A long ride to the top

November 6, 2011

The journey of a lifetime; one man, one horse and nothing but 5330 km of road ahead. A journey which Damien Byrne began some ten months ago when he decided to pack up his two horses and hit the road in an effort to raise money and awareness for The Royal Children’s Hospital.

The ride, which will take two years to complete, began January 17 from Merrijig in Victoria, trails along the Bicentennial National Trail to finallyend in Cooktown in far North Queensland.  Along his way, Damien has met many people, has travelled through varied terrain and climates, and has managed to raise $30,000 so far.

Passing through Bingara he has obtained the help of the Dixon/Miller family who have offered their homes and facilities for Damien, his horse and his wife Emma and daughter Macey. “I really appreciate all the help that Jan and Tony Miller and Stuart and Nicole have given my family and me” he said.

It was through word of mouth that Damien happened to hear of local rodeo man Stuart Dixon who was able to stable his horse while he was in Bingara but it was only by chance that his wife, Nicole Dixon would have something in common with Mr Byrne. At just 19 years of age, Nicole also completed a similar ride from Sydney to Perth in an effort to raise money for sick children, in 1994.

Three years ago Damien didn’t even know how to ride a horse. After working with well known horseman Charlie Lovick he soon learned all the horsemanship skills required for him to begin his journey.  Beginning with two horses, one a packhorse, Damien was unfortunately left with only one horse during an extended stay in Molong when the packhorse staked himself a few days before leaving.

When asked why he had decided to ride solo instead of with a group of people he told the Advocate,  “ I couldn’t find anyone mad enough to come with me.”

Following Damien on his journey since September are his wife Emma and daughter Macey who have supported him along the way. During the day he averages about 40 km and camps in a swag during the night. It is a slow ride but definitely worthwhile.

“It has been a very rewarding journey,” he said. “It’s amazing to meet all the people who help you a long the way. It gives a great sense of achievement.”

The heritage of Australia, a reminder of hard work and mateship inspired Damien to take the long road on horseback. It’s a long way to the top of Queensland but such a journey is worth the effort to help save the lives of  children with cancer.

To findout more about Damien’s  ride for children’s cancer or to donate money check out his website at: www.childrenscancerride.com.au