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HomeIssue 3Long walk in desert heat after roll-over: doubts arise

Long walk in desert heat after roll-over: doubts arise

A 47-year-old man appears to have walked nearly 70 kilometres in up to 38 degrees heat after rolling his car south of Kings Creek Station yesterday.

Police, which had been searching the area close to the accident scene, say the man today turned up at Ukaka, well to the east.

They say it is still unclear how the man, who left the scene of the accident at 9am yesterday, covered the distance.

He is being assessed at the Ukaka clinic, police say.

Two women, who had also been in the car, were taken to the Alice Springs hospital with minor injuries.

It is not yet known what – if any – injuries had been suffered by the man.

UPDATE 11am, January 28: Police have confirmed that the 47-year-old man walked the entire 69km back to the community of Ukaka.

“Understandably the man was dehydrated by the time he arrived,” says a police spokeswoman.

“Apparently during the walk, he was given some food and water by passing tourists who came across him late at night at the intersection of Luritja and the Ernest Giles Road, however the accomplishment of that distance in that kind of heat is nevertheless extraordinary.”

UPDATE 11.50am, January 28: Police are now saying they have yet to corroborate the man’s claims that he has walked all the 69 km distance, saying he is tight-lipped about his experience.


  1. Aborigines are noted for their extraordinary feats of walking long distances, at what we regard as remarkable speed.
    A medicine man’s powers are said to exceed this and to be more than physical.
    A P Elkin, Aboriginal Men of High Degree.

  2. @ Evelyne Roulette: Yes, but very few if any of the generation that could walk long distances remain.
    Sadly, the typical remote Aboriginal person is diabetic with heart problems at 30 and many have passed away before reaching 40.
    Those who make it past 50 are the old people on communities now.
    It is a lifestyle issue; there is no medical cure for sedentary living, a poor diet, alcohol consumption and smoking.
    Most 47 year olds couldn’t walk a couple of kms in 38 degrees heat so if the 47 year old man really did walk 70 kms it is a remarkable feat.

  3. Which brings to mind Ezekiel Malbunka’s famous mercy run on foot in 1922 from Hermannsburg to Alice to send a telegram from the Telegraph Station to get help for seriously ill missionary Strehlow. Then turned around and ran back. Beating men on horseback.
    When I first starting paying Aboriginal Training Allowances on remote communities in 1968, I was told stories about tribal men and women walking regularly from Areyonga to Docker River and back.
    Unerringly in a straight line. For a while I found it hard to believe. As a young city lad from down south. Amazing feats of endurance.

  4. In February 1984 I pranged my car on a disused road 30km west of Giles, just over the WA border; fortunately the only injury I received was to my pride.
    Unable to extricate my car and with no communications available, I faced the prospect of a long walk back to Giles to get help.
    I knew I had 15km to trudge to the junction of this track to the main road (now called Outback Way) before there was any prospect of flagging a passing vehicle for a lift – no worries, I thought, as the previous day I’d passed numerous vehicles on the road including helping out four that had run out of petrol!
    Given it was just past mid February there was no time to waste so commenced my walk in the middle of the night and reached the main road before sunrise.
    No vehicle came by so I ended up walking almost the whole distance to Giles – by this time about very late morning.
    Again fortunately, it was unusually mild for that time of year, the temperature was probably about 36C or so.
    I was 20 years old but had never previously walked anywhere close to that distance in one go so I was a bit knackered by the time I could see the Giles weather station in the distance.
    To save some time and effort I decided to cut straight across country through the scrub in a direct line towards Giles.
    I hadn’t gone far when I stepped out onto an unusually flat piece of ground devoid of vegetation which puzzled my frazzled mind until I heard the drone of an engine in the sky.
    It was a small plane turning to approach its landing run onto the airstrip in which I was standing fair in the middle.
    Simultaneously a vehicle arrived from Giles to greet the plane so I ended up getting a lift for about the last kilometre into the weather station.
    So that’s my experience of not quite four decades ago – it took me as an unprepared 20 year old about 10 to 11 hours to walk the distance of 30km along lonely stretches of road in the middle of the desert on a warm midsummer’s day.
    So if a middle-aged man has walked almost 70km in similar circumstances to get help – well, all I can say is that’s a pretty damned fine achievement.

  5. @ John Bell: Yes they were a skilful and resourceful mob back then.
    It’s a real waste and shame that no one is interested enough in learning those skills before they are gone forever.
    Unfortunately the new skill is wasting your lives, made worse by the fact that we are supporting it.


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