Back from The track

On February 28, 2013, in South Coast Track, by David R

Back from the wilds of Tassie with everyone safe and well. It was a very tough walk, probably more difficult than Kokoda due to the extra weight being carried. The weather was good to us and it was well worth the experience to see this remote and beautiful part of the country.  Pictures coming soon.


Training with benefits

On January 26, 2013, in South Coast Track, by David R

What a difference a day makes. Two days training for the South Coast Track   this Australia Day weekend and two completely different days of weather.

On Saturday I walked into Merewether beach just in time for a spectacular dawning of a typical hot summers day.

Sunrise on Merewether Beach








Perfect for a swim at Newcastle Ocean Baths on the way around the coast.  I finished the 15 klms round trip from home hot and tired at 9:30am.

Waking up to consistent rain today (Sunday) meant another experience altogether. It was still warm at the start but the sea breeze  and rain soon put a chill in the air. It was a later start, just before 6 am,  but I still had the esplanade to myself for the walk out to the end of the break-wall where I was joined by three joggers enjoying the morning, their chirpy conversation and fluorescent running gear cutting  through the grey summer rain. A beautiful, if wet, walking morning.

Break-wall at Nobbys looking seaward

Nobby’s Lighthouse from the break-wall looking towards Newcastle




We have all been back into our training regimes with varying success. The timing (over Christmas) has been a challenge for me however I am finally getting into the groove.

My main training activity is carrying a 20+kg pack over beach, hill and scrub with early morning starts being the go to beat the record heat waves that we have been experiencing here.

The South Coast Track has been a somewhat daunting presence on my “Bucket List” for some time and I am finding it difficult to really believe that I will be undertaking this iconic trip in just under a month.

There is plenty of motivation at the moment to make sure I not only survive the trip but am fit enough to really enjoy it. It is really good to be feeling fit….. again ( I have a history of committing to an endurance walks , getting fit, completing the trek and then  letting go of the fitness only to start the cycle all over again).

However I am feeling equally good about us  getting the message out that the simplest and most valuable thing that we can all do for  people living with an autism spectrum disorder (and anyone with a different ability for that matter)  is to give them some understanding. If we can alleviate just one painful experience through our informed  interaction we will have made a difference.

This week’s training walk was wet and cool!  A big change from the 40+ heat during the week.  Here are some pics of the day.

Happy trails.


View to the beach over the lagoon

Looking South to RedHead

Belmore beach looking North

Scroggin break

The beach all to myself just a couple of klms from the CBD


Back from Kokoda

On August 4, 2011, in Kokoda, by David R

Well I’m back from Kokoda and still absorbing this incredible, challenging and moving  experience. Thank you to everyone for your support and words of encouragement.


Update from Kokoda Trekkers

On July 27, 2011, in Kokoda, by Nathan

The Kokoda Trekking folk have updated their site with news from Dad’s walk. There is some great info and lots and lots of photos. You can follow the red link on the front page, or click here. Everyone is looking healthy and excited, though I am amused that Dad seems to manage to squeeze behind someone else in almost every group photograph! Below is a pic of all four Step  Up 4 Autism walkers, where Dad isn’t hiding.

The last post says the trekkers are all doing well and are on their way Agulogo. They are halfway today and I am very excited for them.

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And they’re off!

On July 23, 2011, in Kokoda, by Nathan

I dropped Dad off at the airport today. He was flying to Brisbane, and then on to Port Moresby. I got the impression he was filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation, which is totally understandable. Dad, John, Steve and Ian are about to embark on an amazing, difficult and important journey. I think I would be filled with excitement and trepidation too.

I will be updating this site while the guys are away. You can also keep an eye on what they are up to and where they are at by following the links on the front page. They will both go live on Monday when the trek officially starts. The first one (in red) will take you to the Kokoda Trekking site where the guides will be keeping us informed of their progress. The second link (in green) will let you follow the guys via GPS, thanks to a handy device that John will be carrying.

Finally, here are some snaps of dad as he was getting ready to leave today.

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In The News

On July 20, 2011, in Kokoda, by David R

I was interviewed by the Newcastle Herald last week and the article came out yesterday. The article briefly sums up the goal of the trip, and has a great photo of me taking a walk with one of my grandsons, Xander, through the bush. The article is available online here.

I will be on 2HD radio tomorrow morning, at about 7.20am.

