Reaching the tip of Cape York Peninsula is challenging at the best of times but not even a diagnosis of a rare neurological condition was going to stop Cairns man Matt Follows ticking the destination off his bucket list.
Mr Follows, his partner Rebecca Deed, and some friends had spent a year planning their journey to the northernmost point of the Australian continent when he was diagnosed with corticobasal syndrome.
The condition, for which there is still no cure, has severely affected his ability to walk, talk and swallow.
“We sort of had to re-jig everything and think about how we were going to navigate the whole trip as well as the tip [of the Australian mainland],” Ms Deed said.
“To have the group of people with us that we had and to come up with such an amazing chariot-style arrangement to get him over the rocks to the tip was just comical, it was amazing; it was one of those things we’ll never forget.”
Corticobasal degeneration is a progressive disorder that causes the brain to lose nerve cells.
Those with the condition can be affected by wide a range of symptoms that can vary greatly.
Some therapies are available to manage symptoms but there are still few medications used in treatment.
Mr Follows and Ms Deed hoped their feat would help raise awareness of the condition.
Setbacks along the way
The convoy Mr Follows travelled in had an eventful journey to the tip.
One of the six vehicles broke down on the way and a member of the travelling party, Wal, had to be flown to Cairns Hospital after breaking a leg.
On arrival at the car park to the tip, Ms Deed and friends had to work out a way to carry Mr Follows to the final point — still about 1 kilometre away across a steep, rocky headland.
Fortuitously, two police officers who had patrolled the road from Bamaga pulled up at the same time and offered to lend some hands.
“It was one of those right time, right place moments and it was one of those things you can’t believe until you’re there,” Ms Deed said.
“We were a man down and a bit of extra muscles to carry him over those rocks was amazing.”
One of the police members, Cairns-based Senior Constable Dan Whitling, said he “almost felt guilty” about being able to share in Mr Follows’ remarkable journey.
“It’s etched in my memory forever and one of those stories I’ll take away from my time in the QPS I’ll just never forget,” he said.