Aussie mum cycling almost 1200km across Nullarbor Plain for a cure for childhood cancer

Aussie mum cycling almost 1200km across Nullarbor Plain for a cure for childhood cancer
  • PublishedApril 1, 2024

‘I am just your average mum.’

Mum-of-two Charissa Hanrahan can’t recall the last time she regularly churned the pedals on a push bike.

The occasional ride with her two daughters on a holiday perhaps, but this 43-year-old would never describe herself as a proficient cyclist.

Until now.

Atop a trusty bicycle, and wearing a pink high-vis vest, Charissa has set out on an ambitious 1186km ride across the remote Nullarbor Plain.

The cycle — from Ceduna in South Australia to Norseman in WA — is in the name of her best friend Sarah’s daughter, Lucy, who recently entered remission after battling childhood cancer.

“I am just your average mum,” Charissa tells 7Life, when speaking of her fund-raising venture, which she plans to complete within just two weeks.

“But it’s not about me, it’s about children with cancer.”

With a doll named ‘Tissy Face’ (belonging to one of her daughters) tied to the back of her bike, and proudly wearing a Children’s Cancer Institute shirt under her high-vis vest, Charissa set off on March 18.

As she cycles west, she is hoping to raise money towards finding a cure for childhood cancers, and she has already achieved $11,000.

According to the Children’s Cancer Institute, 86 children are diagnosed with cancer in Australia every month.

“When Sarah told me about Lucy it was just shocking,” Charissa says.

“What that family had to go through, what all parents have to go through (with a child with cancer) is just heartbreaking.

“Lucy is my driving force.”

Charissa with Lucy who is in remission from cancer.

The big ride started out as a joke.

When Charissa’s wife Mandy challenged her to cycle across the desert, Charissa accepted the dare — and promptly decided to make it a fund-raising exercise.

The trip became an all-in family effort, with Mandy and the couple’s daughters — Olive, eight, and Edie, three — upfront in a motor home, cheering Charissa on.


In the lead up to the venture, the family helped Charissa plan and train.

“It’s been quite a while since I have been on a bike,” she laughs.

“I don’t want to sound naive — I am well researched, I know what I am in for.

“But I am not a seasoned cyclist.”

As part of her preparation, Charissa did a “few laps” on her daughter’s push bike, went on countless hikes, took to a scooter and just generally kept her fitness up.

Her real focus was on ensuring she would be able to cross the terrain safely and with the right gear.

Having fitted out her electric bike with rotating beakers, flags and flashing lights, Charissa plans to pedal half the time and use the power of the bike for the rest.

The determined mum also spent many hours learning the finer details of how her bicycle works, including basic mechanical functions such as changing a tyre.

Mandy, Olive and Edie have supported Charissa in her venture across the Nullarbor.

Another part of her safety checklist was speaking with other travellers who have navigated the harsh conditions of the Nullarbor.

Chatting with multiple long-haul truck drivers, she was advised to be wary of anyone who tried to pull her over on the side of the road.

A friend recommended writing “Charity Cyclist” on the back of her family’s caravan.

And other welcome advice was to watch out for camels and large transport trucks, as well as to always wear sun and weather protective gear.

With a goal of riding 120km a day, when the night rolls in, Charissa is sleeping in the comfort of the motor home with her family.

Charissa plans on crossing the Nullarbor Plain in two weeks on her bicycle.

Mandy is carrying basic necessities such as food and water, and is on standby for any major issue her wife might run into.

As news of Charissa’s big ride has spread, people have begun generously donating, including one elderly man who went above and beyond.

“An 81-year-old man was dropping these moneyboxes off to roadhouses for people to donate to my cause,” Charissa says.

She is already blown away by the support of each community — and the cash donations that are filling the moneyboxes.

“The thing with cancer is, it’s not about ‘if’ it will impact you, it’s when,” she says.

In just the few days since she set off, Charissa has already encountered ‘killer’ March flies and battled severe weather conditions.

But — with about 32,700 rounds of her bike pedals a day — the remarkable woman hasn’t once stopped smiling.


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