Having survived two run-ins with cancer and a high-speed rollover, solo traveller Sandra G, 70, has one piece of advice for wannabe travellers … don’t let anything stop you!
In 2003, with her children all grown up, Sandra (then 57) joined a nursing agency and loaded up her Hyundai Sprint to travel and work all over Australia. She had a high speed blowout on the Cobb Highway, drove through a huge red dust storm on the Stuart Highway, and explored Arnhem Land. She went to Kununurra, Broome, Geraldton, Perth and Margaret River, and life was good … until she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in November, 2004.
“I was devastated and vowed I would finish my trip,” she recalls. “And, after surgery, chemo and all the trimmings I went back to work.”
In November, 2006, Sandra bought a new Subaru Forester, looked up Kalgoorlie on the map, and was off again.
“It was because Kalgoorlie was so isolated that my adventures really started,” she said. “I brought my swag and tent and went off-road camping with the people I worked with.”
But then, more trouble.
“In March, whilst my co-worker was driving home from Perth she dozed off and we hit a pole, flipped off the road and slid on the roof across the desert,” said Sandra. “How we survived with only a few injuries and a few days in hospital, I’ll never know!”
Then it was Marble Bar, Karijini, the Gunbarrel Highway, Uluru, Alice Springs and Port Augusta. After a break for a few overseas trips, Sandra once again packed her tent and headed out to Coober Pedy, down the Oodnadatta Track and back up to Birdsville.
“I had to stay there until the roads opened to Boulia via 400 kilometres of mud road after the floods,” she said. “I didn’t drive as such, more like slipped and slided.”
By this time, Sandra had retired after 46 years of nursing and was in adventure mode. In 2012, she went to Cape York via central New South Wales and Queensland. In 2014, she took the dirt road to Innamincka and to Cameron’s Corner and Broken Hill. Then, in February, 2015 there was more heartache.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer and put all travel plans on hold and underwent surgery, chemo and radiation,” said Sandra. “I was almost too sick to care, and spent three months in hospital this time.”
But, in February this year, Sandra was back on the road. She has since travelled Tassie and is currently on her way to Bourke from where she will follow the Darling River down to Mildura and then the Murray to “somewhere”.
Next year, the Gibb River Road is top of her ‘to do’ list. She offers this advice for women keen to do similar trips:
“Research, plan, have your car in tip-top condition, carry lots of water and, if necessary, petrol and satellite phone, and two tyres and spare parts,” said Sandra. “I have met lots of women on their own following their dreams, so just go and enjoy … there is a whole new world out there!”