It was amid a war zone in Iraq that Tristan Harris decided he wanted to raise money to support Australian families torn apart by the ravages of war.
The 27-year Australian Navy paramedic veteran is now walking across Australia to raise money for Legacy Australia, a charity that supports Australian families suffering after the injury or death of a family member during or after their defence force service.
“I have done three tours of Iraq and it was during the second tour while in Baghdad that I thought I’d do something, I just didn’t know what,” Mr Harris said.
“This was a novel way to do something for Legacy and have people donate to the cause.”
The Whyalla man passed through Cleve on Friday and will be spending two nights in Cleve to rest.
Mr Harris is three months into his walk, which he said he hoped to have finished by the end of October.
It started from HMAS Stirling in Perth and will end at HMAS Creswell south of Sydney, which Mr Harris said would mean “I’ll have a foot in the water in the west and a foot in the water in the east”.
Walking solo with only a trolley to carry his supplies, Mr Harris said he was covering about 35 kilometres a day when he started but blisters on his feet had reduced his walks to between 25kms and 30kms a day.
Up to his sixth pair of shoes, he said there had been challenges along the way.
“Resupply across the Nullarbor was tough, so I had to make sure I had everything I needed beforehand,” he said.
“Isolation can be difficult but it depends on where I camp for the night.”
He said it was the people along the journey, whether when camping or passing through a town, that had been the highlight of the trek.
“The help and the wishes I’ve got from grey nomads to backpackers to local businesses has been great – they have been willing to help anyway they can.”
Another highlight was the sight of the Great Australian Bight, which Mr Harris said was “stunning”.
“Because I am walking I saw it for a long longer and was able to appreciate it, I walked along the Bight for three or four days.”
However, the Cleve weather has made his life a bit difficult.
“It was pretty bad last night (Thursday) with the wind and the rain,” Mr Harris said.
After making his way through Cleve and Cowell, his walk will see him walk to Whyalla and Port Augusta.
The walk has raised $5825 so far.
Donations towards the cause can be made at www.walkacrossoz.com/how-to-donate—help.html.
For more information visit the Walk Across Oz Facebook page.