Many 18-year-olds who take a year off after finishing school may have started their newfound independence with a school week or partying with friends.
But Libby Wylie of Tea Garden in New South Wales had a different adventure in mind.
The teenager has just begun her dream of completing the Bicentennial National Trail on horseback.
Stretching from Cooktown in far north Queensland to Healesville in Victoria, the 5,330 kilometer trail was officially opened in 1988 as part of Australia’s Bicentenary.
Known as the BNT, the National Trail or simply the “Trail”, it follows the foothills and eastern slope of the Great Dividing Range. So far less than 60 people have completed the entire trail.
Libby, who began her journey just weeks after she turned 18 in April, was inspired by the romantic stories of her parents.
She said, “My mother was out on a trip to Ireland and she met Dad and he said he would like to go with her in search of him.”
Libby originally wanted to start the trail at age 16, but her father, Rob Wylie, suggested she wait until she was 18.
“Libby has spent the past two years saving up for it and this year after turning 18, we decided to give it a crack,” said Mr. Wylie.
The trail runs through some of the most remote and inaccessible parts of western Queensland and New South Wales.
Mr. Wylie has embarked on the journey with his daughter, and will later pass on to others.
“I’ll need to go back to work eventually, and when I’m not with her, Libby will be with friends for parts of the trip,” he said.
“I hope to be able to pass on some skills and help her along the way and hopefully I can join her at the end of the journey.”
While Libby is accompanied by other riders, she also has her own two riding horses and two pack horses.
“We do about 20km a day on horses, and we often get off and walk to rest the horses,” she said.
“I have always loved being on horses and going on adventures and being outside.
Gap Year at Horse’s Speed
Without mobile phones, TVs, social media or the Internet, Libby says one of the hardest parts of her journey is social isolation.
“Sometimes it’s been days before we see another human being, we get excited when we see a street or a house,” she said.
“It’s very different from what I’m used to seeing or chatting with people every day.
“Whereas now it’s about being free and finding your way without any technology.
“We’ve been lost several times over the past few weeks, but we eventually find our way.”
Mr Vayali said that the main attraction so far has been meeting the local people.
“I have always told Libby that the people of North Queensland are extraordinary, they have been so friendly and welcoming and helpful,” he said.
“We are constantly overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people, so many people want to stop us for a chat on the side of the road.
While the entire journey can take up to 18 months, Libby says there is no timetable, and she is happy to go at horse’s pace.
“We like to give the horses a good break, if they are in good spirits we will keep going,” she said.
“There are so many variables to keep the timetable, it’s all about the horses.”