Lonely Planet Writer

First woman to walk unsupported around Australia nears journey's end

In May this year solo walker Terra Roam will complete her long lap around Australia by striding into the port city of Newcastle. It’s a journey of 20,000km unaccompanied walking through vast uninhabited spaces that Roam will by walking into the town she was born in.

Australian solo walker nears end of epic journey
Terra Roam nears the end of her 20,000km Australian odyssey. Photo by: Terra Roam

The walk began in 2010 when Roam, having survived mental illness and suicide attempts, decided to walk her own path across Australia’s outback deserts and through small towns and big cities. Even for a seasoned traveller (Roam has travelled extensively in Morocco and India), it’s been a long and challenging journey. “Psychologically and physically, walking through the Australian outback for months alone has tested me more than anything before or since,” Roam says. “There is a difference between being alone in solitude and lonely in isolation but it gets blurred when you’re exhausted and missing friends and family.”

Without a backup team, solitude has been challenging for Roam. Travelling with a custom-made barrow in front of her means Roam has had to manage her diet and fluid intake just to survive. When heading out of a town that barrow weighs as much as 115kgs, most of which is water, leaving little room for any luxuries.

Australian woman on her epic journey
Terra Roam on the road with her barrow. Photo by: Mats Arden

“I drink up to 10 litres a day plus electrolytes in temperatures nearing 40°C and humidity when I’m walking. There is no spare water for washing, not even rinsing my teeth after brushing,” says Roam. While she rations her supplies carefully, any miscalculation could have fatal consequences.

With just 500km left to walk, Roam reckons the walk has given her a different perspective on Australia. “Walking has given me a full sensory experience of every landscape I pass through. It offers me an intimate knowledge of my country and deeper understanding of the people who choose to live in some of the world’s harshest environments.”

Terra Roam nearing the end of her round Australia trip
Terra’s specially adapted barrow on the wide open road. Photo by: Terra Roam

Inspired by Robyn Davidson (author of the memoir Tracks that follows her camel journey across Australia), Roam has been writing about her experiences on her blog Terra Roams. Rather than putting her feet up at the end of the walk in Newcastle, Roam is already planning to cycle around Australia. “I’ll do it in the opposite direction so I can see everything that was behind me on the first lap and take a few detours and side trips which caught my attention,” Roam laughs.

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By George Dunford