I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!

 

– Dorothea Mackellar 

THE TRIP: AUSTRALIA

 

In Australia, Ken was faced with a recurring setback.

 

After living on a dollar a day in Asia, life in Australia came as a shock.  He entered at Darwin and by the time he reached Sydney he was broke.

 

There was only one thing for it – back to work again. The first job he could get was as a doorman in the 'roughest pub in Sydney'.  A more suitable occupation came later as an office equipment salesman.

 

Sydney provided a home from home: a place to replenish energy and resources for the second half of the journey, which would eventually lead to Rio.  

 

Sydney also provided a base from where he could strike out for other targets.  It was at this time that he developed a passion for setting himself challenges.  

 

Although he hadn't ridden a bicycle since schooldays, he decided to do a trans-Australian cycle ride taking in the Nullarbor Plain.  His return to Sydney upon  completion of that trip can be seen here...

He also ran in a few fun runs, including the City To Surf from the centre of Sydney to Bondi beach and swam in the Great Lake Challenge.

 

After working for a period, he once again had enough money to travel.  

 

He met with Luis and Jose, two Uruguayans living in Sydney, and arranged to cycle with them through Central America.

 

He struck out for a whistle-stop tour of New Zealand and Fiji and then flew to Mexico City to meet with Luis and Jose to begin the first stage of the Latin American section of the trip.

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways And deep ways and high ways and low                   I'm at home and at ease on a track that I know not   And restless and lost on a road that I know

 

– Henry Lawson   

THE TRANS-AUSTRALIAN CROSSING

Australian outback signpost
Nullarbor road
Nullarbor signpost

(Left)Getting on the right track during the cycle ride.

(Centre)Ken lit out on a road that lead to the sky – all plains and distance, space and desolation.

(Right)At first he thought that the plain was dead. But then, at sunset, a mob of kangaroos sprang through the brush close by. The plain wasn't dead at all. It just lay dormant in the heat of the day.

 

As well as roos, he ended up seeing snakes, wombats, wild camels, lizards, and a wedge-tailed eagle glided majestically over his head.

 

Nullarbor pit-stop
Nullarbor winds

(Above)Not another puncture! With so much weight on the bicycle it was a regular occurrence.

(Above right)Some of the winds were phenomenal. Here he's experiencing difficulties pitching the tent in strong winds.

(Right)At the end of a long day's slog there's nothing like a cuppa. The fire is made, the billy-can filled with water. 

Nullarbor tea stop

SYDNEY

Sydney Great Lake Challenge 1976
Sydney Great Lake Challenge

(Above and above right)The Great Lake Challenge in Sydney which was a fun swim across the Narrabeen Lakes.

 

(Right)Just coming out of the water having completed the swim.

 

(Below centre)Running in the City To Surf.

 

(Below left)Portrait of a self-styled ambassador as seen through the eyes of a seven year old boy in New South Wales. To an imaginative youngster with a paintbrush, Ken's unusually clad figure provided an irresistible challenge. Dad helped a little with the flag. 

Portrait of a self-styled British Ambassador
The 1976 Sydney City To Surf
Great Lake Challenge in Sydney

AFTER LEAVING SYDNEY

Wizard of Christchurch blessing
'Sir' Ken Potter in Fiji

(Left)NEW ZEALAND. The Wizard of Christchurch, a nationally known figure in New Zealand, draws upon his magical powers to give Ken a wizard's blessing with a squeaky rubber mallet to protect him against any paranormal ills he may encounter during his projected journey in Latin America.

(Right)FIJI. Pictured with a Fijian dance troupe. Potter arrived on the island during a carnival and found it very friendly and pro-British. 

We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love...and then we return home.

– Australian Aboriginal Proverb