Welcome all to the Navigator – Rainforest blog for these September holidays.
This blog will follow these intrepid Navigator’s news over the next 12 days. Not your conventional school holiday on the couch that is for sure! We will endeavour to post something everyday, however there will sometimes be a delay as the stories and photos make their way in from the Wilderness. Stay tuned for more great stories of team work, big adventures, sunrise shots, fun times, and much more!
Most programs begin in a similar way. The informal start as participants begin to magnetize to the other similar aged, big backpack wearing, hiking shod young people within the airport or train station. The shy formal start upon arriving at base-camp as the instructors inject energy and break the silence with icebreakers and name games…
Not this group!
Within moments of meeting this group were old friends. Talking, laughing and forging connections.
The group has been met with a light shower and have done their best to postpone getting wet. They have now reached the point where they are fully packed and loaded and ready to leave the safety of base-camp and head off into the unknown. As a symbol of this process and a nod to our naval history, the group raises the Blue Peter. A naval flag which symbolizes this exact process. A ship full of its provisions and heading “Outward Bound” away from the safety of the harbour and into the unknown open ocean.
After an introduction to navigation the team is off to find their first campsite of program at the foot of the “Giant Ladder”. Check back in tomorrow to find out what the Giant Ladder is all about and how the team tackles it!
The group awoke this morning after their first night camping. After a quick breaky of muesli and milk powder they took on the first high impact challenge the Giant Ladder.
To conquer the Giant Ladder pairs must work together to scale the huge rungs. As they climb higher the challenge increases and the pairs are forced to use each other to continue. The group used this opportunity to set the building blocks they will need to spend the next 11 days together as a tight knit team.
For the afternoon the group continued building on their navigation skills, having the first attempt at heading “off track” and tackling the rainforest head on.
So far the rain has been present but kept at bay and the group are enjoying the cooler temperatures this weather has brought.
Drew has been a stand out team player today. Ethan & Jasmina teamed up to climb the giant ladder. Ethan helped Jasmina overcome a fear of heights. Kyle stepped up in navigation. Julius has lots of thoughtful things to say in discussion. Overall all reports from the field are that this is one very high performing group and they are bonding really well.
To finish a great quote from Ethan – “how do you make diamonds – under pressure”.
Today the group tested their grit with a mountain biking expedition. The conditions were great after the recent rains and the group took the challenge head on.
After a skills session and some helpful tips by some of the groups more experienced riders they set off into the rainforest. Liam and Drew were standout riders and helped build the confidence of the rest of the team.
A large storm was building which motivated the group to power through to camp. Luckily the camp for the evening had a large shelter and the group sough solace in it as the rains hammered in and the lightning and thunder gave them an impressive show.
The clouds broke on another spectacular day today. This morning the group were met by local bushtucker expert Sean. Sean volunteers his time to teach students about the many wild edibles and bush medicines that can be found in the rainforest.
The group, now expert hikers, again took to map and compass, forging a path to their next campsite.
The group had a great ‘storm’ today at the lookout looking at the sunset over Wollumbin. A storm refers to the stage in a groups development were underlying frustrations and nuances that are holding the group back are brought to light. Allowing the group to continue developing and moving towards the “performing” stage. The storm came as Dani felt comfortable to share with the group the things within the group which were frustrating her.
Reports from the field are that Drew has been fantastic all week. He and Yasmin ran the debrief of the group last night. The biggest learning from the debrief was making it ok to make mistakes. This ended with a big group hug. It was noted that Yasmin was amazing at giving well thought out feedback. The instructors noted that Ethan is the most positive participant they have ever had and asks lots of interesting questions! Ethan is particularly interested in the role of the Instructors, maybe we have gained a new staff member.
Julius LOVED the bush tucker session and was constantly asking ‘can i eat this? can i eat that’ … he ate everything.
Today the group managed to get quite geographically misplaced (some might call it lost) in a gully along Byrill Creek and had a well formed discussion (argument) about which way to go. It turned out to be a big plus as they found a waterfall in there attempts to find their way. Dani navigated for the first part of the day and did a great job dealing with this stress.
The instructors were amazed as they found the biggest bit of tree sap they’ve EVER seen. This can be combined with kanagaroo poo and heat from the fire to make a traditional resin to be used as a glue. The group made ochre with river rocks they found by the waterfall.
Another awesome day today with leadership wheel, navigation and climbing “Big Ben”. Thee group is having lots of deep conversations during debriefs and really drawing learnings from this experience.
