A hunger for the wild

Often starving and almost entirely alone, Sarah Marquis walks across the planet’s emptiest places

Text by Steve White  Photography by Krystle Wright

In 2015, a 43-year-old Swiss woman set out to walk unsupported across the Kimberley, a giant red blank in the northwestern corner of the Australian map. For most of the 800km journey, Sarah Marquis was entirely alone – save for the snakes and saltwater crocs that is. For the last week, she was joined by adventure photographer Krystle Wright, who shot the photos you see here.

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“This expedition was the realisation of a old dream,” Marquis says. “My question was: are we able today to survive like the Aboriginals of Australia survived for more than 60,000 years? I’ve lived with Aborigines and learnt many of their techniques over the years and I was always attracted by their way of life and their harmony with nature . . . I knew the only way to survive was to get to the point where nature was with me and not against me.”

The Kimberley wasn’t Marquis’ first epic hike and it was far from her longest. Starting in 2010, she walked unsupported from Siberia to Thailand, hitched a boat to Australia, then walked some more, a total of 16,000km (10,000 miles) that finished at a favourite isolated tree, far out in the parched Nullarbor. The story of that trip appears in her book, ‘Wild by Nature’.

Before that she had spent weeks alone in the world’s remotest corners: New Zealand, Canada, Patagonia, learning to read the land and how it could sustain her. Why? She says it’s about knowing our potential: “We are so powerful inside,” she says, “but we rarely get the chance to experience our incredible power.”

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Natural navigator

“You never get lost in nature if you know how to read it,” says Marquis, though she does carry a tracking system for emergencies.

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Shouldering the load

“Some days I was doing two miles a day. The terrain was so difficult and it was bush fire season so there was this pressure all the time,” says Marquis.

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Hunger bites

Asked what is the hardest thing about these trips, Marquis says: “Definitely being hungry all the time . . . to a point that you can feel the sides of your stomach sticking together.” She ate kapok flower for breakfast every morning, and her other staples were boab nuts, pandanus leaves and fish – when crocodiles didn’t steal her fish. Wright says of her week with Marquis: “I packed food to make sure I had enough energy to cover this properly for National Geographic. It was so hard to eat without feeling a little guilty particularly when I had nutella, as I am a chocolate addict.”

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