IMAGINE this. You are a single 67-year-old female with two little dogs.
You take off on a year-long journey around Australia in a small van, camping most nights in the bush surrounded only by nature and wildlife and all the accompanying nocturnal noises.
Very few women (or men) would have the courage to embark on such a trip with just the company of two cross-bred Chiwawas. But Simone Lienert is no ordinary woman. She has spiritual beliefs so strong they eradicate any notions of fear or potential danger.
"I understand the big universe and what takes place for us as souls on this earth," she said. "I never had a moment's fear. I am very much attuned with our planet, with life and with (what happens) beyond life."
The Cairns-based adventurer was on the Sunshine Coast recently after a year on the road, on a trip that began in Geraldton in WA and will finish when she returns to Cairns later this month. She has already covered 27,679 kilometres.
Originally from Germany but raised in South Africa, Simone spent a number of years in Australia working in and near Alice Springs with Indigenous communities, all which held her in good stead to attempt such a long and lonely journey around our vast country.
"I had done a few smaller trips when I lived in Alice Springs, into the Kimberley around the desert area," she said. "I looked after my (ailing) mother for 11 years and when she passed I flew to Western Australian, bought a campervan (Mitsubishi Delica) and went on my journey."
Some minor adjustments to the campervan, meant Simone had a bed, minimal cooking facilities and two solar panels, but not much else.
"I never stayed on the road after dark and I never stayed in any one place for more than two nights," she said. "At about three every afternoon I started looking for a place to stop. I preferred to stay in the bush. I cooked every night, vegetables and rice or noodles and fish. The dogs were fed dried food and fresh meat and bones when we went through towns. I had three buckets of water, one for the kitchen, one for rinsing and one for my 'shower.' Toilets were never a problem. I had doggie bags for the dogs and myself. I never left a trace anywhere."
Simone did not have a GPS other than her phone and says she didn't need anything sophisticated technology in the Outback. Her adventure took her north in WA to Kununurra, inland over Marble Bar in the Pilbara to Karijini and then back to Geraldton before tackling the Nullarbor.
"The Nullarbor really is an adventure," she said. "You have miles of nothing, then these amazing cliffs. It's very beautiful."
Into South Australia and then up to Alice Springs and back down by Uluru and the Olgas and on to Coober Pedy Simone continued, always inspired and awed by the beauty of the country, never frightened.
"It was amazing," she said. "When it gets dark and the sun sets you hear the cooing of the owls and birds, it is so exciting. And the sunrises are beautiful."
The only small brush with danger came from emus near the Oodnadatta Track.
"The emus run next to the van, and then turn and attack the van," she said "I saw a lot of them dead on the road. But nothing else bothered me. You see wildlife and you slow down. You don't get out to take photos."
Although the last thing on Simone's mind was looking for love let alone companionship on her epic journey, it came to her in one of the lonely camp spots she had chosen for the night.
"We were in a free camp," she said. "My dog wandered over to a man to say hello, I went and stood in front of the man and a voice inside my head said 'that is your man'."
Her 'man' (Barry) met her later in the Adelaide Hills and again in Tasmania after Simone had travelled Victoria by herself and taken the van on the Spirit of Tasmania to spend a month on the island. Then he returned to his home.
"He was travelling alone," Simone said. "I was too. I did not set out to find a man like me, as crazy and courageous as I am, and I did not expect to find him in the desert."
After Tasmania Simone continued her journey alone with the dogs, up to NSW through Eden and Byron Bay and then to the Sunshine Coast where we met up with her. She will gradually make her way back to Cairns.
"I had actually planned to be away two years but it has been brought forward (by meeting Barry.) When I get back to Cairns I will travel with Barry for two years."
Advice from Simone to all seniors who may let nerves or fear hold them back from experiencing the wonders of our country: "Travelling, as we do, broadens the horizon and it is so exciting to meet and listen to other travellers on the road. I have made many friends - young and old, and all were open to sharing their stories. I can recommend true adventure for seniors using their savings to travel around our beautiful country. There is so much to see and learn in your own time. It is like a never-ending story."