Coastrek: A Journey Restoring Hope and Sight

Coastrek: A Journey Restoring Hope and Sight

‘Wild Women On Top’ adventurous CEO, Di Westaway, and Director, the super fit, wonder woman, Lisa Marshall, established Coastrek in 2010. They wanted to help more women become fit and see the magical places they train in each week with their groups of Wild Women.

Since then, they’ve seen eight incredibly successful events, each bigger and better than the last and raised nearly $13 million for The Fred Hollows Foundation. ‘Wild Women On Top’ (WWOT) chose The Fred Hollows Foundation because blindness is a gender issue and so is adventure health.

Sixty percent of the world’s blind are women. Women are over-represented in blindness because of poverty and under-represented in adventure because of culture. We want to increase the number of sighted women and increase the number of healthy women.

 In the developing world, when there’s not enough education or medication to go round, dad gets it first. If there’s a blind parent, it’s the girls who must stay home from school to guide them. It’s the same in adventure. Women are less likely than men to choose an adventure challenge to keep themselves fit and healthy because they’re too busy working AND mothering and because they lack confidence in their bodies and minds. 

 Coastrek is about inspiring and empowering women to transform their lives. It is NOT a race; it is an adventure with little luxuries along the way. The event reaches out to women to get them on track with their health and fitness through a simple social activity: walking with women in nature.  Over 63% of Australians are overweight, and the team at WWOT are passionate about helping women get healthy the natural way - by walking in nature, having fun with friends, getting fit and fundraising for Fred! It’s also about restoring sight to indigenous women in Australia and around the world. Trekking to restore sight is a simple message of empowering women.  

WWOT and The Fred Hollows Foundation have enjoyed a long- term partnership from its inception, cumulatively raising almost 13 million dollars through eight events in both Sydney and Melbourne. The Fred Hollows Foundation believes there is a natural and genuine synergy between the event itself and The Foundation - with the culture, heritage and program work. Fred Hollows himself loved the outdoors and trekking was one of his strongest passions. Trekking along some of the most stunning coastline in the world is a privilege, even more so when fully sighted. To highlight the gift of sight and draw a comparison between an endurance event and the suffering of those who live with avoidable blindness conditions is a powerful and compelling motivator.

 “Last year, my husband died suddenly at 38.  At the time, our twins were 6. As devastating as this was, I was determined to make the most of the gift of every heartbeat and live a life with no regrets. Until Matt died I was not an adventurer and physical activity was not my thing. I’ve gone from running less than 500m to a 10k run and now a 30k walk.  Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring; but I know that as long as I continue to chase the sun I will be ok.” Betty Shallard – Soul Mates

Coastrek is a 30-60km team trekking challenge which journeys along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Teams of four, with at least 50% being women have up to 18 hours to complete the challenge, getting fit while raising money to transform lives. Coastrek has seen thousands of people complete the challenge to date.

When you sign up for Coastrek, you embark on months of adventure – planning, preparation, training, fundraising, chatting, walking, shopping. Your energy and enthusiasm will radiate from you as you are motivated and inspired by your challenge!

Coastrek Patron - Julie McCrossin shares her Coastrek story

"Walking Coastrek is now a central part of my life. It brings me peace, exhilaration and a deep encounter with the beauty of the Australian bush and wildlife. Raising money for the Fred Hollows Foundation to help the blind see, always feels incredibly worthwhile. And the team experience of friendship and sharing stories on the trail is a special kind of intimacy. To walk 30 or 50 kilometres together, you have to support each other and this mutual help, builds deep bonds.

 This year I’ll walk my second Melbourne Coastrek and in 2017 it will be my sixth Sydney Coastrek. It is traditional for Sydney and Melbourne people to compete. Let’s face it; we only built the city of Canberra because of the irreconcilable arguments over whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the capital of our nation. Yet it is impossible to say whether Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula or Sydney’s coast and harbour are the most beautiful.

 Before you do a Coastrek you walk the trail many times with your teammates and you get to know every hill and inch of the paths. These training walks are the best part of the experience for me. You can stop and stare. The Mornington Peninsula is a wild coastal adventure with many different types of bush and many lonely, craggy rock formations on isolated beaches. I particularly like walking in the windswept coastal heath that exposes you to the weather, sea and big, big sky. On the other hand, the Sydney Harbour foreshores have a remarkable number of long stretches of beautiful bushland and groves of trees overlooking truly spectacular views through the headland and out to sea. Most Sydneysiders have no idea how much wild bushland there still is so close to the city. You see a lot of wild life, especially birds and lizards and a surprising number of bush turkeys. The Sydney coastal paths along the beaches are better known but the benefit of walking is that you have the time to really “see” the beauty that busy lives make us take for granted.

Exactly three years ago, I received radiation and chemotherapy for stage four cancer in my tonsils, tongue and throat. I lost over 20kgs in six weeks. I used to think talking about cancer recovery as a “journey” was a cliché. But now I know exactly what survivors mean. You do have to take steps to find a path back to your new life after the shock and rigours of tough treatments. Walking with my Coastrek friends along the coast of Melbourne and Sydney has helped me physically and mentally to reconstruct my identity and wellbeing. There is plenty of research evidence that backs this up. But walking with good company in wild places is also a spiritual experience. It is good for the soul. I know that for as long as I am alive, I’ll be forming teams of friends and walking in Coastrek."

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Words by: Wild Women on Top 

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