Yasmina realised she’s always doing things for other people and that she needs to start doing things for herself. “Big Ben” is a massive Hoop Pine tree which the group must scale as one team. They are all tied together and must use communication, problem solving skills and most of all trust and compassion to get everyone to the top. Yasmina was very scared in the tree and wanted to give up half way but managed to push through and get to the top.
The group has identified that communication within the group has not been good and they want to improve this – especially tone and swearing. Instructors have stepped back a lot and the group is making decisions independently.
The Leadership Wheel is an ancient model found in cultures across the world. The Wheel has stood the test of time for over 5,000 years.
Indigenous peoples from all over the world have surprisingly similar beliefs and archetypes to explain how we humans “walk in this world.” The group was taught to identiy that we are each born into one primary direction on the Wheel and spend our lives “walking the
wheel” to gain the wisdom and understanding of all the directions. This helps each member identify what type of leader they are personally and and different types of communciation each syle uses.
See if you can identify in the comments what style your young person may be!
Warrior – “ready, fire,aim” task oriented, persuasive, go-getters.
Nurturer- Harmonious, caring, empathetic, in service of others.
Visionary- Creative, big picture thinker, spontaneous, change making.
Teacher- Analytic, details oriented, technical experts, Methodical.
Liam is the quiet leader of the group – quiet way of being but people listen to him. Loves riddles but Drew is the master of solving them. Malorie – one of the youngest but very mature in thr group today highlighted that she is the visionary of the group. Not afraid to tell people what she thinks. Ramsay has a great sense of humour and has been nicknamed Gordon. Julius is very self-aware and great at taking feedback from other people and being full of energy. Oli is very quiet but the group often asks him for help. Has saved dinner several times with his fire-cooking skills.
The group is going to be woken up at 2am tomorrow morning to learn the history of Outward Bound and where it all started. They will then take on one of the biggest physical challenges of the program summiting Wollumbin/Mt Warning – and the best part is the group has no idea they are climbing this mountain…
Captains Log 0200 hours Saturday the 29th September
…..BANG! A huge explosion throws you from your bed. Water is rushing in all around you and people are screaming. You don’t know what to do and somebody pushes you up onto the deck. There is fire everywhere and people covered in blood are walking around in a daze. Somebody pushes you into a life raft with about 20 other people. As you float away from the sinking boat you start to wonder where you might be, which ocean you’re in, how long you’ll be on this life raft.
This was the reality for many Merchant Navy sailors during World War II. These boats being largely unarmed and not manned by trained fighters, making them easy targets. 1 in 3 were attacked and 1 in 5 were sunk. These boats were crewed by people who were unable to serve in the Navy, those that were too young and inversely those too old.
What happened next bamboozled people for some time. When they found these life rafts, days, weeks, months after being adrift there was consistently one cohort surviving above the other. It was not the expected younger, healthier, fitter, more to live for teenagers. But the over the hill, hardened, end of their rope, old men which were making it through.
Owner of the Blue Funnel Shipping Company Lawrence Holt was perplexed by this return on investment and needed something to be done about it. He met with an old friend who had been challenging the current paradigm on education and doing things differently. This man was Kurt Hahn, the same man who would go on to create such initiatives as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, Round Square schools, United World Colleges and many others.
Kurt posited that it was the resilience and life skills gained by the older men. Simply by being around longer, going through the ups and downs of life, that was saving these old men. Simply put they had been tested before and they knew when times were tough to grit your teeth and hold on. The younger boys had not seen adversity and when push came to shove their willpower gave up and their body did the same.
So Hahn proposed this, when the boys come to the docks do not put them straight to work on the ships instead send them to me. In this 26 day experience I will take them out of their comfort zone to an unfamiliar environment in a wilderness setting, they will expedition, cook, clean, navigate and learn the skills of leadership, resilience, compassion and communication.
…starting to sound familiar? This program became the first of many Outward Bound Schools, it was this same lesson of resilience, camaraderie and teamwork which has been passed on for over 70 years to become the Outward Bound program your young person is on today.
And although we may not be preparing them for war, we are giving them the expedited life skills needed to survive the tumultuous seas of being a teenager in our modern world.
This morning at 2 am the group was awoken, by surprise, in a similar alarming fashion to those young people on those merchant navy vessels. They were pulled out into the darkness in panic and told this humbling story of our origin and the most important lesson – there is more in us than we know, and if we could be brought to realise that we would never again settle for anything less.
