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"I would rather attempt something great and fail. Than to do nothing at all and succeed"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Here's to the Eagles in My Life!!

Hey All,

I know thank you's can get a little long winded at times but there is one more I need to make before I finish this chapter of my journey.

My entire family have been a powerhouse of support towards Sarah and I but I have to mention their involvement towards this outback challenge which is nothing short of amazing!!

Tiani for orchestrating the half way dinner.

Sonia for managing the media throughout this journey.

Loretta for her efforts in physically helping me.

Leza for designing my logo.

My brothers and their familes, for always being there.

Mum and Dad, for living up to their title – the best parents in the world.

My brother-in-law Joel for managing the trust account.

My beautiful wife Sarah and our two sons Braxton and Lawson who give me more than one reason to keep getting up each day.

My entire extended family whose support, e-mail, phone calls and help have undoubtedly given me a new lease on life.

But the biggest involvement that has made this whole experience the success that it is comes from my second eldest sister Lilly.

Lil has been involved in every aspect of this challenge since it began. She had single-handedly managed the website and the endless hours of e-mailing , phone calls, facebooking and blogging for the past six months is just absolutely overwhelming and I'm completely honoured to have a sister that can give so much, and want nothing in return.  I live by the expression – how does one saw like an eagle when he's surrounded by turkey's?Well Lil the proof is in the pudding. I know thank you is just thank you but when it's from the whole heart it carries extra value with it.

So thank you everybody and remember you've added light to some very dark days.
Keep in touch because this is only the start.
Cheers Rob Cook,

Friday, June 17, 2011

THE TANAMI DESERT CHALLENGE - 14th & 15th JUNE 2011 - DAY 23 & 24

Hey all,

So sorry that I haven't updated you all before now!  My welcome back home has been so amazing and overwhelming!!  I started the 14th (Day 24) at the Tanami Track/Stuart Highway turnoff.  We wanted to get in enough kilometres to see us to the Alice Springs Sign about 7km from the CBD. This was our starting point for our final day of the challenge.  It was a great starting point as it was accessible for anyone wanting to walk that last leg with us into town.
Braxton and Lawson at the start point of Day 24
Lawson, Sarah, Luke and Bracko - You were with me all the way!
Jim Geltch and Ashley Severin - Day 24

Our final leg was incredible!  I struggle to find words to describe how to thank all our supporters today and throughout the the entire journey.  Luke Bevan, Luke Cook (cousin), Jim Geltch (CEO of Nuffield Australia), Ashley Severin (former NT scholar and local cattleman) and myself set off at about 11am headed for The Alice.  The Alice Springs Police were our escorts into town.
Thank you to the Alice Springs Police for escorting us into town.

One the edge of town we met up with Sisters Tiani and Loretta along with Tanya Fogarty - who form the equine entertainment group Satin and Spurs they rode along behind us on their horses with the Australian and Northern Territory flags flying high - it was a fantastic feeling.
The Satin and Spurs girls - spectacular!
In procession we "walked" along the stuart highway into town to cars honking their horns and people yelling out their support, it was remarkable.
Coming into The Alice
Ashley, Jim and Luke Cook and Luke Bevan - not long now boys!
Thank you to all who have supported me along the way!
 Our next meeting point was at the base of Anzac Hill where we were joined by more supporters. The children from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic School created a guard of honour on either side of the road just before we reached the Todd Mall.  They were all holding signs and cheering, they then followed us into the Mall.
The OLSH kids welcome us to town
 We entered the mall to the sounds of bagpipes playing and were led in by the town crier announcing our arrival.  Neil Ross and his crew of volunteers from The Alice Springs Rotary Club of Stuart hosted a BBQ on the Flynn Church lawn.  They did an awesome job and there wasn't a hungry person to be seen.  Thank you so much Neil and Crew for all your hard work and the hours of time you put in to making our welcome back into town such a memorable one.Here we were met by family, friends, tourists, community members and the media.  We were officially welcomed to town by Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan.
Speech time - Luke, Myself and Alice Mayor Damien Ryan

 I have so many eople to thank, who have contributed to helping me to reach this goal, I cannot even begin to express the love and thanks in my heart to each and every one of you.

My Extraordinary Family - I Love You
Thank you to all our Sponsors
Luke and the OLSH Children
The OLSH children presenting me with a gift voucher - thank you guys!
 Once again to my mate and walking partner Luke - YOU ROCK!!!  This journey would not have been the same without you!
A fitting end to a fantastic 24 day journey!

Now as one journey finishes there is always another that begins and with the amazing support network of family and friends that I am fortunate to have, I can now continue on with another part of my life's journey and tackle the second part of my Nuffield Scholarship where later this year will see me travel yet again overseas to the USA and New Zealand.

