SUE Hides from Sale, Gippsland, said she usually travels around the world to hike “from soft bed to soft bed.”
Speaking during a lunch break at Mt Richmond on Tuesday Ms Hides said she was delighted to have been able to find a “world class” supported walk a lot closer to home.
She is one of 12 people hiking the full 252km Great South West Walk over 14 days until tomorrow, assisted with a few creature comforts provided by Gordon Page and Peter Sharp from Friends of the Great South West Walk, who haul people’s personal luggage and food around in a vehicle from campsite to campsite and set up campfires and kettles for the weary and grateful travellers every day.
There are other extras thrown in too, such as a hot camp shower and bottomless cuppas, and Mr Sharp’s wife Sarah also assists by walking with the 12 every day, helping keep people on track and demystify some of the region’s secrets that hide from the untrained eye.
The three volunteers host the walk to share their passion for it with the wider community - and to also raise funds for the Friends of the Great South West Walk, who were formed to develop the now-famous trek and who continue to maintain large sections of it still.
Ms Hides said it had been reassuring for her to be able to explore Victoria more during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she was so appreciative of the volunteers’ work so she could do it.
Arriving at camp and waking up in the morning to find hot kettles boiling was “superb,” she said, and her inflatable bed with some down in it made the tent camping experience far more comfortable.
Bernadette Prunty from Fitzroy said she was so grateful to be out in a bigger landscape after getting to know all the parks within 5km of her city suburb intimately.
Three interstate walkers also joined the first supported walk back since the pandemic halted many annual fundraisers for community groups.
Two walkers from New South Wales and one from Queensland took on the challenge, and Jill Bickford from Port Douglas, Queensland, said the walk had been “an absolute gem” of a find for her.
Helga Mossop from near Canberra said they had discovered “masses of muntries” at the Swan Lake campsite and many more bush tucker treats during their anti-clockwise hike, which takes explorers through forests and ferny gullies before opening up alongside the Glenelg River, which is followed to Nelson.
People then hike mainly along the wild, open beaches of Discovery Bay for the next two to three days before plunging back into forest in the Mt Richmond then hugging clifftops to return along Capes Bridgewater, Nelson and Grant to Portland.
Donna Carroll was the only Portland guest this time – a turnaround after 10 locals joined the walk in February 2020 – and said she hadn’t done an overnight hike before taking on the supported walk.
She said she had had a niggling worry that she wouldn’t be fit enough, but had trained by hiking, doing some pilates and yoga at home and swimming at Nuns’ Beach, appreciating the opportunity to stretch out her legs in the salt water.
Two days of Discovery Bay beach hiking had been the toughest section of the walk to day 10, she said, but they were also her favourite.
“I don’t have blisters,” she added.
“We have had a few bits of (rain) showers during the walk but overall it’s been really good – this is a really good time of year to do it.”
With the capes walk coming up, Ms Carroll – also a photography buff - said she was looking forward to being able to see how her fellow walkers responded to parts of the walk that she loves.
“This has been - overall - really good.” A second supported walk for the group will leave Portland next month, however it is now booked out with a waiting list at the ready if any cancellations occur