Interview with Millie Walker and Georgie Mollison for Adelaide Coastrek and Wild Women on Top
When I think 'Wild Women on Top' I immediately think of Natalie Cole belting out 'Wild Women Do!' from Pretty Woman. It gives me the sensation of empowerment, freedom and strength. Is that what Wild Women on Top is all about?
Millie - I have worked with Wild Women on Top for about 12 years on and off. For me, it's about empowering women and giving them the freedom to make decisions. Often, when women are put in a situation with men, like hiking, they subconsciously defer to them by asking for their advice on the best way to go, or let them take control of physical work like putting up tents.
When women get together with other women, they rally around each other and push themselves further. They pitch the tents, navigate and get through the situations with which they are faced.
Training with women for big events, going away with women on multi-day treks, gives women the freedom to 'feel the feels' in a safe space and with no judgement.
Di Westaway, founder, started Wild Women on Top after she climbed the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere. The reason for such a challenge was because she was experiencing a sort of existential crisis.
I suffer from these on a regular basis, brought on by trying (and failing) to juggle motherhood, be a loving and supporting wife, run a household, working for the man, and, trying to remember 'me'. Is hiking to the top of a 6980m mountain the only way that I can break free of the hamster wheel and find myself?
Millie - No. Whether your mountain is just taking time to get together with friends, to go for a walk by yourself or go for a coffee. It doesn't matter, they are your mountains.
Georgie, you met Di recently, is she as inspiring in real life as her bio makes her out to be and is it true that one woman really can have that much energy? Yes. She is very down to earth and very real. Before I met her I researched her to the hilt and was in awe of all that she has achieved. She has changed the landscape by helping women achieve what they do, at the same time as raising so much money for charity. When I met her she had so much energy but in a really even sense. She wasn't overwhelming at all, in fact, she encouraged and drew energy out of the people she was with.
Millie - Di is so inclusive, she brings people together and brings the best out in them. You aren't just part of a group, you really are part of something bigger.
Georgie - In the same way that she encourages people within groups, she also manages to make you feel important as an individual.
Wild Women have trekked some incredible sites around the world, including Everest Base Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu and Mt Kinabalu. How do the Australian locations compare?
Millie - The Australian locations are world class. One of the recent Coastrek locations was Norfolk Island. There isn't anywhere else in the world like that. I really wish I had have gone on that trip. Another one is Fraser Island. There are just so many amazing locations in Australia.
Also - Guilt. Free. Girls. Weekend. Wine. (no, no… water).
How are each of you affiliated with Adelaide Coastrek? What is your role and, individually, what do you want to achieve?
Georgie - I am an Adelaide Coastrek Community Ambassador. Coastrek are great in that they like to involve people from the local communities to help with and set up the events. So my role is to help promote the event by networking, assist with marketing and then obviously help out on the day.
For me, Coastrek is important to me on multiple levels. It's a niche which brings together fitness, ecology and environment (which is what I chose as my career) and mental health, which I am extremely passionate about. It's a perfect fit for all three of my passions.
Millie - I am an Adelaide Coastrek Ambassador and the Adelaide Trek Training Coach. A lot of my work as an Ambassador is about getting involved with local community groups, Tourism SA and local councils. I'm out there talking to people, launching Adelaide Coastrek and getting it off the ground. Coastrek started in Sydney and raised $200 for charity, 10 years later we've just hit 20 million dollars.
We are also just about to launch Adelaide Trek Training, which will focus on getting women to step out of their comfort zones and get them out into the South Australian bush. We will be running some 'tasters' in April and May - find out more here.
Georgie, you are new to Coastrek, but you run for fun.
In all honesty, is there enough time for someone like me (willing but not yet physically able) to get into shape for Adelaide Coastrek, which will be held on Friday 21 September?
Millie - it's not running! It's not a race!
Georgie - Absolutely! One of the best things about Coastrek is that it is active meditation. You can do whatever you want. If you want to run, run! If you want to walk, you can. It's about the experience. This isn't an event where you 'hit it and win it'. This is all about talking, meeting people, enjoying where you are and having a really, really good time.
Millie - It's also about wellbeing. Coastrek is a 12 week programme which provides fitness tips to get your event ready, but which will also encourage you to make these a part of your everyday life.
Adelaide Coastrek will see trekkers hike 30km or 60km through the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula. Aside from the stunning coastline, what other sights and experiences are on offer?
Millie - Great question! Other than the sights and the sounds, there is something really special about doing something when you are part of a team. Together you create this unit where you share your own secret language. You meet with each other to train and then together you go on an adventure. During the trek, you have the time to talk with each other that you normally wouldn't get. Then of course, when you see the finish line - you get goosebumps. You forget about the blisters and feel so exhilarated with what you have just achieved with your mates.
