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Esperance trekker fund raises for cancer research

ESPERANCE’S Jeff Buckman may be known to some as the town’s school bus driver, but to many around the world he is known as a keen trekker with an adventurous heart.

Esperance Express reporter Haley Baker finds out why he loves trekking the great outdoors.

WALKING hundreds of kilometres on minimal food and not showering for days all in the name of exploration is something Jeff Buckman excels at.

The 70-year-old Esperance man is a husband, father, grandfather and semi-retired local school bus driver.

Mr Buckman, originally from New South Wales, realised his love of the great outdoors after he moved to Esperance more than 50 years ago.

Having played football, squash and hockey for most of his young life, Mr Buckman decided to dust off his sneakers and resume physical activity when he turned 56.

“I felt like I needed to be doing something and walking just seemed to be the go,” he said.

“I’ve been walking trails now for the last 12 to 14 years.

Mr Buckman has trekked more than 10 walking trails across the globe and hopes to trek 10 more.

“I’ve been to Nepal four times in the last three years,” he said.

“I’ve been up to central Australia and walked the Larapinta Trail, which is 230 kilometres and is pretty hard going.

“It took me and four other locals two weeks to complete.

“Then five years later in 2009 I did it again with my brother.

“I’ve also walked the overland track in Tasmania, which took about a week.”

He said he never tired of trekking Nepal and encouraged other keen trekkers to experience it at least once in their lifetime.

“Trekking Nepal was something I had always wanted to do ever since I was a kid,” he said.

“I’ve been to Annapurna base camp; I’ve been up to the Everest base camp area a few times as well as a different base camp up a valley called Gokyo.

“On that trek I was going to go over to Everest Base Camp again but I had a bit of an accident on a really steep muddy slope and tore a few muscles.

“I only got as far as Gokyo, which is up about 5000 metres.

“As oxygen thins out, you just have to move slowly.”

More than six years ago, Mr Buckman underwent open heart surgery and although recovery was slow, he didn’t let it get in the way of his love of the outdoors.

“I had open heart surgery and two bypasses on June 3, 2009,” he said.

“I had an angina which is when you have tightness in your chest; it’s one of the symptoms of your arteries being blocked.

“I recovered well, so one year later I decided to help raise money for Chris Boland by walking from Thomas River to Esperance.”

After successfully raising a substantial amount of funds for the local soup kitchen, Mr Buckman walked from Poison Creek to Esperance in 2014 to raise money for the Heart Foundation.

More recently, he trekked 240 kilometres from Israelite Bay to Esperance to help raise money for the Cancer Council.

“Two years ago I walked from Poison Creek into Esperance, which is 165 kilometres, and raised more than $7000 for the Heart Foundation,” he said.

“At the beginning of this year I decided to raise funds for the Cancer Council as some people say cancer is the leading cause of death, while others say the heart is.

“I just thought I’d walk one year for the heart foundation, though initially that was because I had had a couple of bypasses, and another year for the Cancer Council.

“The trek [Israelite Bay to Esperance] was going to take 14 days, but as I had a couple of big days … it cut it down to 12.

“When I walked between Thistle Cove and Lucky Bay I just thought ‘God, this is good for your soul’.

“I encourage everyone to at least try to walk one trail in their life as it’s not only good for your health, but also your soul.”

So far Mr Buckman has raised more than $8000 for the Cancer Council, but hopes this figure increases over the next few weeks.

“If anyone would like to donate to my cause, drop into Heasman and Associates and mention you’d like to donate to my charity walk,” he said.

“I’d like to say a really big thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far.

Mr Buckman said he was planning a trek in Nepal in November with other Esperance trekkers.

“We are thinking about doing the Annapurna Circuit; it’s the one that goes around the back of Annapurna.

“The scenery is just spectacular; once you get above the tree line there’s no hindrance to what you see; there’s just spectacular mountains in front of you – it’s fantastic.”

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