A Junortoun man with macular degeneration disease who trekked an iconic Australian trail has described his experience as “empowering” and “absolutely fabulous”.
Jeff Barber has returned home after making a six day trek along the Larapinta Trail, which runs along the spine of the West MacDonnel Ranges in the Northern Territory.
The 68-year-old who is affectionately known as Grumpy by his grandchildren was diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2004.
Macular degeneration typically caused loss of central vision while leaving peripheral vision intact. It could affect people’s ability to drive, recognise faces and activities that required detailed vision.
Over time Jeff’s field of vision had steadily shrunk so that he could perceive distant objects but could not see anything up close.
That did not stop him setting out on the trail with the help of “Grumpy’s girl-guides” – his three daughters Jenny Barber, Cathy Manderson and Siobhan Barber.
Jenny said the trip north was as much about renewing her father’s sense of self as spending time together and seeing the Northern Territory.
Her father had owned a bus company but had voluntarily given up driving and sold the business some years ago.
Jenny and her sisters organised the trip and said perhaps they had underestimated just how challenging some of the terrain would be.
Yet their father easily proved he was up to the task
“We flanked Dad pretty closely the first day but we soon realised he was more than capable so we backed off a bit,” she said.
Jeff said he encountered some of the stoniest ground he had ever come across but made good time.
“There was challenging terrain, going up hill and down dale. To prove I could do it was just a little bit empowering because over the years I’ve got used to not doing certain things,” Jeff said.
The group self-funded their trip but decided to raise money for Macular Disease Foundation Australia before they left.
“We were blown away by people’s generosity. The girls were only expecting a few hundred dollars,” Jeff said.
The group raised $5,509.
To make a donation visit the family’s fundraising page.