Welcome to the Blog for our Australian Alps Navigator program. Follow along as these young people undertake a challenging and inspiring journey through the Australian bush. Here you will find updates from the program including a written account and photos of each day’s events. You can expect the written portion to be quite up-to-date. Photos may come a day or two later as they are a little harder to get out of the bush via kookaburra post! Please join in and leave your comments as we’d love to hear from you!
Today is the first day of program, and everyone has arrived safely. Most of our Navigators do not know one another before arriving, so their first activity consisted of a broad range of initiatives and icebreakers, aimed at helping everyone get to know each other. This was followed by setting up solid expectations of what this development program is and how they can ensure they are able to make their week extraordinary. The native wild-life is putting on a show already, with a wombat coming up to strut it’s stuff.
The first skill learnt was fire-making, followed by the all-important dinner preparation and cooking lessons. By all accounts, cooking on a wok over the open fire appears to be a natural skill for our Navigators, however they will need to improve on their transfer techniques, as about half the dinner was spilled onto the ground when lifting the wok out of the fire, just before serving. At least they will be a well-grounded team (terrible pun intended!).
What should you do on a clear day with expected 18 degrees Celsius temperatures? Challenge yourself on the high ropes of course. Today our Navigators tested themselves and supported one another in a variety of height activities. First there was the Giant Ladder, impossible for anyone to reach the top by themselves. Each subsequent rung is slightly further to reach than the one before, and sooner or later the support of your climbing buddy is pivotal to success. The whole while, on the ground, is your belay team who manage your safety rope and encourage you to keep going once your hands begin to sweat. Afterwards, everyone had the opportunity to self-explore their comfort zones by maneuvering through the high ropes course. As their program continues and more leadership opportunities arise, our Navigators’ knowledge of how they manage themselves in dynamic and possibly stressful situations will be invaluable.
Today is “Mt. Tennent Day“. The view of Mt. Tennent looms over our National Base, and reaching the summit is considered almost compulsory. The view is worth the effort. The kookaburras haven’t managed to send across the official update as of yet, but some elusive photographs of navigation and bush-walking training, and the early evening before the event have emerged from the bush.
The group did a fantastic job of reaching Mt. Tennent summit. It is a daunting challenge for many, and the group had a deep discussion about choosing your level of challenge, and choosing your attitude to those challenges. As you can imagine, hiking up a steep hill with a rucksack is hot work. Our Navigators are learning that it pays to “be bold and start cold,” by removing their thermal layer before exerting physical effort. The view was everything promised, but the group were indeed relieved to get to camp before the weather changed.
Our Navigators are continuing their expedition through Namadji National Park. It’s the small luxuries that make an expedition enjoyable, such as a well-made sandwich, a picnic ground with table and seats, and the chance to use a real toilet. Seeing a kangaroo and its joey grazing only two metres away is a definite bonus. As a extra challenge, our Navigators were taught how to navigate ‘off-track’. Leaving the path provided scenes not available to most walkers of the Australian Alps Walking Track. During this time, the Navigators were included in a Mindfulness session and asked to genuinely concentrate on the here-and-now.
Hiking as an activity has many virtues. The slower pace gives you excellent opportunity to really see the environment you are surrounded by. The physical effort can test your limits of endurance and commitment. When hiking in a group, you also have the chance to demonstrate and develop your personal and group leadership skills. And of course, when you take a break, you really appreciate the chance to lighten the load off your shoulders. By setting a cracking pace, the Navigators were able to complete dinner in the light, providing the added reward of hot chocolate to drink while star-gazing and learning about the Southern Cross constellation. The following pictures tell the story better than any words:
Abseiling was the key activity for the start of the weekend. Our Navigators learnt how to set up an abseil, flying fox and an effective bag lowering system. With all the ropes and safety checks in place, it was then possible for everyone to descend the cliff-face. Walking backwards, vertically, down the edge of a rock face is not a common pastime for most people. Understandably, overcoming a fear of heights was a challenge for some of these brave young people. One of the highlights for today was the opportunity to sit down during afternoon tea and look out to where everything had started on Day 1, and get a real appreciation for how far everyone has come.
