Hello, and welcome to the blog for Outward Bound Australia’s Navigator program! This blog will follow the adventure of the October 2018 program. Throughout the program, check back each day for updates on what is happening. Like what you see? Proud of your young person? Leave a message in the comment section below.
Right from the start there were both smiles and nerves as gradually the back deck filled with participants and family. Participants had started their journey some time ago, anticipating the program. This morning they made the physical journey to Tharwa, the base camp for their adventures.
When the Outward Bound van arrived with the final team members, we had our opening Blue Peter ceremony. We raised the flag for all to see; a flag that reflects Outward Bound’s nautical beginnings, a flag that says the ship has left the port to travel outward bound. And so as family said their goodbyes, the program Facilitators Abi and Forrest took the wheel.
There was a vibrant energy in the group, as they and the Facilitators got to know each other, begin new friendships and set the scene for what is to come. The group was keen for their hiking which begins on Day 2.
Giant Ladder was the first activity, one that involves dealing with heights and needs good team work. This activity allowed participants to begin exploring and developing their skills and their minds. A great challenge.
Then it was time to issue all the expedition gear, put up the sleeping tarps, prepare and cook dinner, and prepare for what is ahead. Bring it on!
The group was up early and easily ready for the 9.30am departure by bus to the Yankee Hat car park in Namadgi National Park. Before the hike began, the group went through a basic introduction to the use of a map and compass. This marks the beginning of the group’s independence, as they will be deciding the course taken during the hike, with suggestions made by the two Facilitators. As the group passed through the bush land and plains of the national park they were struck by the sheer vibrancy of the wildlife they encountered, exemplified by the abundance of kangaroos they saw. During the hike, the group passed an Indigenous rock art site , dating back to the at least 800 years ago. Then it was off to set up camp on the banks of Rendezvous Creek.
The group is feeling well motivated after their first day on the trail , which has given them confidence in their navigational ability. Well prepared meals by the cooking groups have resulted in group morale being high. While the environment crew has been doing a great job in keeping everyone hydrated.
The key lesson of today would be the importance of communication. With the group quickly learning that if tasks are set out for everyone prior to making lunch or camp, these tasks would be accomplished quicker, allowing more time for relaxation prior to night fall.
After our first night of expedition, the group woke up to an energiser activity and then packed down camp. Before leaving camp, we completed a leadership activity to determine the leadership styles of each person within the group. This was followed by a lesson in navigation and a skill called pacing, which helps to estimate how far we walk.
During lunch the rain began and didn’t stop, so we needed our rain gear to continue up the mountain. We found ourselves on the wrong peak but decided to keep going. Consequentially, we ran out of daylight to trek downhill and so set up camp on the mountain. Hot drinks and dinner helped to boost morale. We also had fun making a dance circle to keep warm before a final debrief and heading to bed for a well deserved rest.
Challenges included keeping positive during the climb and enduring the persistent rain. The group learnt that even though the situation may not go as planned, a solution can still be found. Also, we learnt that it is important to keep positive to get the job done in the face of adversity.
Today was the first day participants took on the role of group leaders, with TK, SS and JH as the first trio. The role involved time management, group check-ins and debriefs as we travelled. As well, it meant helping to organise and execute efficient camp set up.
Our morning navigators were AL and SM, with MH and TA taking over to bush-bash our way up the mountain. The navigators were tasked with constructing and following a path to our destination using the map and compass skills we learnt in an earlier lesson.
We have also taken on the responsibility of the morning and evening call-ins to Base using the two-way radio. We are learning how to use the radio and NATO phonetics, such as alpha, bravo, charlie, etc. when referring to people and places. This helps to protect privacy. The call-ins help with planning and generally ensuring that the program is going well. So far LP, TP and WD have had some radio time. The group instructors oversee this and talk to base themselves as needed.
During our last debrief of the day, just before bed, we decided as a group who the MVP (most valuable player) for the day was. We thought this person worked the hardest and put in more effort over all others. Today this person was JH.
Today we hiked from the top of Nursery Hill to our designated campsite in Orroral Valley. We have seen many kangaroos and joeys! Today was a test of our resilience against a backdrop of a cold, wet morning and a long, slippery hike. As we are writing this, we feel accomplished and a little sore. Encouragement has come in the form of team members starting sing-a-longs and games throughout the day. The instructors are challenging us with an onslaught of riddles as well. All in all, we are feeling tired, hungry (although we are just about the have dinner), ready for bed but excited for the days to come.
Maintaining a positive attitude was challenging at times due to the repetitive terrain throughout the hike. However, we learnt so much from this including time management and how to work in a team.
The morning navigators were PG and AM and the afternoon navigators were TGP and LPL. The leaders today were WD, AP and EG. Radio call-ins today were conducted by AP in the morning, EG in the afternoon and WD in the evening.
