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The Great Ocean Road Trek is a tough challenge, both physically and mentally: a five-day, 100km walk along Victoria's rugged coastline.

 

For 70-year-old Eril McNamara from Brisbane (back row, fourth from right) and 58-year-old Pauline Barham from Mackay (front row, second from right), living with diabetes made the challenge even tougher.

 

The Diabetes Queensland Members were two of the seven people living with diabetes who took on the Great Ocean Road Trek in October.

 

Celebrating its fourth year, the trek covered 100km from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, and the 19 supporters who walked it raised over $43,000 for diabetes.

 

Pauline was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1968, while Eril received her type 2 diagnosis two years ago.

 

"My type 2 diabetes was stress induced," says Eril.

 

"I tended to swing from very high to very low, very fast, but I'm now on Metformin and doing much better."

 

The Great Ocean Road Trek's terrain varies greatly from day to day, with rainforests, beaches, creeks, bush, boardwalks and steps all included.

 

Spectacular views and native wildlife are just some of the highlights. But it's a tough walk; the days are around 20km each, with plenty of valleys and hills to conquer.

 

This challenge becomes even greater when living with diabetes.

 

"The main challenge for me was not having enough water.

 

"I didn't bring water purification tablets and they were required whenever there was a tank. As a diabetic, I get very thirsty. I took three litres every day, but needed more, as it was pretty hot," says Eril.

 

"I took my Metformin as usual and carried glucose tabs for when I was feeling fatigued, plus Hydralyte helped any electrolyte depletion.

 

"I often sucked on a glucose tab at the bottom of a big hill just before the ascent. 

 

"My biggest drop in blood sugar was actually the last morning when we had late breakfast. As soon as the shakes started, I swallowed about three spoons of honey, as I had dropped below three."

 

Pauline wore a pump and tested her levels before breakfast and again before the walk started.

 

"I set the temporary basal on the pump for two-hour intervals and checked each time we had a break. 

 

"I had jelly beans, which I could suck on easily while hiking, but sometimes I had to stop and rest to let them work. I also had apple juice at my disposal," says Pauline.

 

"I found that our co-walkers were mostly very experienced with diabetes, as they were either diabetic themselves or have family members who are, so they were sensitive to signs, and were supportive," adds Eril.

 

While it was a big physical and mental challenge for participants, the trek was made easier with airport transfers, bus shuttles, accommodation and catering included.

 

"Highlights for me were definitely getting so close to koalas, beautiful vistas and seeing all the wildflowers; so abundant and varied, including lots of orchids," says Eril.

 

"I grew up in the area, so seeing the flowers of my childhood was a very nostalgic experience.

 

"The walk brought back recollections of picking a posy for the teacher on the way to school or for mum on the way home." 

 

"I loved it all," says Pauline.

 

"Yes, I was fatigued by the end of the day, but after a cuppa, shower, dinner, and a good night's sleep, I woke up every morning looking forward to the next challenge.

 

"The highlights for me were the views, and the company and friendships made along the way. A great bunch of people who have all had experience with diabetes in some way.

 

"Oh, and the koalas!"

 

So, what do Eril and Pauline say to other Queenslanders living with diabetes who are considering giving the trek a go in 2019?

 

"I would totally recommend doing this," says Pauline.

 

"I would say go for it, but make sure you train," adds Eril.

 

"You just have to get out there and do it!"

 

If you would like to experience the adventure of a lifetime, discount early bird registration is now open for next year's Great Ocean Road Trek, which will run from 17 to 23 October 2019.

 

Get in touch with our fundraising team by calling 1800 177 055 or email fundraising@diabetesqld.org.au for more information.

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