Australian adventurer Lucy Barnard is resuming her attempt to become the first woman to walk from Argentina to Alaska

Lucy Barnard was in South America when the first whispers of a “bad flu” began to circulate.

It was early 2020, and like most people, she had no idea of its impending impact.

But within months, the Australian adventurer would be forced to make one of the hardest decisions of her life.

“I felt as though the world had just fallen from under my feet,” she recalls.

A woman and a dog sit on a concrete step in front of a shop.
Lucy heard about the pandemic while she was in South America. (Supplied: Danyal Taylor)

Lucy had been on a mission to walk her way into the record books.

She was hoping to become the first woman to hike from the southern tip of South America to the northern edge of Alaska — a journey of almost 30,000 kilometres.

After three years of slog, and 12 pairs of shoes, she’d covered a third of the distance, enduring blizzards and scorching deserts along the way.

And for almost every step of the journey — when she’d sometimes go days without seeing another human — a cattle dog called Wombat had been by her side.

“He’s playful and cheeky and always up to mischief,” she says.

A woman sits in a tent looking down at a cattle dog.
If successful, Lucy would become the first woman to hike from Argentina to Alaska. (Supplied: Danyal Taylor)

But when the crushing reality of the pandemic finally hit, Lucy was forced to contemplate not just putting a pause on her record-breaking mission.

If she wanted to return to the safety of Australia, she’d also have to part ways with her four-legged friend, who’d been with her since he was puppy in Chile.

“When it became apparent that I had to let all of that go, and that my companion, who I just adore, couldn’t come home with me, it was really heartbreaking,” she says.

Fortunately, Lucy was able to find someone willing to care for Wombat while she made the frantic trip home before international borders closed.

A woman with a backpack on raises her hand to a dog sitting on the ground.
Wombat stayed behind in South America, waiting for Lucy to return. (Supplied: Danyal Taylor)

“I remember thinking that it was only going to be for three months, and then it would be sorted.

“But of course, that wasn’t the reality.”

Epic journey set to resume with Wombat

Two-and-a-half years later, Lucy is “full of excitement”.

Late on Sunday, she’s set to fly out of Brisbane bound for South America, where she’ll resume her stalled journey and reunite with Wombat.

“Everyone always says that of course, he’ll remember me,” she says.

A woman and a dog sit in an orange tent amid a grassy, mountainous landscape.
Lucy and Wombat are set to finally reunite. (Supplied: Danyal Taylor)

“But I feel like if he remembers me, he might hold a grudge for a day or two as well and really put me through that punishment.”

Once the pair get settled, they’ll be travelling dozens of kilometres a day as they make their way north.

Within about a week, Lucy expects to crack the 10,000-kilometre milestone.

And several months later, when she and Wombat cross the Colombian border into Panama, she’ll have achieved another remarkable feat.

“I’ll become the first woman to have walked the length of South America.”

But Lucy is chasing a much bigger dream that began after reading a book called The Longest Walk.

It tells the story of George Meegan, the first man to walk the full length of the Americas.

“About four people attempt this expedition every year, but only a handful have ever completed it,” Lucy says.

“And of all of those people, none of them are women. So I just wanted to give it a go.”

A rocky, grass-covered mountain with a thin walking track along it.
Lucy and Wombat are set to face some tough terrain. (Supplied: Danyal Taylor)

Lucy anticipates it will take at least another two-and-half years for her complete the trip. Maybe three.

And she’s under no illusion about the challenges that await.

“I have not forgotten the realities of walking and knowing that one year, I only had 15 showers and only slept in three beds all year.

“So I think the reality of the expedition is that it can be quite dank and tiring.”

But despite the long and at-times lonely days, she knows there will also be enriching encounters along the way.

A woman can be seen walking into a vast, mountainous landscape
Lucy says she’s ready for the tough journey ahead. (Supplied: Danyal Taylor)

“Collecting world records is something that has always been on the periphery for me,” she says.

“What I am really passionate about is engaging with people and having these really warm experiences with communities, and then being able to share their stories.”


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