IT WAS one of the toughest Drovers Runs ever, according to organisers, but it didn’t stop the crew from bringing home the bacon.
From a freezing start in Tamworth, to outback South Australia, with vehicle breakdowns and underpants-thieving dingoes along the way, the run had it all.
After a gruelling 13-day trek, the 2017 Drovers Run drivers and support crew returned with more than $195,000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
“This is probably the toughest we’ve done,” organiser Jeff Galbraith told Fairfax Media.
“The toughest vehicle-wise, breakdown-wise, but it was certainly the biggest group we’ve taken.”
While the crux of the 4300 kilometre trip is raising funds keeping the rescue chopper serving those in need, free of charge, Mr Galbraith said there’s a great camaraderie built on the outback roads.
“You’re such a tight-knit group for two weeks you just build those relationships,” he said.
There were a number of moving experiences in the remote communities along the way, with a visit to the Wanaaring Public School out the back of Bourke.
“That was quite emotional, just the way the kids reacted to us and the performances they put on for us and the songs they sang,” Mr Galbriath said.
“At Louth … the school presented us with a quilt with hand-prints of all the kids names.”
The run went as far west as Lake Eyre, which was an eye-opening experience for the drivers.
“Even when we mapped it out last October, I had forgotten how beautiful it was,” Mr Galbraith said.
While it’s a fundraising adventure, the drivers are very keen to make sure they give back to the communities.
Musicians Emma Dykes and Matt O’Leary went along for the ride and were more than happy to share a tune or two.
“You’re trying to give them something back in return for what they’re doing to support,” Mr Galbriath said.
“The places out there … they very rarely see live entertainment.”
First-time drovers, Robert Chappel and Mick Bruyn, said the drive was “life-changing”, even though they came home with slightly lighter luggage.
“A dingo took my undies from the camp,” Mr Chappel said.
“Jeff’s our man, he made sure we stayed in line,” Mr Bruyn added. “I needed to be kept a fair bit more in line than others.”