They are not hikers. And they have never been to Australia before, let alone trekking there.
Yet beginning the first week of May, Gerrard Lin, 33, and his partner Ng JunWei, also 33, will be trekking 1,000km from Perth to Albany within 20 days. They fly out to Australia on 30 April.
Known as the Bibbulmun Track, this well-known hiking trail consists of 58 sections and marked at regular intervals with triangular pointers. Each section ends with either towns or purpose built campsites consisting of shelters, sleeping platforms, water tanks, picnic tables and tent clearings.
Massive odds are stacked against them
Said Gerrard, a freelance gym instructor, ”We have massive odds stacked against us. People whom we have spoken to, mainly hikers from Singapore, have told us that this expedition is crazy. A friend of mine, who is a famous ultra runner, says that we will be up to our necks in trouble without a paddle if we do not dial back our plan.”
Yet Gerrard himself is no stranger to crazy stunts that seem like insanity to everyone else. Nicknamed Ah Siao, he has done some rather insane stuff before, such as dragging a tyre during a 42.195km marathon distance, or running 31 marathons in 31 days.
Said Gerrard, “But this is the most ambitious project so far though – the main reason is because of our inexperience in hiking and our abilities to get help in Australia because we are totally unfamiliar with the community there.”
He added, “We are not professionals and this is our virgin trip which, on paper, will be laughable to more experienced hikers or those who have done something like this before. But we trust our ability to look at the risks and odds and we can and will play our cards well.”
Raising awareness for Bone Marrow Donor Programme
The upcoming 1,000km trek, as well as all of Gerrard’s earlier running projects, are all done to raise awareness and funds for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme, a cause which Gerrard feels very strongly and passionately about.
Said Gerrard, “This 1,000km journey signifies the amount of donors that we are targeting. We feel that this is neither too little nor too much. After all, it is very easy to sign up as a donor with the Bone Marrow Donor Programme too – all you need is a cheek swab.”
He continued, “But there are a lot of misconceptions amongst people as they fear that there is pain or surgery involved. Actually it’s nothing of the sort. And if you are one of the rare lucky few who is asked to donate bone marrow, the process takes about six hours of your time and is like donating blood.”
Their target of completing the distance in 20 days, according to Gerrard also symbolises the urgency that a patient will go through to finding a transplant. He added “Most people take about eight to 12 weeks to complete such a trek but to complete it in a short 20 days we will be travelling light and walking or running for 15 hours each day.”
Solo and self supported trek
To make things even tougher for themselves, Gerrard and JunWei will be doing their maiden 20-day trek solo and be self-supported.
Said Gerrard “compared to the difficulties that we will be facing on the trek, this is nothing compared to what leukaemia patients will face. And they do not have the luxury to only suffer for 20 days and then get back to their normal lives.”
He also pointed out that the odds of their completing the trek is much higher than the chances that bone marrow patients have to get a replacement.
Said Gerrard “There is a 1 in 20,000 chance of bone marrow patients not getting a match but our chances of not completing our journey is much lower than that, barring snakebites or injury woes that we may face along the way.”
He added “Still, the odds are massively against us, but we are not naive and stupid enough to go in blind. We recognise the risks and we are taking calculated risks. We are doing research and talking to people who have gone on this trek. And we will grind our way through this, just like how I ground my way through dragging a tyre during a marathon and running 31 marathons in 31 days.”
To train their bodies up for the trek, Gerrard and JunWei have been doing as much as they possibly can. Said Gerrard “There is no amount of training that can fully prepare us for this. Trekking from point to point across rocky forest, sand, swamps and hot temperatures in the day and facing the bitter cold at nights, as well as bushfires and venomous snakes, this all increases the difficulty level by more than 100 per cent, though we may be physically fit for the journey.”
He added “But we are doing what we can though. We go for 4hour runs with 10kg packs, climb 500 flights of stairs and once when we were lacking on time, we still went to the Kallang Practice Track to do a speed interval workout.”
And currently they feel that their fitness is slowly coming together, despite some initial challenges at first. Said Gerrard “Initially we had thought this trek would be quite doable for us, as people have completed the journey in eight weeks. But I think that we were too optimistic at the start – the more information we have found out about this journey, the more the gravity of our situation has started to sink in but we are still quietly confident that we will finish this journey.”
He added “Our training is going well and our bodies are as fit as ever. JunWei has never been an ultra runner so he cried during our first 30km run but over the months, his body has become accustomed to the training, thanks to his good genes. We are both ready physically as well as mentally.”
Gear and food needed
Besides training, Gerrard also recognises that gear is very important to get him and JunWei during this journey.
Said Gerrard “We will need tents, down jackets, light rain jackets, GPS systems and much more. We are runners and not hikers, so coming into a world like this is quite mind-blowing for us both, where your equipment will determine your chances of success and where weight actually matters even if it is just 500g. Even our shoes and food will have to be light otherwise that will weigh us down.”
He added “In short, the equipment that we need has to be good enough for us to stay warm at nights but light enough for us to hike comfortably in the daytime. We will also be using a cat food can as a cooking stove – as we will be out in the wild for several nights, with some towns being over 100km apart.”
Gerrard initially admitted that the duo had been initially looking at astronaut rations. He added “But this retails at $20 per pack for one portion, which is really expensive. So we have changed our focus and are now looking at infant milk powder as that is full of nutrition. We will also be getting instant noodles and instant mashed potatoes, which are preserved meaning it can keep, and can also be easily bought from the towns and carried.”
Added Gerrard “As well, we’ll also be buying food from the cafes and towns that we pass through in Australia – we heard that the food there is expensive though – with a coffee plus a bowl of wedges costing $15.”
The journey will be worth it
But despite all of the challenges, Gerrard feels that the journey that he and JunWei are undertaking is worth it, not for the recognition, but for the meaning behind what we are doing.”
Said Gerrard “With any suffer-fest, it is worth it at the end and when you look back, it makes it even more worthwhile – especially when we look at it as a charity endeavour to get people together. To make this statement it’s not just about the two of us doing the trek anymore. We are carrying hopes of blood disease patients and leukaemia sufferers on this journey as well as the support of friends who believe in us.”
To contribute to Gerrard and JunWei’s cause, click on the link: https://www.giving.sg/the-bone-marrow-donor-programme/trekkingtosavelives