Our Navigators are being molded by two of our fine Instructors. As with all good learning experiences, our Instructors are also learning from our Navigators. For example, Shaz has learnt that food in New Guinea is spicy… if you put chilies in it!
Even an intrepid Navigator needs a rest! Now past the half-way point, and incidentally at the start of a new month, our Navigators spent their next 24-hours in Solo. Having personal time away from everyone except yourself is a powerful opportunity to have a break, reflect on the journey so far, and prepare for the journey ahead; both during the remainder of the program, and also beyond. Our Navigators were also requested to prepare and provide a gift for the group upon their return. We are thankful for the permission to share one of these presents with you, their online audience.
For most of you I did not know,
It’s been an honour to watch you grow.
As everyday gets trickier than the last,
spending time with you guys has been a blast.
Although I may not see you again,
I hope for our friendship, it’s not the end.
The stories we are able to share with you come to us when the used food drops are collected by our back-up team. One of the first questions on the template sheet is ‘Date’. Monday’s response was, “I forgot”. It is official: our Australian Alps Navigators have become true bush roamers. In recognition of their transformation, the Instructors, Matt and Shaz, have now handed over responsibility for daily decisions and group movements to the team. Matt and Shaz are still with the group, making sure that safe choices are made, and providing encouragement to remember everything our Navigators have learned so far.
Their journey has consisted of hiking up a steep knoll (hill), to then go down a steeper gully (dry water path), reaching the Gudgenby River. Here, water was collected and purified for safe drinking, before the Navigators moved back uphill to the ridge line to reduce their amount of bush-bashing. The greatest learning for this time has been the need to stick to your compass bearing; a very important skill indeed! A little bit of night navigation was required to get into Tuesday’s campsite at 8pm, but a cooked dinner makes the effort worthwhile.
It also turns out that this team of Navigators has a name: HCC. The acronym was originally for ‘Hard Core Club’, but this has become interchangeable with ‘Hot Chocolate Club’, as they are now connoisseurs of Outward Bound Australia’s secret hot chocolate recipe.
HCC have continued their final two days of self-driven leadership expedition. Their journey has been one of endurance, and the need to stick together as a group has at times been a challenge, but served them well. Wednesday included a 4-kilometre ascent, with another rewarding view at the top. The steep, rocky and bush terrain proved no match for HCC. Often, they were deceived about being ‘close’ to the destination, and the exclamation “We are close!” was something akin to the team’s anti-slogan.
Thursday was an approximately 13-kilometre journey, and the willingness to continue walking to Mt. Clear Campground was the mental challenge for the day. However, the knowledge of a vehicle pick-up at the end of this day provided the necessary incentive to dig deep and live the philosophy of perseverance. HCC worked strongly together along the rugged ridge line. Reaching the final human-made track that would lead into Mt. Clear Campground certainly lifted everyone’s spirits. Walking to the finish point with the smell of a sausage sizzle set up just for them was a joyous moment indeed. From here, Navigator team HCC were transported back to Outward Bound Australia’s National Base and prepared a celebratory bush-roast.
HCC woke to their last morning before the sunrise, ready for one final and busy day. The first celebration of their achievements came in the form of a hot bacon and eggs breakfast.
Outward Bound Australia lives on the motto “To serve, to strive, and not to yield”. Over the last eleven days, HCC have been striving and certainly never yielding; today was their opportunity to serve. Our Navigators met with Tim Booth and learnt about “fixing a string in a broken net”: the environment is the net. Every member of HCC planted a tree as part of an ongoing regeneration project for the catchment area of the Murrumbidgee River. After spending so much time in the bush, this was a fitting way of saying thanks and giving back.
The Giant Swing was the final activity for the course. Each participant was pulled into the air by their team, and once ready, released their holding cord to be flung through the air.
The final thank-yous, wishes for the future, and good-byes were held by the symbolic ‘Blue Peter’ flag. Everyone was presented with a certificate of completion, a wristband, and a lapel pin in recognition and congratulations of the experience, effort, and growth of each member of HCC.
From everyone involved in this program at Outward Bound Australia: Bon voyage Navigators, and all the best for your future adventures.
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