Dinner today is burritos and we’re happy about it!
Everyone is currently engaged in Solo, hence there are no photos or blog from the group today. Participants use this time to reflect on their experience and learning so far, and to prepare for their contribution to the remaining program.
Outward Bound Australia recognises the growth potential in providing quiet, personal time for participants. Hence, Solo for this age group is 24-hours overnight. Participants establish a personal camp just out of sight of one another for this period.
Facilitators check-in with all participants during this time. A signalling system allows participants to indicate if they would like to talk to the Facilitators; otherwise they are left to their solitude. The participants can call out for the Facilitators at any time if necessary.
The group returned, rejuvenated from their 24 hour solo. After we did a little debrief we began a hike to base of the mountain. Here we did an activity to illustrate the Experiential Learning Cycle (Plan – Do – Review). After that we did a buddy walk. This is where we split into pairs to get to know each other, discussing some personal questions as we continued walking to camp. The buddy walk helped us to feel more connected as a group and morale was high for the rest of the day.
We will be abseiling tomorrow so in the afternoon we practiced tying knots (the group will actually have to build the abseil system using the Activity File that has photos and instructions. The instructors will be on hand to make sure the system is safe and just as the photos show).
At out night location and with no more activities, we became aware that the area was riddled with possums. We faced the challenge of protecting our food from the possums as the night drew more possums in. We were able to scare a lot of them off and went to sleep. When we woke up the next day we faced the problem of ice on all our kit and hutchies, and our water was all frozen.
The cold morning made for a slower start, and with both caving and abseiling coming up today, some of us were excited and others were feeling nervous. Getting from camp to Lego Land was all uphill. Here, we explored the caves, climbed though tight spaces and admired the view from Pride Rock. Supported up the team, everyone pushed through.
Yesterday, we learned the basic skills required to construct an abseil system. Today, we needed to put all our new knowledge together. Two of the leaders, MH and LM, headed down the abseil first to survey the area and help others come down. We are super proud of SM, TA, PG and SS for conquering their fears of heights. They felt very proud and happy to have dared to face their fears and challenges.
MH, LM and SM had the opportunity of leading the group through “Sunday Funday”, enjoying every bit and taking the chance to improve their communication and leadership skills. They supported and encouraged all team mates down the abseil and through the tight caves. Both MH and LM also had the chance to speak on the radio in the morning which they enjoyed.
After abseiling we headed to camp, this time with more daylight left. This meant we could cook dinner and set up bivvies more easily. The Drop Bears (that’s us) then crawled into bed and had an early night.
It’s quite symbolic that the group’s final expedition begins from this morning, at a campsite on a ridge that divides the program and the terrain they are travelling through.
To the west is Yankee Hat where they started, Rendezvous Creek, Nursery Hill and Ororral Valley. Here they have taken a lot of instruction, began practising their bush craft, leadership, teamwork skills and their ability for self-reflection.
To the east is the way home and the way forward. It is literally the way back to the Outward Bound Australia base and thus one step closer to going home. But it is also the way forward, the direction of their future possibilities. Those possibilities begin with the group taking charge of the final 3-day expedition. This is where the group takes the lead and the instructors keep one or more steps behind. There is now less focus on facilitation and more focus on the challenge of taking charge, where as a group they have to navigate, time keep and generally look after each other for the next three days. They are writing nothing for the blog and living more in the moment of their expedition.
From camp they head out past the abseil site, past Lego Land, both places of challenge and wonder, and on towards their first day and the navigational challenge of The Dog Leg. They manage this well and soon enough find themselves at a lovely open saddle where they can camp and call it a day.
Final Expedition – Day 2
We are not sure exactly how early the Drop Dears needed to wake up, but we know they had to back track a little to get enough water for their day of hiking along a high and challenging ridge.
The team finally emerged from the bush, after descending the last spur, in fading light. Torches came out as they hiked the last passage across open farm land. It’s totally dark when they reached camp, and it started to rain. They set about making camp. It’s a late dinner tonight followed by a well earned rest. This might sound like an epic day, however their biggest hiking challenge is still to come tomorrow.
Final Expedition – Day 3
The rain came down this morning as the 700 metre ascent of Mt Tennent rose before the group. This leg of their expedition was made all the more difficult because it was again through untracked bush land. However, late in the afternoon, the group called in to announce that they were indeed celebrating on the summit. Well done Drop Bears!
Then it was downhill in search of a campsite for the night. The group found a rarely used Outward Bound Australia campsite called Never Land. This is no doubt a likely take on the fanciful world of Peter Pan, but we think it might well be a haven for those who think ‘Never Say Never’, a mental attitude to help persevere when things are tough.
Tomorrow it’s downhill; perhaps a welcome relief for sore legs.
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