Georgie - From an environmental perspective, you can be a tourist in your own town. You will hike through the amazing Heysen Trail and walk along the cliffs of the Fleurieu. It's such a magnificent part of the world and it's in our backyard.
Both - You will see seals, dolphins, kangaroos, bearded dragons… the list is endless (there are absolutely no other types of reptiles…).
Coastrek Trekkers have raised almost $20m for the Fred Hollows Foundation - helping to restore sight. This is obviously an extremely worthy cause. I noticed that Adelaide Coastrek will raise money for Beyond Blue and emphasises hiking for wellbeing. What was the inspiration behind choosing this charity?
Millie - The statistics are staggering. So many Australians struggle with mental illness, many of our friends and family members are among them. By raising money for Beyond Blue, it will help the people we love and it go a long way to open up the lines of communication for people to talk about mental wellbeing.
Does the theory 'hiking for wellbeing' resonate with you?
Georgie - I have experienced what it feels like to lose a close friend to suicide. To get through that and deal with the intense emotions, for me, the best way was through active meditation and fitness. It doesn't have to be running or frenzied activity; it was often walking, pushing my young children around the neighbourhood in their pram. It was about being out in the fresh air and having space to breathe.
Ex-Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard is the CEO of BeyondBlue. Do you think she will have a positive influence through her affiliation with Coastrek?
Millie - Absolutely. She is such a trailblazer for women and has such recognition for her work and the good that it is doing for South Australians. Unfortunately, she will be in London at the time of the Adelaide Coastrek, so she won't be able to participate.
Coastrek Adelaide and Julia Gillard for Beyond Blue
Okay, its time to talk about the elephant in the room. Fitness (or lack of). With about 5 months to go until D-Day, what sort of exercise regime would you recommend? And… do we need to break it down into levels?
I.E. Couch potato, occasional walker, sometimes pilates but mostly wine… etc…
Millie - The 12 week programme is structured and the best part is that you can adapt to it according to your level of fitness and what is going on in your life. We also have a great App called 'Love my Hike' which is available for free to registered trekkers for a 1 week trial. Once you register, you will get a great online tool kit with the 12 week programme, a link to the App and tips on how to fundraise (which some people get a little daunted by).
What are the Nuts and bolts of Adelaide Coastrek?
How do we register?
Register online at coastrek.com.au. Priority registration opens on Monday 30th April and standard registration opens on Tuesday 1st May. The number of trekkers is capped to make sure its safe for everyone and for the environment; and registrations sell out quickly so be quick.
How much does it cost?
Registration is $160 per person and each Trekker is asked to raise a minimum of $500 in fundraising. When you compare Adelaide Coastrek with other similar events, there really is so much included in your registration and the trek itself is so well set up. It's really well organised.
Tell us about the Teams
Trekking teams must be made up of 4 people and have to have at least 2 women in each team. It's not about excluding men, it's about encouraging women to work together and to embrace their emotional wellbeing.
If we aren't quite physically strong enough to hike, are there other ways that we can support Coastrek and BeyondBlue?
Yes, there are a few ways. You can sponsor a Trekker. You can also volunteer at the event by helping out at the 'love stops' (aka check points) where trekkers have access to tea, coffee, stretch stations and icy poles (unfortunately no wine!). A bonus of being a Coastrek volunteer is that you will receive free registration to trek in any Coastrek around Australia within 12 months.
How long will it take to complete the 30km trek?
There is a wave start to Coastrek, meaning that groups of trekkers start every 15 minutes. This graduated start really compliments the meditative feel of the hike. Once you're on your way, it might take you anywhere from 4 to 10 hours to finish the 30km trek. If you decide to stop for lunch and coffee, it might take you 12 hours.
Is it even remotely possible for me to reach the finish line of the 60km event?
100% yes; and no, it won't mean that you will be hiking through the night.
What do you need to take with you?
There are some essentials like a backpack with water and your favourite snacks. Once you register, your virtual pack will include a list of all the trekking must haves.
Can families meet the trekkers at the finish line of Adelaide Coastrek?
Yes, we encourage support crew and families to meet you at the finish line. Or, a group of girlfriends who want to join you for a weekend away, but who are content with cheering you on from the sidelines.
Do you recommend making a weekend of Adelaide Coastrek by staying somewhere on the Fleurieu Peninsula?
If you can, absolutely. Adelaide Coastrek is getting some fantastic support from local businesses.
Massive thanks to Millie and Georgie for their time.