Catch you soon,
Cheers Rob.
Delicious Sausage Sizzle

Monday, June 13, 2011

THE TANAMI DESERT CHALLENGE - 12th & 13th JUNE 2011 - DAY 21 & 22

Hey All,

Quick update tonight, got in 38km yesterday taking us to the 50km mark and then another 28km today getting us to the Stuart Highway turnoff.  As of tonight we have officially "Tackled the Tanami"!!!

Woooooo Hooooooo!

Will get in another 10 tomorrow and then have the afternoon off so that I am rested enough to catch you all at the finish line on Wednesday.  See you in the Mall and then at the Memo Club afterwards to watch the Mighty Maroons.

Go Queensland!

Cheers Rob
"The Stuart Hwy T/O - 22km to go"

Saturday, June 11, 2011

THE TANAMI DESERT CHALLENGE - 9th, 10th & 11th JUNE 2011 - DAY 18, 19 & 20

Hey all,

Absolutely freezing out here with the temps getting below.  Thursday saw the battery on my old clydesdale give up the ghost.  Pretty sure it froze over and wouldn't pick up charge.  So with Isaac heading into town and my old mate Crusty getting the battery out here we had a little relay going on where they met in the middle.  It was a race against the clock to do the change over as getting in the kilometres, so that I can get to town on the 15th is very important at this point.  It got so bitterly cold on the Thursday that it took every hour of that night until warmed up again.

"From Corrugation to Mud"
I made a little prediction before the rain that it was going to rain and Luke was so confident that we would miss it he made a little wager.  He said if it rained he would strip down to his jocks for a few kilometers.  Well on Thursday lets just say... it wasn't just the bet he lost!!!!
"Luke jogging to keep pace with my fast chair - his pace was a little brisker after he lost the bet..."
Lukes parents, Gaye and Peter made a surprise visit out here and have stayed out with us for the past 2 nights and then again tonight.  This amazing couple travelled the 3000 odd kilometres out to the Tanami from Miles in Queensland to cheer their son and I on as we complete the last leg of our challenge.  They must be so proud of Luke and the journey he has embarked on.
"Luke catches us with his Mum and Dad"
Lukes wife Melissa and their 4 boys; Bryton (7mths), Jai (4), Riley (5) and Tyler (8) also made the trip out here to spend the Thursday night and Friday  with us.  I am so grateful to this little family, they gave up having their Dad with them for near on a months worth of holidays so that I can have him on the trip with me.  When asked what she thinks of her husband and the mammoth effort he has put in she said "I am just so proud to have a husband who cares about his mates so much and his inner strength and fitness is amazing" and that is is pretty much it in a nutshell.  I am absolutely honored to have such a great mate.  
"Our boys have a great catchup"
Luke must have a little giggle to himself when he thinks of how it all came about.  In the beginning when we spoke about the walk, I told him it wasn't that far past Yuendumu, I would love to have known what was going through his mind after trecking the 430km before Yuendumu and when reaching that point still knowing that there were 300 odd kilometres to go.
"Another mile stone to tick off"
My sister Tian  and her kids came out to see me today as well as our sister-in-law Leza and her kids.  Cam and Leze are expecting their third baby and today was the due date so a fantastic effort to come and meet us on the road.
"Not long now Leze"
This morning it was minus 2 degrees.  Starting to get harder and harder to get going in the mornings.  The winds are so cold they feel like we are in a blizzard with painful, howling winds that makes your eyes water and ears ache.  I am feeling like a frozen snowman, and the only parts of my body showing are the tips of my nose and eyes.  Luke  looks like a snow bandit in his balaclava.
So good to see the Sun today after it was MIA for the last few days, even thought it was paired with icy cold winds.  I am missing the warmth of the sun on my back.
My ol' mate Birdy and Bones flew their gyros out to meet us and they will be spending the night with us tonight. Friends from Hamilton Downs and Narwietooma Station are meeting us for tea.
We broke the 100km mark today, which is having a major impact on our minds.  The reality that we are nearly at the finish line has hit us.  And even though at times we have cursed the corrugations, the rain, the cold weather and the wind.  We know that when we look back in year to come these challenges are what kept us fighting, we will know that we met them head on and didn't back down.
Less than a hundred to go...

Cheers Rob

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

THE TANAMI DESERT CHALLENGE - 6th, 7th & 8th JUNE 2011 - DAY 15, 16 & 17

Hello to all from a not so sunny Tanami!!