The group were then whisked onto a bus and taken to a “secret location” – the base of the imposing Wollumbin/Mt Warning. Still in the pitch black darkness the group made their way up and up. Guided by the glow worms and sounds of the mountain coming to life over night. They reached the top to see the first sunlight make landfall on Australia. The summit of Mt Warning is a truly special place for both indigenous Australians and the group this morning. Ethan thoroughly enjoyed the Mt. Warning climb as did Drew and Liam. Yasmina delighted in the view from the top.
The group is currently struggling with ownership; they are placing blame on one another and playing the victim themselves. After coming off the mountain they are being placed on the introspective part of the program. Their 24 hour Solo. This time is less Bear Grylls – go skin kangaroo and survive and more a safe space and time for each individual to unpack their learnings thus far. To look to apply those learnings to the rest of program and then to apply them to going home, there school, work, relationships, family and wider world.
They were in particular prompted to think about on solo:
What values do you have and are you living up to those values?
What have been your two greatest mistakes in life and what have you learned/how have they grown as a result?
How do you take responsibility within your life?
What things do and don’t you take responsibility for?
Finally, they have been instructed to bring a gift back to the group.
In many cultures the idea of a right of passage involves similar stages – separation, transition, celebration. Today comes the celebration as the group come back together after their thought provoking 24 hours alone. To hear the revelations – particularly from this connected generation – who have not known a life without constant noise and simulation, their phone being an extension of themselves and a constant distraction from their own internal voice is powerful.
Yasmina mentioned how your attitude effects the way you see the world. Danny and Malori reflected on understanding that not everything in their lives is controllable. Things like depression or anxiety are overcome by focusing on the aspects of life you do have control over. By taking control, you can manage those other things to live the life you want. Ramsey recognized that the standard path is not for everyone, but that to choose a different path, you first have to take responsibility over directing your own life.
The celebration continued into the night with a special meal we call Bushcook. The group must work together to cook a roast leg of lamb over the fire, no easy task – but a very worthwhile reward!
Today the group was back on trail making their way to an abseil site. The route to abseil involves a canoe across the gorgeous Clarrie Hall Dam, at this early hour the water is like glass and the group is able to gracefully glide along without disturbing the amazing bird life.
The facilitators have reported this as a really constructive day. Everyone made it over the abseil, even Yasmina who was terrified of heights. The group was tired today after a late night with Bushcook and were feeling a bit low to start but abseil really brought it up again and they are energised by being back together as a group after solo.
The group is now entering the last challenge of the program “Final Expedition”. This is a full handover by the instructors to the team, they must fully run the days, plan there routes, campsites, what food to pack, managing water etc. The goal is to reach the impressive Minyon Falls a 100m high waterfall by the end of the program. Today was a big day walking off track through the Mt Jerusalem National Park.
Up until lunch, tension was tangible in the group as some were frustrated that not every group member was pulling their weight and contributing to camp life. At lunch time the instructors ran a communication debrief with everyone to air their frustrations and come up with solutions for working together.
In this discussion, group members worked out that they will all carry equal amounts each day and will work together to get dinner cooked faster each night. One participant stated his observation of the hike “It’s so interesting that we are all walking the same mountain on the same track, but we all had completely different experiences.”
The group got to camp just on dark and had a fast set up, dinner then straight to bed for their next day of hiking.
Today the group came full circle, they arrived back at our Base Camp were it all began. They were greeted with a final challenge we call the “Pamper Pole” – This is a final jump back into the real world, leaving any last trepidation behind each group member lept from the platform with no regrets left out in the field. The group had so much fun conquering their final challenge. In fact they were excelling at the task so much that they chose to do a level up and do it blindfolded!
Kyle is feeling sad about going home, he loves it here. He and all the participants really enjoyed achieving something everyday.
The group has a general feeling of bitter-sweet, a large sense of achievement from the last 12 days and a slight sense of trepidation about going home. Tears were had when Oh the Places You’ll go was read out.
That’s all she wrote. Today the group lowered their Blue Peter Flag. Symbolizing the safe return to harbour. They were met by many challenges out in their sea; physical challenges like conquering Mt Warning; Social challenges of spending 12 days in the bush with a group of strangers; Mental challenges of navigation; Emotional challenges of missing home.
The seas at time were rough and some days were smooth sailing – all in all the group wouldn’t have had it any other way. As quoted by Ethan early on in the piece – “how do you make diamonds – under pressure”. This group truly has become shining diamonds and we look forward to seeing them again leave the safety of this new harbour of Outward Bound and sailing out into the real world. Packed full of new provisions of leadership skills, self-responsibility, resilience and above all compassion. We hope they have discovered their potential and as our founder Kurt Hahn would say.
‘There is more in us than we know if we could be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.’