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Big Steps and Big Deals

On July 18, 2011, in Kokoda, by Nathan


As Dad and the other three guys make the final preparations for their Kokoda walk I thought I would let you in on some progress of our own. Last Friday our 7 year old son, who has autism, had a friend come over to visit. What’s the big deal? Well, at 7 years old, it was the first time he has ever had a friend come over to play. Sure, he’s visited friends and met on “neutral ground”, but our house and his bedroom in particular have always been his safe places where he can have his much needed “alone time”. So, having a friend over was a big step. The visit had been planned for a couple of weeks, another boy with autism would come for a couple of hours with his mum (We all accompany our kids, it reduces anxiety, for both the kids and us!). Preparations began at the start of the week with a menu planned (Cupcakes! With sprinkles!), a bedroom was cleaned (If only we always had such a great motivator), and everything began to build into a bit of a frenzy by Thursday night. It is rare to see our son so excited.
At this point there was a fare bit of trepidation, at least on my part. What if he didn’t enjoy himself? What if he went to his room and ignored his friend? What if he had a meltdown? What if his friend, who also has autism, decided not to come? I think as parents we all worry for the happiness of our children, but as I mentally checked off the things that could go wrong I began to feel really quite frazzled.
In the end it was a beautiful day. The boys played together for hours – literally hours – without the need for prompting, directing or intervention from any parent figure. They ran around the house, explored the backyard, hid in the bedroom and dug for treasure in the garden. They played with our baby daughter, ate cake, talked (to each other and us), and came inside grumbling that no pirates had left any treasure chests around.
This may not sound like anything amazing to you, but for a boy who usually sits by himself or counts his fingers when other kids are around, it was a big deal. Every day we see him taking bigger, bolder steps. Doing stuff that other little boys do. I can’t wait to see what he can do by the time his Grandfather gets back from Kokoda.
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Likes Telephones, has ASD

On July 14, 2011, in Kokoda, by David R

I have re-posted this blog, first published by my son Nathan back in March, because it goes a long way to explain my motivation to drive greater awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorders.               David Russell


My son is seven years old, likes to play the piano, enjoys maths, does chores for pocket money and has autism. My nephew will turn ten this year, loves lego, plays with his pet dogs, has a cheeky smile and has Aspergers. Both boys play with their sisters, tease their sisters and help their sisters. My son hates to eat vegetables, always wants Maccas, and pulls out a pile of toys two minutes before we want him to go to bed. They are two of the happiest, friendliest, naughtiest and clever boys I have ever met. And they also have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

What is autism? Good question. Describing autism is something we have been struggling with lately, as our son is coming to an age where he begins to understand that he goes to a different kind of school than his sister. How do you tell a seven year old that he has, and always will have, trouble communicating with people, and that his intense interest in public telephones and Little Disney Library Books sets him apart from other kids? My son is a happy-go-lucky kid, when he isn’t terrified of thunderstorms or strangers, and he will deal with his differences the way he deals with everything – with a grin and a cheeky comment.

What makes me tight in the chest, as a Dad, is the lack of understanding from others. Many people hear the words “autism” or “Aspergers” and don’t really know what they mean. Sometimes it conjures up images of kids quietly rocking in the corner, or of Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rainman. They think of these things and then look at my son and tell me “He seems normal”, or “He’s not like those people”. That terrifies me, because when people don’t accept or realise that my son has a disability they look for other reasons for his unusual or “unacceptable” behaviour. They will not realise that asking my son to sit still, or speak to someone, or understand sarcasm is as impossible as asking a kid in a wheelchair to go up stairs. The fact my son is verbal, or appears happy, or has a sense of humour, does not change the fact he has an ASD.

As David, Steve, John and Ian prepare for and undertake their Kokoda walk, I hope that people become more aware of the many ways in which ASD’s can present, and the challenges that face people with an ASD and their families.

Nathan Russell  - 5th march 2011


Mt Donna Buang in July

On July 13, 2011, in Kokoda, by John

Spent the last 5 weekends walking up and down Mt Donna Buang which is 70 km’s east of Melbourne. It takes about  5 hrs for the round trip of 12Km. The hill’s are good for the legs and the aerobic fitness  but I dont think the snow will be similar to the tropical heat of Kokoda ! Most of the people you meet on the Donna Buang track are training for the same trek , Kokoda.  Count down is on….. John