Bob Beer had plenty of media attention during his adventure-filled life, including a documentary called 'The Runner', which was produced when he became the first person to run across the Simpson Desert in 1980.
In a scene from the film, Bob is sitting with entrepreneur Dick Smith trying to convince him to invest money to fund two four-wheel-drive support vehicles for his feat. During the conversation, Mr Smith asks Bob why he wants to do it, and Bob replies, "that is the hardest question of all to answer - why do we do anything?".
This response gives you an idea of the character of this remarkable man who achieved many extraordinary things during his lifetime.
The film begins with Bob's voiceover and aerial footage of the Simpson Desert.
"The Simpson Desert is a huge desolate area where humans rarely tread," Bob begins.
"I looked at it and considered it would be possible for me to run across it. It was a challenge to see what it felt like to run over 1400 sandhills and over four or five hundred kilometres of country that nobody had ever run across before."
In the National Library of Australia, you will find a book of Bob Beer's biographical cuttings containing articles from Australian newspapers and journals. There is also a copy of his book 'The inland seaman: across Australia by kayak ', which he wrote following his remarkable solo journey across Australia from Port Alma to Murray Mouth.
Alongside all his many accomplishments, Bob was a man of great kindness and compassion, always lending a hand and helping anyone in need. He also had an inquisitive intelligence with a passion for practical mathematics and engineering.
Bob Beer was born in Walcha Cottage Hospital in 1942 and grew up on the property 'Fairlea', attending schools in Ingleba, Walcha and Armidale before beginning work as a scaffolder and rigger. He also boxed in Selby Moore's Boxing Tent and was known as The Beast and renowned for his entertaining style.
During the 70's, 80's and 90's he worked on prawn trawlers from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Torres Straits. He also lived and worked in East Timor for a while, went to New Zealand to cull deer, and did a stint at Newcastle Steelworks. Bob loved mountaineering and climbing up and down gorges and in 1970, while working in New Zealand, he climbed Mount Cook.
His major feats of endurance and ability included cycling for 32 days unassisted from Perth to Port Macquarie in 1977 averaging 145 kilometres per day; walking unassisted across Australia in 52 days in 1978; running 420 kilometres across the Simpson Desert in six days in 1980 when he would run for up to 10 hours drinking 10 litres of water and milk and sometimes cover a distance of 70 kilometres of sand per day; and engineering the ramp for Dick Smith's Flying Bus in 1983 when adventurer Hans Tholstrup drove a double decker bus over 13 motorcycles.
Between 1996 and 1997 Bob completed his solo kayaking trip across Australia in 146 days, travelling 4562 kilometres using 1,520,000 kayak strokes to cover 3898 kilometres and cycle-towed his vessel in between rivers. This was despite catching Ross River Fever during the trip. In 1999 Bob calculated and completed a cycling trip around Australia in figure of eight patterns travelling 18,350 kilometres to raise money for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
Bob was also one of the 11,000 people who got the chance to run with the torch during the course of the relay to light the flame for the 2000 Olympic Games.
In his later years Bob grew and sold prize winning garlic in the yard of his modest home in Walcha and was a regular raconteur at the local pub. He was the much loved brother and brother-in-law of John and Mimi, Douglas and Marnie and Mary and Bill Graham, and a much loved uncle and great uncle of his family.
Bob Beer died in Walcha Hospital aged 79 years on July 3, 2021.
I know that running across the desert like this is a useless thing to do; I'm going to put 8 or 9 thousand footprints across the desert, and the wind will wipe them out, and they'll be gone. All that will be left is a memory and perhaps a few words written about it. It's completely useless, but I want to do it - so there's a good reason.Bob Beer - 1980