The truth about type 1 and trekking the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road Trek


By Kathleen Cook

Diabetes Qld Great Ocean Road Trekker


The Great Ocean Road Trek is a tough challenge: a 100km walk over five days along Victoria's rugged coastline.


For 58-year-old Pauline Barham (far right) from Mackay and 32-year-old Nick Hannant (left) from Toowoomba, living with type 1 diabetes made the challenge even tougher.


Pauline and Nick were two of the four people living with type 1 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 $41,000 for diabetes.


Pauline was the first person to register for this year's challenge. She was inspired by the special milestone she shares with Diabetes Queensland.


"This year marks 50 years since my diagnosis and 50 years since Diabetes Queensland's inception. Doing a hike with Diabetes Queensland and with people who also live with diabetes was the sensible way for me to get started with hiking."


For Nick, signing up for the Great Ocean Road Trek was a way to show support for young people diagnosed with diabetes.


"I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just after my 29th birthday. Three years on, I am managing it well, but I cannot imagine how hard it would be for people diagnosed at a young age," says Nick.


"When I saw the trek advertised, I knew it was a good opportunity to raise money for a cause that affects me directly but can also assist younger people post-diagnosis."


The Great Ocean Road Trek covers 100km of Victoria's iconic coastline.


The terrain varies greatly from day to day, with walking tracks through the bush, in rainforests, along the beach, across creeks, on boardwalks and up steps.


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 type 1 diabetes.


"I think I ate more food over the five days than I ever have over the same period," says Nick.


"My sugar levels fluctuated a lot throughout the days. I spoke to my doctor prior to leaving for the trek and decided to use the Freestyle Libre to help monitor my levels.


"This allowed me to scan on the go without having to stop to finger prick. I found this beneficial, as I could stop and eat prior to having any lows."


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.


Nick admitted the walk was more challenging than he had anticipated.


"The varying terrain, steep inclines and declines, sand, water, rain and heat all made it difficult, but also made it more rewarding when you reached the finish line," he says. 


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


Trekkers ate breakfast at the award-winning Bimbi Park each morning and were then shuttled to the day's starting point.


They walked an average of 20km each day with snack breaks, photo opportunities and lunch.


Of an evening, the participants were shuttled back to Bimbi Park, where they enjoyed hot showers and a hearty dinner.


"The trek as a whole was amazing," says Nick.


"Having the opportunity to not only see one of the most picturesque parts of the world, but areas that you wouldn't see while driving was a highlight, as well as the people you meet on the trek.


"Everyone is participating for the same reason, all with a different story as to why they are there."


"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.


"Some days were tougher than expected, but the support of everyone on the trek was top notch. 


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


"Oh, and the koalas!"


While past participants have enjoyed the challenge, we have improved the Great Ocean Road Trek for next year so trekkers can expect an even better experience in 2019.


Some of the changes include:

  • One of our trek leaders will be a Health Professional from Diabetes NSW & ACT;
  • We have significantly shortened the distance covered on day three of the trek, allowing participants to enjoy a well-earned rest;
  • Participants will receive more information around each day's walk, including maps and detailed track notes;
  • We have updated the training guide to better prepare participants for the varied daily challenges on the trek.


So, what do Pauline and Nick say to other Queenslanders living with type 1 diabetes who are considering giving the trek a go in 2019?


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


"The trek is amazing; however, be aware of how challenging it is, make sure that you're fit enough, and pack the right gear," adds Nick.


"I would recommend it to anyone looking to challenge themselves, not just people with diabetes.


"Reaching the finish line after walking 100km is a great achievement and knowing you have raised money for a great cause makes it all worth 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 for more information.

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