Day 15

The days are fairly ticking along, not long now until I get to Tilmouth Well, smooth sailing from there.  The road from Tilmouth to Alice Springs is all bitumen and all who have travelled the Tanami would understand the absolute feeling of delight once you hit this stretch of road and know that it is all bitumen from here on out.  We finished today and camped at Boundary Bore.
"Day 15"
Had the absolute pleasure of having Mum and Dad travelling with us ever since we left our halfway point.  If ever you are looking for a couple of inspirational people you just won't go past my parents.  They have been a part of my road to recovery from the very first day and I am privileged to be travelling another road with them.
"My Mum and Dad - Bill and Letty"
Another amazing person in my life, is my wife Sarah, she never left my side throughout my entire recovery. The day Sare and I got married, when I said 'I do', I mean't 'I do love you and I do marry you'.  When Sare said 'I do' she was really saying, 'I will do everything' and this has been more evident since my accident.  Most husbands when they upset their wives get sent to the dog house for a night, Sare parks me in a corner and turns my machine off... I am nowhere as cheeky to her now as I use to be!  And I have said it before and I will say it again.  Most people go through life praying for an angel.  I married mine 8 years ago. 
"Proudest man alive"
I have been asked what doing this trip means to me as a father and what I hope to give to my boys through this journey.  I want my boys to have a stable family life. When I talk about One Man, One Wheelchair, One Aim, the aim is  to get back to work.  Everything I am doing is to reach that goal.  Each day I work towards my aim - through study, technology and challenges.  When my boys are eighteen and they are asked what they think of their Dad, I want them to hold their heads up high and say, "even though our Dad had his ability to move taken from him, Dad got out there and worked!  Even now throughout this challenge, my oldest son Braxton says to me at the end of the day, "What are we doing tomorrow Dad?" I say "back on the road again mate" and he replies, "oh your going back to work Dad". 

"Braxton and Lawson playing cubby houses"

Day 16

We headed off from Boundary Bore ready for a big day, with plenty of road moving beneath our feet.  Mum and Dad have headed back home today and we are back to our regular crew!  Not before Dad had Sare work her magic on his aching back.   Hey wheres my massage??...
"Old fella, showing his age!"
"Luke, Bracko in the back, Sare, Law Law, Chase the Dog and Me"
Mannee and Isaac swapped out with Rette and Jake as my carers and support crew on the Friday, they will continue the trip with us into Alice Springs.  We thought we would introduce the them to the Tanami - as seen like never before.
"Manee and Isaac on the job!"
We finished the day off just over 40km from Tilmouth well and camped out with Gary and Tracey King and the rest of the Suffron roadworks crew.  Such a small world... ...we first met Gary and Tracey when they were working on the road near Suplejack about 14 years ago (I was about 16).  Gary and Tracey came up to the homestead one night for a BBQ - geeze we had a great night. Anyway, even though our paths haven't crossed again we have never forgotten them and to us they have remained friends.  So skip to 14 years later and Gary and Tracey came to the Halfway Beef n Beer and tell us that they are working on a 4km strip of bitumen about 40km Yuendumu side of Tilmouth and invite us to camp the night with them on our way through.  Well working parallel to this story I get a message through my website from a lady called Anne who is the wife of Rob Suffron, who owns the roadworks plant, also inviting us to call in on the crew and well it doesn't stop there, it turns out Annes', Mum and Dad are old friends of the Cook Family - well you just never know who you might meet on the Tanami!!!!

And as another day closes, the clouds roll in and it looks like Mother Nature has one more challenge for me, I am to do my last 40 or so kilometres on a wet Tanami Track.
"Boundary Bore"

Day 17

I have been invited to be the first set of wheels to cross the new section of bitumen on the Tanami, which we had intended to do today but not all plans are set in concrete, especially when mother nature is involved.  After a very wet night and morning we have put back our road opening plans and decided to continue on through to Tilmouth. 
Thank you Kingy, Trace, Anne and Rob for your hospitality and a great night.

Tilmouth Well Roadhouse is 195km north west of Alice Springs and located on the edge of Napperby Station.  It is the 17th pitstop on our race along the Tanami...

Have a great week everyone and I will catch you from the bitumen!!!  Goodbye to the gravel roads of the Tanami Track...

I am arriving in Alice Springs on the 15th of June about lunchtime.  The Alice Springs Rotary Club are putting on a welcome BBQ in the Alice Springs Mall.  Feel free to walk into town with us and we look forward to a catchup on the 15th.

Cheers Rob

Monday, June 6, 2011

THE TANAMI DESERT CHALLENGE - 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th JUNE 2011 - DAY 11, 12, 13 & 14 - 94km

Hey All, sorry for the break in blogs but here is a bit of a catch up.

Thursday - Day 11 - 36km
A typical day involves getting up in the morning and after completing my morning routine, Lorette and Jake have my chair charged and ready. Then we saddle up and hit the road. Luke and I keep each other going on the road, Sare keeps the food up to us and Rette and Jake as well as keeping us hydrated clear the way for us with the support vehicles.

