better equipped in that area, but they still only had “a few bags of crisps” for sustenance. Needless to say, Luke says the group ended up pausing at a Subway joint, bakery and various other shops en route.

“So it wasn’t a hard-core race to the finish line.”

At the top of Black Mountain they realised the original seven-hour route was beyond optimistic and they were set for an 8 pm finish (at least).

“Morale really began to run out there, especially with the blisters on our feet, because none of us are hikers. As soon as we approached the ANU campus, I knew they were thinking, ‘Why don’t we just end it now?’ But no, we had to do this properly and see it through.”

People at the NSW border sign

Luke Adams and the team cross the finish line at the NSW border near Queanbeyan. Photo: Luke Adams, Facebook.

They finally arrived back at campus at 8:30 pm, after a brief wait in Queanbeyan. All up, the trek totalled 47 kilometres and took 12.5 hours.

“We did make a few mistakes which probably added a few kilometres onto it,” Luke admits.

“Surprisingly, I didn’t have any pain for about five days afterwards, either. I was beginning to think, ‘Wow, my body is amazing!’ Then I began dragging my legs around like a slug.”

It turns out all it took was some ‘hair of the dog’. The following Wednesday, Luke walked 51 kilometres from Mulligans Flat to Tharwa Drive.

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“It didn’t prove as popular and my original team didn’t join me. We still want to do another one, and I have a few more planned.”

As for the thongs, they also survived.

“It did make me laugh,” Luke says, “because going up Black Mountain, I could see the stones going in them and the pain on Dylan’s face. That’s what got me to the end, I think – laughing at the others’ suffering, maybe too much, unfortunately.”

He laughs again.

“None of us were friends to begin with, but they were a great bunch. And every time we see each other since, we still laugh about it.”

Visit Obscure Walking on YouTube to follow Luke Adam’s other ACT adventures.

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