A young man who has walked 4000 kilometres across Australia to support the cause of refugees entered Katoomba on Wednesday, November 24, as he neared his final destination of Bondi.
Ivor Houston, a 21-year-old from Warrimoo, has traversed the country to raise money for the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group Inc (BMRSG). Mr Houston has endured weather, isolation, disconcerting animal encounters and exhaustion across his trek. On a rainy Upper Mountains day he was welcomed at the council headquarters in Katoomba by members of BMRSG, supporters and deputy mayor Chris Van der Kley.
Mr Houston started his journey from Perth in May, and while his feet and limbs must be sore, the overwhelming feeling as he neared his journey's end was of gratitude.
"I've had overwhelming support for standing up for what I believe in," said Mr Houston, who endured a 1200-kilometre walk across the Nullarbor, sustained by just tinned beans and pasta. "It's been amazing how many people have backed me up, it's really humbling.
"I'm extremely grateful that I live in a country where I can walk 4000 kilometres across it and feel completely safe, and that there is a community behind me. If I ever needed help I was completely comfortable with pulling a car over. Out there in Central Australia people look after each other, and I'm extremely grateful for that."
Mr Houston's walk had to be put on hold for essentially the whole month of September due to the COVID lockdown in NSW, when he could not enter the state from South Australia (during this time he travelled to Queensland and sailed down the East Coast with his uncle).
The inspiration for the walk came from the experience of Mr Houston's family hosting a refugee family in their home, organised and supported by BMRSG. He purchased a baby pram - "a really good Swedish make" - which became the cart he pushed along his journey, containing food, camping equipment and other essentials.
"The pram became my life - that cart and its contents kept me alive and safe and warm."
In terms of the biggest challenges he faced, Mr Houston interestingly describes the experience of trekking across the Nullarbor as "claustrophobic" due to the horizons that surrounded him in all directions. And this presented certain mental challenges.
"It was frightening to keep looking at my feet and then the horizon, and see how slow I am going, and how far the horizon is - and it's all just flat. I just had to remind myself to just take another step."
Then there were the inevitable experiences with local fauna.
"One night I was woken by a pack of dingoes howling close to my camp - that was pretty frightening. And I had some experiences when I thought someone was in my camp, and it turned out to be an echidna. It took me a while to get back to sleep after the dingoes."
With his epic journey over, Mr Houston is now looking forward to staying in one place for a while after seven months on the road.
"But I do want to keep travelling. Anything is possible. I want to find my next dream, because I know I can achieve it."
To donate to Mr Houston's cause visit his GoFundMe page.