The Melbourne leg of the Oxfam endurance nature walk raised over $2.3 million for people in poverty around the world this year, but has also made a lasting impact here at home.
The 100km Trailwalker, which took place over two days in April this year not only tested participants physically and mentally but reconnected participants with nature and each other.
Rob Mills, Australian entertainer and actor, who finished the 100km walk with his team in under 30 hours, explained the experience was rewarding for its ability to keep people grounded, himself included.
“There’s no alcohol involved obviously when you’re going for a long walk, so you’re having to just connect with people at their rawest form” he said.
“I highly recommend it for that reason.”
Mr Mills was especially grateful for the time he spent with friends and family disconnected from technology, which is an experience he described as “something lacking in modern society”.
The Melbourne leg of walk covers the outer east’s Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley National Parks, before finishing up at the Warburton Valley.
These areas of Melbourne are known for their natural beauty and are a tourist hot-spot, but walkers were warned not to get too comfortable as they headed into the non-relay event with their team.
The walk required participants to sleep and eat on the trail, but Parks Victoria assured the event had very little impact on the parks themselves.
Parks Victoria believes the event actually supports their vision to provide “healthy parks for healthy people”.
“The Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker encourages people to be active and to make a positive contribution to communities and the environment,” said Area Chief Ranger Matt Hoogland.
“There are over 3,000 walkers that participate and train in the parks in the months leading up to the event which means more people are exploring our parks and enjoying nature.”
Parks Victoria has supported the Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker since it started in 2003.
This year over 600 teams left the starting line on 7 April and 94 per cent successfully completed the trail in under 48 hours.
Over 600 volunteers also assisted over the event weekend.
Mills’ team Timber is Better completed the trail for the first time this year in under 30 hours and raised over $15,000, placing them in the top 10 Melbourne fundraisers.
Donations are still being accepted to help reach Oxfam’s collective goal of $2.5 million.
Fellow teammate Peter Bennett believes the teams support for one another was vital in making it to the finish line.
“We all went through highs and lows at various times. We were a very upbeat team. Singing songs and playing music passed the time away,” he said.
But he stressed the walk was not always fun.
“The stretch from midnight to 6am is the hardest mentally. It is dark, boring, you can’t see anything except what the head torch is focused on, oh yeah and the eyes of the cows staring at you in the dark paddocks,” he said.
“Mentally it was time to turn off, put music head phones in, eat every half hour and slog it out one foot after the other for hours.”
The Timber is Better team started behind a participant who was completing his 20th walk.
Their own team had varying views about whether they would participate again.
“If you asked me the day after I would of said no. But now I’m think yeah I’d like to do it in under 24 hours,” Mills said.
But Mr Bennett said although he enjoyed it he would not undertake the walk ever again.
Expressions of interest for the 2018 Melbourne walk are now open.