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Jesse and Don: heading into an empty land
18 August 1998 - Kalgoorlie, Australia
Journey runners Jesse Dale Riley and Don Winkley headed into the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia today, more than 600 kilometres into their trans-Australian trek, which began at Perth on August 8. "Things have gone reall well," Riley said in a phone call from the road. "Not too much has been happening so far. We've had good luck, the people are really nice and we're off to a good start."
So far, the two Americans have averaged more than 60km a day with Riley's brother, John, accompanying them in a support vehicle. The distance is in line with their original plans but less than the 70-plus kilometres a day they decided aim for when they left Perth. As a result they now plan to run to Sydney, but not to add the extra loop of 1000 kilometres of so down to Melbourne. "We've decided the extra distance each day is more than we want to do," Riley said.
Technically, their run is a race, and Winkley holds a 10-minute lead after the first 10 days. Each day's run is recorded to the second. But in practice, they pretty much run together, loping easily through the miles in a country with far fewer people per square mile than they are used to -- and getting fewer with each passing day.
"Kalgoorlie is the last town before we head out along the railroad," Riley said. "There are no people in the middle of the country. Most of the railroad towns have been abandoned. It's 1300 kilometres to the next gas station."
At a camp ground during their first week they had the good fortune to meet a retired railroad engineer and his wife (John and Dulcie Ray at the Haven Camp Ground) who supplied them with detailed old railroad maps recording distances to the exact kilometre all along the route. The information will help them locate water en route. They have also made arrangements to have additional fuel dropped at an airstrip to supplement the 170 litres they are able to carry in their vehicle.
"The next three weeks will be pretty isolated, but we're looking forward to it," Riley says. "Don's doing great. And the weather has been generally good. We've had some misty rain and cloudy days, about 15C. Actually, we're ahead of the schedule we had set for Sydney. I'm enjoying it a lot."
Messages to Jesse and Don can be sent via this updated e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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