Over the last couple of days, 16 members of the Geocaching Melbourne community have formed 4 teams to each tackle the grueling 100 kilometer Oxfam Trailwalker to raise some much needed funds for the Oxfam charity. The Oxfam Trailwalker requires each walker to walk 100 kilometers, starting at Jells Park in suburban Melbourne, through the parklands, over Churchill National park, into Lysterfield Lake Park, then across through Bird Lands Reserve, up into the town of Upwey then into the Dandenong Ranges National Park, popping out at Mt Evelyn where it joins the Warburton Rail Trail for 26 kilometers before climbing up and along the aqueduct at the foot of Mt Donna Buang, it then wanders down to Warburton before tackling the nemesis that is Mount Little Joe, finally reaching the finish line in Wesburn. To say it is a grueling track is an understatement.
Team 1 consisted of Colin (unclecocopops), Michelle (part of Team Smokey Bear), Robin (robinyang) and Darren (Burge). Team 2 consisted of Paul (waferthin), Darragh (Annoying Tarbit), Lauren (Loz6032) and Nicky (Lost_and_found_79). Team 3 consisted of Karen (carkisser), Shaz (Ruverbug Jam), Donna (Jaktembo) and Tash (arielisme). Team 4 consisted of Day (day1976), Jenny (Jentrek1), Marc (BendSinister) and Ross (The Welder).
The Friday morning began brilliantly with perfect weather at the start as each team headed out on to the trail. The official support crews as well as many other extremely supportive members of the Geocaching Melbourne community met everyone at various different points along the way to help, encourage and cheer everybody on. Each team had set themselves a target goal time to complete the course ranging from 20 hours to 38 hours, so the four teams began to spread out through the day. They enjoyed the walk through the Dandenong Ranges National Park, but the final stint out to Mt Evelyn as the day began to turn to night began to test the teams and unfortunately Team 1, decimated by injuries had to pull out at around 4am on the Saturday morning at Mount Evelyn.
The crack of sunrise at 5:30am on the Saturday morning saw Team 4, exhausted from conquering Mount Little Joe, stumble down the final hill to cross the finish line in just over 23 hours with all members still walking. Later in the day at around 1:30pm, the incredible team 2 also conquered the daunting last mountain to come down the hill and finish the entire course in just over 30 hours, also with all four members still upright.
At around 4:30pm on the Saturday, the only remaining Geocaching Melbourne Team on the trail, team 3, walked into Woori Yallock, half way along the Warburton Trail. At this point they had done 70 of the 100 kilometers, but suddenly, the weather turned against them and a huge storm passed over which stopped all further movement for the next few hours. The team had to wait, huddled at Woori Yallock for the storm to pass before continuing on. At around 9pm, Geocaching Melbourne’s Team 3 lost its first member, Donna, who retired from the team. But the other three girls pushed on, boosted by an ever increasing support crew as they made their way to Millgrove where again they had to wait out another storm front.
Finally they made it to Dolly Grey Park, which is the last official rest stop before the finish line. The rain was pouring down, the wind was up and thunder and lightning was surrounding the area. Team 3 was now the last of over 600 starting teams left on the trail and unfortunately Karen had to make the heart-breaking decision to call it a day at the 93 kilometer mark. The other two surviving members, Shaz and Tash needed to leave in the storm so as to make the finish line before it is closed for good. They headed off, up backstairs track in the mud during the dead of the night to knock off the final section and arrived at the finish line at around 9am on Sunday morning, completing the entire course in less than 41 hours.
The achievements that all 16 of these wonderful geocachers have done can only be fully realized when you look beyond just this weekend. There were months and months of training out on the tracks. There were personal hardships that needed to be overcome. All just to even get to the starting line, let alone then to walk the 100 kilometers. Lifelong friendships were born during this process and people who before this had never even met, come to rely on each other for support through a very strenuous ordeal.
And then there were the support crews. At each stop along the trail, each team got to meet up with their wonderful support crews who lugged all the supplies that could ever be imagined to each location. Without a strong support crew, none of the previously mentioned achievements are even closely possible. All four teams were blessed with some amazing people who volunteered their time as support crews and the fact that many members of these support crews also helped out many other support crews along the way speaks volumes about what kind of people these guys are.
And finally of course there are those who donated. Geocaching Melbourne was proud to be a supporter of these four teams. Specially minted Geocoins for the upcoming Alexandra Event were sold with images of our mascot, Fern carrying hiking poles. All proceeds from the sale of these coins were donated to these teams as well as the huge amounts of moneys that all four teams raised by themselves both inside and outside of the local geocaching community. All up the teams managed to raise over eleven thousand dollars for the Oxfam charity.
The whole experience is a fantastic example of how strong and also kind the Geocaching Melbourne community is. That we have so many members who so willingly donate their time not just to train and walk this grueling course, but also to provide support or help raise money for such an awesome cause is a testament to the kind of people we are. Geocaching Melbourne would like to thank each and every one of you for making this Oxfam Trailwalker such a success. You guys rock!