"A Quick Cuppa, chair change and then back on the road"

Pretty eventful finish to the day today. We were poking along and the Sun was going down, just Luke and I and then the battery started to go flat on the chair, so we decided to pull up and wait for the road crew to play catchup, pretty damn cold too, Luke tried to get a fire going by rubbing 2 sticks together, got a bit of heat but not enough to catch the kindling.  Then out from the scrub came this mickey bull with its chest all puffed up blowing smoke (it was that cold). It was getting pretty close too and really putting the breeze up us. I've had my fair share of dealing with bulls but I usually leave the clowning up to my old mate Framey. I had a mental image of a rodeo arena with me being the barrel, don't know if all of you have been to a rodeo but things don't always end up so well for the barrel...  Anyway we tried to bluff our way out and Luke threw a rock at him , good shot too, hit him in the nose, not that it deterred him much. Well we though enoughs enough, we had better get the hell out of dodge and luckily the chair had just enough power, to start up and get further away. Unfortunately, our little friend seemed to be attracted to the little whirring sound coming from my chair and kept following us, was really worried at one point that it was going to have a go at us. And well the calvary arrived just in time and saved the day. I can't even show you a picture of him, will have to be the case of the one that got away, must say I wasn't really thinking about grabbing the camera in all the excitement though.

"Didn't get the Mickey Bull, but got this moth - Bugs are pretty big ot here in the Tanami"

Friday - Day 12 - 16km
After lunch we went into the Yuendumu and I had a talk with the school children. Funny little fellows. Had them totally baffled as to why we would want the tanami Track - I think they thought we were crazy.
We talked about agriculture and where food comes from and also about lifes challenges and how you can adapt to the changes people are faced with and how they can overcome them and still live a fullfilling life.
It is so amazing how supportive the tourists have been. We have had literally dozens of tourists, having heard of our challenge, who are pulling up for a caht and making donations. Thank you all very much for making the effort of pulling over, especially on this rough and corrugated road which as we all know the stopping and starting is the hardest - can shake your car apart.

Pulled up for the day around 30km away from the Vaughn Springs turnoff - midpoint for our halfway Dinner!! Mt Doreen/Vaughn Springs Station is about 330-340km from Alice Springs and Mat and Debbie Braitling have kindly donated an area where we can hold our Halfway Beef and Beer - Thank you Deb and Mat for all your hard work in prepping the site.

Saturday - Day 13 - 30km
Finished the day smack bam at our halfway mark, the turnoff to Vaughn Springs and our Halfway Beef and Beer Dinner.  Thank you again to my ol' mate Norma, who walked the entire 30km with us today. Hey Norma - your a legend!

The Dinner was fantastic and a great night was had by all. I have so many thankyou's!  Thank you to my niece Telia for singing one of the most heartfelt songs I have heard in a long, long time.

Thank you to Mat and Deb Braitling for hosting the night. A week before the site was a gravel pit and using rollers and graders they turned it into an ampitheatre.
Thank you Scotty Dann for coming out and and singing up a storm so that we could dance the night away.
The Auction was unbelievable and blew my mind. Thank you to Elders' Herbie, Scott and Brittney for doing the auctioneering. Thank to all who donated items and bidded on items, without you it wouldn't have been the success it was.

Thank you Brady and Luke for the horns - you guys rock!

Thank you Satin and Spurs - Tiani Loretta and Tania, for entertaining us and to Tian and her many helpers and sponsors who orchestrated the whole night and made it the success it was. Hey Tania and Simone the desserts rock!

Dad and Uncle Steve spent days making roast cookers out of forty-fours. Mum and Dad, Steve and Jude, thank you. 
Thank you to all who made it out for the night and all the efforts everyone put in to be there to celebrate with me.

We really should call the challenge - One Man - One Aim and a hell of a lot of Family and Friends...

Sunday - Day 14 - 12km
Pretty late in starting and after cleanup we walked out a few kms and called it a day.

I was talking to my sister today and she was telling how my Nephew Bohdi entered a vegetable sculpture in the local show over in Gin Gin. The Sculpture was of a bloke on a horse and he called it "Rob Cook, riding Thunder Pants the horse". it never ceases to amaze me what the innocent eyes of how my nephews and nieces see me. They still see me as the guy I was before my accident not as a guy in a wheelchair.
People often talk about the bright lights of the city. But we can tell you now, there aint no competing with the bright lights of the Tanami. Whether it be the shine of the coals and flames of our nightly fire, the sun rising and setting or the stars in the sky. Theres not a star int the Southern Hemisphere that we haven't enjoyed.
Ten more days to go and we will be rolling our way into the Red Centre. Luke and I are determined to be reaching Alice lunchtime, come hell or high water!

Good night to you all and where ever you are I hope you too are enjoying our awesome night skies.

Cheers Rob