Trekking Australia’s Last Frontier: One Woman’s 500-Mile Survivalist Adventure

Photograph by Sarah Marquis
Sarah Marquis recharges at her camp in Australia’s Kimberley; Photograph by Sarah Marquis

Sarah Marquis is drawn to solitude. That’s why she spent three years walking the estimated 10,000 miles from Siberia to Australia, and then across that continent’s big, empty backyard. And that’s why she’s on a four-month survivalist adventure in Australia’s Kimberley region she’s calling her “Dropped Into the Wild Corner” expedition. (Marquis was named a Nat Geo Adventurer of the Year for her solo walk from Siberia to Australia.)

Located Australia’s tropical northwestern corner, the Kimberley is the continent’s last frontier. It offers wild, rugged nature in one of the unfriendliest ecosystems on the planet. Home to saltwater crocodiles, dozens of venomous snakes (including the ominously named desert death adder), deep canyons, loose rocks, and unpredictable wildfires, Marquis says she will rely on all 23 years of her trekking experience in order to survive.

Photograph by Sarah Marquis
Sarah Marquis’s modest camp blends into the landscape in Australia’s Kimberly; Photograph by Sarah Marquis

“Here, there’s a zone where there are no humans. And there is no such thing on this planet, anymore,” Marquis explains by phone from a local ranch she’s using as a rest point at the midpoint of her journey. “And I wanted the connection with nature, the animals, and the wild. I wanted to be in a place where the animals hadn’t seen people.”

In a place that was chosen specifically for its lack of people, Marquis says that there is one surprising clue to nearby humans. “There are heaps of wild bulls,” she says with a laugh. The livestock escape from nearby ranches and go rogue in the bush.

Marquis describes her first encounter with one of the hooved deserters:

“I was walking through the tall, dry spear grasses. They’re taller than me, so I can’t see anything. It’s pure navigation, I use my compass and a map to go anywhere. Every once in a while, you have to stop to listen to see if anything is happening around you. And one day, I was walking and I heard something behind me. I stopped. And the sound stopped. When I arrived at a clearing, I waited under a tree and suddenly a big bull came out of the grasses. He was following me, really cautiously.”

She says that it’s easy to keep the peace with her bovine neighbors, which have a habit of emerging just feet away from her through the tall grasses: “Pretend you don’t see them.”

That’s not to say that Marquis isn’t careful of Australia’s more notorious wildlife. The Kimberley’s saltwater crocs are the world’s largest reptiles, and can reach up to 20 feet long and weigh over 3,000 pounds.

“I saw some crocodiles from the chopper. And then after two days, I threw my bucket into the water with my rope. But I couldn’t pull my bucket back to shore. I was fighting with a crocodile to get my bucket back. It’s really the only thing I need. That was a sign, this was going to be tough.”

Luckily, the bucket survived. “Yeah, it had a hole, but I fixed it,” Marquis explains simply.

An average day of bush walking starts 4:20 a.m., and continues for about 12 hours before she fishes and sets up her camp for the night. The walking is slow, partly due to unsure footing, and because Marquis constantly has her eyes peeled for a snack. Her go-to “bush tucker” meals include crickets (“They’re big, like a finger!”), lily bulbs, wild passionfruit, and pretty much anything else that looks edible, which sometimes has negative consequences.

“I saw this lovely orange tree – well, it looked like a mini orange tree. It had these little, really bitter fruit. And I tasted a few of them and I liked it. So one day, I was starving and I saw a few of those trees, so I had been snacking on them. I guess I had too many of those fruit, and suddenly I had really blurry vision. It got better once I stopped eating them.”

Because of a prolonged drought in the middle of the dry season, the wild tomatoes and yams that Marquis had counted on to be the staples of her diet aren’t available, so she ended up bringing 100 grams of flour for every day she’s on expedition. She forages for the rest of her food. After the first month of her adventure, Marquis has dropped 22 pounds from her 5 foot 9 inch frame.

Marquis has put about 250 miles behind her and plans to walk another 250 miles before her journey ends in Western Australia’s Purnululu National Park.

Comments

  1. Gregory Casey
    Allihies, Beara, Cork, Ireland
    July 17, 2015, 7:49 am

    Good on ya Sarah and may I wish you the best of luck on this adventure. You are doing something the likes of which so many of us dream of doing but, for some reason or other, never quite get to do. Enjoy this and return home safely.

  2. Keith labeau
    Detroit michigan USA
    July 17, 2015, 9:50 pm

    Wow I wish I could something like this jobs get in the way hey be safe I hope your life is full of love and joy

  3. 司南
    family9199
    July 18, 2015, 12:14 am

    family9199

  4. Kenneth Mapami
    Lusaka, Zambia
    July 18, 2015, 1:59 am

    Sara that really is breathtaking but guess what am so proud of you its such adventures that help to improve the science of nature. Keep up the strong spirit and we pray for you every day for your safe return home. Keep it up.

  5. Sandrine
    Belgium
    July 18, 2015, 8:31 am

    Respect Sarah! Living in total communion with nature. You make us all dream, it is good to have people like you in this world. Be safe and keep going, we are with you.

  6. Ray L Dahl
    Brighton MI
    July 18, 2015, 7:47 pm

    Reminds me of Robyn Davidson and her book ‘Tracks’.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robyn_Davidson

  7. John Hancock
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    July 19, 2015, 4:22 pm

    Brilliant but seriously – crickets?! Get the lil buggers coming into my house the odd time but wouldn’t think to turn them into lunch! Take care…

  8. Derek Cullen
    Calgary, Canada
    July 19, 2015, 4:24 pm

    Very raw adventure by the sounds of it, best of luck 😉

  9. lbj
    guangzhou,china
    July 19, 2015, 10:21 pm

    what you are doing is so great and courageous,individuals,especially biologists can learn lots of wildlife information from your expidition

  10. Ashok Manvati
    India
    July 20, 2015, 6:53 am

    Praying and wishing Best of adventure and a successful voyage.

  11. John Jones
    Australia
    July 20, 2015, 9:52 pm

    It’s called going walkabout

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkabout

    It’s been happening for some time…

    Regards

    John Jones

  12. Jessica Brandl
    Kingston, New York, U.S.A.
    July 21, 2015, 10:23 pm

    It would be amazing to meet a woman adventurer such as your self. I am very happy to read of your trek and only wish that there were more women with the confidence to do so. You inspire me. Good luck!

  13. ghazi kassem
    nigeria
    July 24, 2015, 5:43 am

    dear sarah
    you have just proved that with intention and persistence
    one can do the impossibles
    we have many heroes but we have only one sarah
    wishing you all the best and safe trip

  14. suryapal
    India
    July 28, 2015, 10:42 am

    Great Work, appreciate your adventurism. All the best for future endeavor.

  15. […] caught up with her shortly after she completed a three-month walk through the wilds of Australia, surviving on crickets (an exception to her vegetarian rule), lily bulbs, and wild passionfruit. […]

  16. Mount Rinjani Trekking Company
    Sembalun East Lombok Indonesia
    June 17, 2016, 10:31 am

    Great article