FAMILY MAN: Bret Wilson with daughter Sam and grandkids Charni, Ashton, Saxon and Harper.
FAMILY MAN: Bret Wilson with daughter Sam and grandkids Charni, Ashton, Saxon and Harper.

Bret's on the trail of a big adventure

WHEN Bret Wilson from Coutts Crossing took a package at the end of a long career as a linesman he didn't want to have an average retirement. Still fit and strong he needed a physical challenge.

He had heard of the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT), a 5000km adventure along the Great Dividing Range from Healesville in Victoria to Cooktown in far north Queensland. Then a chance meeting with local BNT section coordinators Paul and Cherry Jones brought the idea into focus.

"What came next was a choice between bowing to the money god and finding another job I really didn't want or alternatively spending a bit of cash and grabbing a slice of adventure," Bret said. "And in the process having a lash at maybe helping some absolutely deserving people along the way."

Bret's plan was to raise awareness of the problems of returned servicemen through an organisation called "Soldier On". Bret's own son recently returned 'in one piece physically and emotionally' from a tour of Iraq, but many others don't.

A couple of dozen adventurers take on the BNT every year, on horseback, on mountain bikes, walking and some running. There have been camel trains, pack donkeys and mules - the idea is non-motorised transport only. It began as the National Horse Trail, mooted by stockmen's outfitter RM Williams and cohorts, then a Bicentennial grant in 1988 enabled it to be documented and mapped as long as it was for all forms of recreational use.

The BNT is run by a team of volunteers and a company board. It arranges camping permits on travelling stock reserves, provides guidebooks and maps for each of the 12 sections and contact details for support along the way.

"When I first touted the idea to my family I guess there was a fair amount of scepticism and trepidation," Bret said.

"However, I feel now they are extremely supportive and also have taken on board the fact I am fair dinkum and absolutely determined.

"To that end I have found it important to involve them and show I am not going on some kind of suicide mission. On the contrary, I am taking all measures to put critical emphasis on my personal safety and obviously that of my animals."

What came next was near 18 months of preparation and aquiring gear and horses.

"I am not the greatest horseman, bushman, navigator or camp setteruppera, however I am finding it really satisfying in becoming the best I can be," Bret said. Observers however have remarked on Bret's diligence, professionalism and attention to detail.

"One thing everyone told me was to expect the unexpected," Bret said, little realising what was to come. After trucking his horse team to Cooktown and flying up himself Bret was ready to begin his year-long adventure. Then the unexpected struck! Only one day later Bret was swaying delirious in the saddle. Locals called an ambulance and he ended up in Cairns hospital for two weeks with acute Q-fever.

Now back in Coutts recovering, Bret will fly back up to Cooktown, collect his agisted animals and start again. This time with Sue as a backup driver.

Now that's an adventurous retirement.

Bicentennial National Trail:

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