It’s clear that Blake Brotherson is used to thinking of the bigger picture. When we first asked him why he was going on the trek, before any of the Legatees had set foot on the legendary track, he told us “…to honour my dad… as a tribute to Australian solders… and as an opportunity to raise funds for an important cause.” And this wasn’t just lip service. At a fundraising event held before the trek at Lake Illawarra LAC, more than $18,000 was raised for NSW Police Legacy, and his personal GoFundraise page for the trek has raised nearly $1,000.
Aidan Grimes (from Our Spirit Adventures, who has taken our Legatees safely through the jungles for more than a decade now) talked to the group beforehand about ‘hitting the wall’ – that moment when you feel like you just can’t go on. Sleep deprivation, mental and physical exhaustion, the sheer relentless effort. Everyone hits their own wall in their own way, and has to figure out how to push through.
“But there’s always someone who’s done it tougher,” says Blake. “You think about the people who came before, the soldiers with their hugely heavy loads, carrying stretchers on top of that… You go on. I was doing it for myself, but I was doing it for a lot of others too.” Alone on the track, Blake found his thoughts returning to his father, gone now nearly 16 years, and drawing comfort from his presence. “It was really therapeutic and cathartic.”
“And it was really special to have Paul Bousfield on the trek,” he adds. “So great to have someone from Police Legacy along – to look out for us, but also just to be there with us.”
And what was it like finishing? “Absolutely phenomenal… words can’t really describe it.” I get the sense that even as we speak, Blake is reliving that last gruelling trek up the hill in the pre-dawn darkness. “By the time we got to the top the sun was rising… everyone was ecstatic.” To look at the pictures of the Legatees standing in the gates at the end of the track is to see a group that is muddy, exhausted, and full of a spirit that seems like it will never be extinguished. “Absolutely,” says Blake. “Lifelong friendships.” The group of Legatees, including those that came from the Northern Territory, is already planning to meet up for the Blue Ribbon Ball later in the year.
The day after finishing (after a much-welcomed night in a ‘real’ bed), the group rose early for the Anzac Day memorial service. “We got there pretty early, and the group was a bit restless,” says Blake. But then it started, and the atmosphere changed immediately. “You really felt it. Being that close to the battlefields.”
The spirit of determination, the spirit of self-sacrifice, the spirit of true friendship. It’s no wonder our Legatees responded so strongly. We salute them all.