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!
We have had a great start to the program. Everyone arrived safely to wonderful warm weather, with a light refreshing breeze. The program kicked off with a series of Initiatives designed to start the bonding process. Expectations for the program followed on, and the team were introduced to the “Five Fingers Value Contract”; this is likely the best high-five you can receive.
Now settled into the layout of the week, the team gathered by the flagpole for the Blue Peter flag-raising ceremony. The Blue Peter flag flies tall whenever a vessel is out at sea, and is lowered again once the crew return to port. Just like a ship, our team will be facing the challenges of nature, and the Blue Peter flag will symbolise their voyage of personal growth.
All gear required for the journey was issued in the late afternoon and a Caesar salad saw everyone filled for dinner. The final learning for the day is how to set up a strong and stable campsite. This will be a vital skill once the team leave our Base location.
After a solid grounding yesterday in Outward Bound, safe camping, and expedition preparation, today was all about reaching for the sky. The team were given a series of high ropes challenges today. Giant Ladder was first. This is exactly as the name states: a giant ladder. The rungs start close to each other and very quickly extend, until the only way up is to rely on your climbing buddy and your belay team on the ground. Oh yes, and the ladder has a very slight sway to it; we can’t make these challenges too easy!
Second high challenge was the Ropes Course. We were so excited to see everyone give this challenge their best effort. Some of the participants loved achieving their new heights and overcoming their fears. It was encouraging to see everyone commit to the challenge.
Finally the participants began their first expedition, leaving our Base for Ingledeen Forest nearby. Tonight will be their first chance to set up a campsite in a more natural setting.
Day 3 & 4
Over the next couple of days, our Navigators are completing their training expedition. During the journey, everyone will learn how to navigate using a compass and topographic map, as well as manage the needs and well-being of themselves the rest of the team. With guidance from our staff, Navigators are exploring and practicing expedition skills including how to choose a campsite by reading the map, and also leadership roles and how to create and work with a flexible plan. A little bit of ‘bush-bashing’ has been a great stretch activity and really boosted morale, as everyone is getting a taste for their capabilities. They are currently self-sufficient, so we won’t see any photographs until they meet up with our staff Back-Up team in a couple of days time.
The team are out of the bush, and we have been given any photos and stories to rummage through. Here is a glimpse of what navigation and hike training involves. Lots of eating, and a a bit of time wearing a large rucksack.
This was the final day of the first expedition. The team did a fantastic job and reached their lunch location in good time to enjoy an afternoon of rest and recuperation. The afternoon was spent reviewing and consolidating the leadership qualities that were learned and demonstrated over the last couple of days. The evening was relaxed, with everyone hanging out and bonding together without prompting. Group spirit is riding high, especially with having nachos for dinner after two nights of lightweight freeze-dried meals. And we have more photos from their time away. Check out the team!
Day 6 & 7
Days 6 and 7 were two hot days, as the heat wave made its way north to our location. No hiking during this time, as that would be crazy. Instead, with the mid-point of the program now upon us, our Navigators experienced a Solo. This is an independent 24-hour experience, where everyone is given a personal campsite that is out of sight from all other members of the group. It is a time for peace and deep, internal thinking. With nothing to focus on except the scenery, wildlife, the passage of day into night and one’s own thoughts, Solo is an unusual experience for people who are used to being surrounded by amusements and distractions.
Today has cooled down relatively to the last two days. Jumping at the change, today was filled with activity. First, the Navigators had the opportunity to practice the fine art of walking backwards, vertically down a cliff face; otherwise known as abseiling. The equipment use and skills on the high ropes at the beginning of the program came in good use. Afterwards, the group were led through Legoland. This is an incredible cluster of granite boulders stacked on top of each other like marbles. You can climb, squeeze and slither through the gaps, gaining glimpses of the Orroral Valley below.
The Navigators made their way to Honeysuckle Campground in the afternoon to pitch camp and prepare for their second expedition. Last time it was a practice; next time, the group will be responsible for their journey, so it is important to make a good plan now. There were some minor conflicts about how the days should look, and it was uplifting to our Instructors to watch how the team worked through everyone’s wants, needs, and expectations to design a plan everyone could agree to.
Today is the start of the team’s final Navigator challenge: the independent 3-day expedition. Knowing that the heat would pose an unwanted challenge in the middle of the day, everyone agreed to start at 5am to bush-bash up and over the steep Deadman’s Hill.
Everyone is determined to make the most of their independence, and are efficient at being organised and keeping a pace everyone can commit to. Our Instructors have given full handover to the running of the program to our Navigators, and are following just behind to fulfill the role of walking first-aid kit if necessary.
Days 10 & 11
We are so proud of this Navigator team; they have done an incredible job at self-leading themselves over the last couple of days. Everyone is a little tired, as it has been a long program, with many early days to be able to manage the heat.
The final full day began on a high with a dark-morning hike to the summit of Mt. Tennent to witness the rising sun while eating breakfast. The rest of the morning saw the team navigate themselves back to our Base camp, where the heavy packs could be put down for the final time; this was a great relief for all involved.
At Outward Bound Australia we are working in partnership with a project to restore the Murrumbidgee River by planting trees along the banks. Our Navigators joined us in the tree planting. This small act is going to have a wonderful long-term impact on the local environment, as is a fitting way to give back to the area that has provided so much for our Navigators.
The afternoon saw the final adventure activity: the giant swing. Each participant was pulled up by the team, and when ready, tugged on a release cord to sent themselves swinging in the air. Dinner was a musical affair, with everyone contributing to the celebration. A roast dinner cooked over a campfire sealed the night into everyone’s memories.