THE road from Bathurst to Blaxland may not be paved with gold, but it has been lined with $1.3 million worth of donations to local community groups that operate in the towns and villages along the route, thanks to a bunch of blokes who have walked the 170 kilometres every year since 2006 as part of an annual fundraiser.
This year, Bathurst's Community Transport group and Bathurst headspace will be among those charities that benefit from their efforts, but many more have come before them.
Over the 13 years of the fundraising walk, money has been donated to several hospitals including Bathurst, Lithgow, Katoomba and Nepean, Kelso Community Hub, Portland School Special Needs, Riding for the Disabled, the Queen of Hearts Foundation and many more.
The tradition was born in 2006 when good mates Johnathon Green and Mark Mulock contacted a few friends from Penrith and across the Blue Mountains who teamed up with sponsor Scotty Macallister from Bathurst's Knickerbocker Hotel to come up with a novel way to raise funds and awareness for groups who look after young people aged six to 15 years.
The Great Walk Foundation was formed, and unlike many other fundraising organisations, every cent goes direct to those who need it. There are no administration charges, no hidden costs to cover, just money flowing to those who need it most.
The walkers began their 2019 Odyssey on Monday with the Bathurst to Tarana leg.
At the end of the walk they are driven back to Bathurst where they stay overnight at the Knickerbocker.
The next morning they resume where they left off and continue in similar stages culminating in a celebration at the Lapstone Hotel on Saturday night.
Penrith rugby league great and current media identity Mark Geyer is regular participant.
Scotty recalls one of the first walks when the inexperienced walkers were full of enthusiasm but not the knowledge of what so many consecutive days of pounding the road would do to their bodies, and, more importantly, their fee.
"They rocked up in old, worn out sandshoes and by the end of the trip, their feet were bruised, blistered and bloodied," said Scotty.
"MG (Mark Geyer) had to appear on television that night.
"The viewers might not have realised, but despite the suit and tie for the camera, he was barefoot below the desk where his battered feet were resting."
The group learnt from this experience and now have a podiatrist, Trent Baker, in the group so they get the best of foot care.
While the walk is motivated by a desire to help community groups, the participants are great mates and they share many laughs along the way and, because the event has stood the test of time, it has become almost a regional institution.
The walkers attract a lot of positive comments, beeps from passing cars and create a positive vibe along the route.
This year's Bathurst to Blaxland walkers are Trent Baker, Tony Bowden, Dave Crossman, Johnathon Green, Mark Geyer, Mark Mulock, Cameron McInnes, Greg Nelson, Graham O'Kell, and Rob Wearn.