Northumberland couple’s amazing South American journey

ON Tuesday, husband and wife David and Katharine Lowrie will have been running for a month, pulling their camping gear and other belongings behind them in a two-wheeled recycled trailer.

Katharine and David Lowrie take an icy dip in Patagonia
Katharine and David Lowrie take an icy dip in Patagonia

ON Tuesday, husband and wife David and Katharine Lowrie will have been running for a month, pulling their camping gear and other belongings behind them in a two-wheeled recycled trailer.

There will be a lot more running to do over the next year.

For the couple, both 34, are pounding the entire 5,000-mile length of South America.

Both committed environmentalists, the aims of their unsupported run include highlighting the wildlife and plants on the journey and also the damage being caused by human expansion and activities.

This ranges from deforestation and soil erosion to over-fishing and human-driven climate change.

They also want to use their epic feat to interest and connect people worldwide, inspiring them to take environmental action.

Schools can link in to the couple’s odyssey via their Big Toe Classroom on their website www.5000mileproject.org

David, who was raised in Northumberland, and Katharine, from Devon, met at Sheffield University.

Their South American run is a huge and courageous challenge by any yardstick.

But then the Lowrie family have a track record when it comes to adventure.

David’s parents, Brian and Anne Lowrie, who live in Longframlington, Northumberland, took early retirement and spent five years sailing around the world in their 42ft boat.

Brian ran the family firm Lowrie Foods in Byker in Newcastle while Anne, a science teacher for 10 years, later worked as a countryside officer in the North East for the Countryside Agency.

David grew up at Heatherslaw on the Ford and Etal estate in Northumberland, going to Ford and then Swarland First Schools, then later Dr Tomlinson Middle School in Rothbury and King Edward VI School in Morpeth.

After graduation, he worked for eight years in London with management consultants Accenture. Ecologist Katharine was with the RSPB.

Shortly after marrying in 2008, they bought the Lista Light, a 50ft wooden former Norwegian fishing boat, built in 1939, and sailed it to the Caribbean.

There they spent two years carrying out the first complete seabird breeding census of the eastern Caribbean, publishing a book on their findings, and also undertaking considerable educational work.

Then they sailed to South America. via the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island.

In January, they were joined by Brian and Anne and together they sailed the boat 1,000 miles down the coast of Chile, encountering the dramatic scenery of Patagonia.

“The coast is a maze of channels and islands. It was amazing, a real wilderness,” says Anne.

After Brian and Anne returned to Northumberland, David and Katharine laid up their boat in a creek and started their great run from Cape Froward in Patagonian Chile, the southernmost part of mainland South America. They hope to raise funds for BirdLife International and Conservation Patagonia.

The route will take them through the Patagonian winter, Chile’s ancient tropical rainforest, the Andes, the Argentine pampas, the Amazon rainforests and the desert scrubland of Venezuela.

Anne says: “ We hope anyone who is interested will keep in touch with David and Kat to encourage them on their journey and join in with what will be a very special experience.

“It will be tremendously punishing for them. It is very cold where they are at the moment and there will be some pretty tough times ahead but if they feel their journey is having an effect and people are interested, it will give them encouragement and help them when things are difficult.”

Katharine says: “When we were surveying seabirds in the Caribbean from our old wooden boat, one subject filled our heads ... what sort of expedition could we create that would captivate people, fuel their interest in the incredible natural world of South America and the need to conserve it?

“We considered walking the continent but after a two-week solo unguided trek through the Amazon, barely achieving mileages of double figures a day, we realized this would involve multiple years, not one.

“Then there was running. We both love it, taking to the hills in the UK and pelting up and down them. It’s slow enough to allow you to stumble across wildlife but fast enough to cover decent distances.

“The run would be part of a larger project ... to raise awareness and money for South America’s imperilled ecosystems and connect people and their everyday actions to its survival.

“How will our bodies react to the excruciating pain? Will we help to conserve one iota of this magical continent?

“We are about to find out.”

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