You don’t need lots of money to have a great holiday and visit many interesting places, just ask Kev Cook.
The South Australian resident from a town called Morgan is kayaking 2500 kilometres along the Murray River as he raises awareness of Australia’s rural heartland.
The 2017 Mighty Murray River Kayak Trek is directly helping the Australian Horizons Foundation, a national charity with a focus on ensuring small towns are both socially and economically sustainable, with mental health high on its agenda.
Mr Cook, who says he is lucky enough not to have suffered from mental health personally, is passionate about helping those who do.
“We decided to raise awareness for mental health issues within remote towns and rural communities because farmer suicides are quite high,” he said.
“It’s about not going to Bali for a holiday and spending a thousand dollars, instead come to Corowa and spend a thousand dollars on a holiday.”
The three month trek started from Bringenbrong Bridge, in the upper reaches of the Murray on September 2 and is planned to finish at Goolwa more than 60 days later on November 3.
The Free Press caught up with Mr Cook when he arrived in Corowa on September 7.
“The headwind has been the biggest challenge so far, it knocks you about a lot because you sort of paddle in one spot sometimes,” he said.
Melbourne comedian ‘Flemo’ has come on board and is stopping at the towns along with the crew to host comedy nights at pubs and clubs along the journey.
Strong crowds featured at Howlong Golf Resort, Corowa Golf Club and Club Mulwala last week.
Mr Cook said the comedy nights were about having a laugh and getting residents to put aside any worries they might have.
Another highlight of the trek is transporting a message stick from the Wiradjuri nation, which will be on board the entire journey.
To help with the message stick journey, Wiradjuri men Peter White and Neil Harvey have joined the trek and will keep Mr Cook company most of the trip.
Mr White will collect the message stick at Goolwa where he will deliver it back to elders.
The trek is being run entirely by volunteers and funds are needed to support a documentary being filmed and the foundation’s work.
The documentary crew have filmed the beginning of the trek and will capture the towns of Wentworth and Morgan next month before filming the end of the journey on November 3.
Foundation board member and fundraising chairwoman Anita Donlon is co-ordinator for the trek and is inviting residents along the Murray to become involved, cheer Mr Cook and the crew along and help with fundraising.
“The documentary is about celebrating small town culture and letting people know, as Kev said, that instead of heading overseas, head inland and go to a small town and leave your bucks there and check out the history,” she said.
“Most people don’t understand what is in their own backyard.
“The charity we are supporting was started by farmers in the top end of Australia in a small town called Georgetown when they were experiencing the worst drought in decades and then they had the floods, the fires, live cattle export ban and banks closing in and everything just started to fall apart, not just there in Georgetown but everywhere across the country.
“A group of people came together and from 2009 until now it has progressed from a community group to a state-based charity, to a national charity and the beautiful part about our charity is that there are no wages, no cars, no nothing, everything is done by volunteers and that’s the beautiful part of what we do.”
Those wanting to make a donation to the cause can SMS the code word ‘Kev’ to 0437 371 371.
You will be sent a link to a secure page on GiveEasy.
For information and a blog on the trek visit the 2017 Murray River Kayak Trek Facebook page, or to make a donation or buy a raffle ticket visit donation.giveeasy.org/australian-horizons-foundation
All donations are 100 per cent tax deductible.
The documentary will be available to purchase and all money raised will go to the charity.