By ERWIN CHLANDA
People walking, riding, running and whatever across Australia invariably come through Alice Springs, and we get dozens of them a year, but John Olsen (pictured) is special.
Firstly he’s doing it diagonally, from Cape York to Cape Leeuwin.
Secondly, unlike most people for whom such a slog would be a once-in-a-lifetime venture, John has done it before: In 2004, north to south from Cape York to South West Cape, and in 2008, west to east from Steep Point to Byron Bay (and then home the 1,800 km to Geelong, also on foot – what else?).
During these walks he discovered people are very keen to give him money for some good cause. This, together with his service club’s link to the Australian Lions Children’s Mobility Foundation, is how the purpose for the current venture came about.
Most people would ask whether there is a cure for this, or a name – walkermania, maybe?
John turns the question on its head: He is raising money for the 100 to 150 sufferers of leukodystrophies, a group of some 50 to 60 forms of rare, progressive, metabolic, genetic diseases that fatally affect the brain, spinal cord and often the peripheral nerves.
Each type of leukodystrophy is caused by a specific gene abnormality that leads to abnormal development or destruction of the white matter of the brain.
John is a member of the Lions Club of Geelong Corio Bay which has taken the odyssey on as service project, says chairman Morris Pieper, who organises support and communications, from Geelong: John is on a true solo walk, picking up supplies and support as best he can, along the way.
Right now, having passed through The Alice, he’s due at The Rock on Sunday, where a small Lions Club is ready to look after him.
Club member Belinda MacPherson says she’s organising crowd support along the road to “clap him in,” followed by dinner.
She says John will probably stay for just a night, heading off at around 30 km a day, spending most nights comping by the roadside, on the second half of his remarkable adventure, planned to take five months all-up.
By ERWIN CHLANDA