Australian outback trek raises thousands for cancer charity

Gary Banford completes his 1,000km cycle across the Australian outback
Gary Banford completes his 1,000km cycle across the Australian outback
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A Scot has cycled 1000km across the Australian Outback in a kilt to raise money for charity after his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Gary Banford completed the solo, unsupported ride from Blinman to Adelaide in South Australia on his old bike ‘Bessy’ to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The 46-year-old, who is originally from Macduff in Aberdeenshire but is currently living in Australia, decided to take on the challenge after his dad Ted was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus, liver and bones.

“Nearly three years ago my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live,” he said. “After two separate bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as endless bone marrow injections, he is still with us.

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“During all this time my mum has also had to go through a lot on the mental and emotional fronts. Macmillan Cancer Support have helped them both with house visits and through other means.”

Gary is a member of the Royal Air Force and is currently on loan to the Royal Australian Air Force. He moved to Australia with his wife Selina, 45, and two children Ben, 11, and Lexie, 8, in December 2011.

He documented his 11-day ride on Facebook, describing everything from challenges with road conditions and weather to the people he met en-route.

His adventures include getting two burst tyres within the first 40km on terrain he had never tackled before, to wild camping in the woods during a thunderstorm and in fields miles from anywhere.

He also came face-to-face with everything from emus and kangaroos to lizards and big spiders, as well as enjoying a very rare sighting of a spotted quoll - Australia’s largest marsupial carnivore.

After completing the ride on May 6th Gary, a Weapon Systems Operator, said: “I feel exhilarated now that I’m done but had some serious reservations at some real low points during the ride.

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“However, if my mum and dad needed it or wished me to do it again, I would patch up old Bessy and do it again tomorrow, in reverse.

“Regardless of the cause and the money raised, I learned so much about myself and at times found peace in the loneliness albeit only for 11 days. But the days can get long even after that short period on your own.”

Gary’s mum Lorna, 70, said: “I think he’s very brave to have done this and raised so much money for Macmillan.

“The Macmillan nurse comes in once a month, just to see if Ted is OK and reassure him. He was pretty low after his last set of chemotherapy. It was absolutely horrendous. Speaking to his nurse helps him.”

“Both Ben and Lexie are very proud of their father for taking on this huge challenge and raising money,” said Selina, who is on a career break from her job as a police officer with Police Scotland. “We are returning back to Scotland for good in July and Gary has already got some plans for more fundraising adventures.”

Gary has raised over £3,700,00 for Macmillan via his Virgin money giving page, as well as collecting money along the route from well wishers and from a fundraising event at his gym.

You can read more about his adventures here: