Welcome to the Blog for our Summer Rainforest Navigator Program which is starting this weekend on 13th January from our beautiful Northern Rivers Base, just outside of Uki, NSW.
Follow our participants as they undertake a remarkable and challenging journey alongside our rivers, through national parks and heritage listed rainforest areas. In these 12 days they will be on an expedition together under the direction of our dynamic and inspiring group instructors – Rosie and Simon. In this time, immersed in nature they will learn so much about themselves and others.
Let’s see how these teenagers cope with no telephone or internet. Here you will find updates from the Program including an account of each day’s events as well as photos. The written version will be updated each day, however depending on the different locations, photos may take a day or two to get out of the bush.
Please join in and leave your comments – we would love to hear from you – please also share this link to facebook and instagram so your friends and family can see this unique adventure unfold.
Stay tuned for the first post!
The Arrival – Saturday the 12th
From all corners of Australia arrived 10 nervous, shy and excited Navigator participants. This first day brought plenty of opportunity to break down these walls and start to get the team excited about the amazing experience they are stepping in to. After a few late arrivals program kicked off with a morning tea and a few formalities of an Outward Bound Program.
The Blue Peter ceremony involves raising the “Blue Peter” a naval flag, blue with a white square, which ships raise when they have all their provisions on board and are ready to head “Outward Bound” from the safety of their harbour and into the unknown of the wild seas. Outward Bound having a long history starting in WWII as a training to prepare young men for life at sea continues this tradition by inviting all participants to raise the Blue Peter as a team and signify that they are all headed Outward Bound, out of their comfort zones, away from the familiar, friends, family, phones and screens and tacking a great new challenge with this new and diverse team.
After the ceremony it was all systems go as the group packed their hiking bags and set off towards their first campsite, a steep learning curve as instructors teach them everything from setting up tents, cooking for themselves, how they are going to toilet in the bush for the next 2 weeks, and all while this new group of teenagers try to come together as a team.
The quote of the Day was from Max – “Zucchini is gross, just like slimy cucumbers”.
The group ran a really constructive expectation session with main point from the participants being, to do your best, work together and listen to instructions. Rosie reports they are forming well with good casual discussion round the fire at night.
On the whole the ice seems to have been broken.
Day 2 – Sunday 14th
Today was described as everyone having a great time! The day was filled with big laughs, games and making good friends. Each day the group instructors help facillitate the journey and draw out the learning’s with the group. Today was debriefed with a picture moment, biggest learning, something/someone they appreciate. After such a stinking hot day the picture moment for many of the group was a swim in the damn to cool off.
The group spent this morning on their first high ropes challenge – The Giant Ladder. This activity is all about working together to climb the ladder, an imposing structure suspended above the ground, the runs get further and further apart as you get higher and the group must use each other to make it to to the top.
The day finished with a stunning sunset over one of our most spectacular sites the Amphitheater. This site has views to the border ranges which make up part of the Mt Warning/wollumbin volcano walls.
The group continues to come together and shared that they appreciated having such a cool, fun and interesting group to be a part of.
Day 3 – Monday 15th
Today the group headed off on their mountain biking expedition. They enjoyed an exhilarating ride through the rainforest towards Mebbin National Park. The group reported thoroughly enjoying their mountain biking as it was something that they had never had access to or done before. The group have to build their skills during the day as the terrain threw challenges at them, long descents, steep uphill battles, creek crossings you name it this ride has it and all in some of the most spectacular scenery you could imagine whizzing through.
Tygar has emerged as a solid driver and leader of the group gaining great respect from his teammates. Today the debrief centered around the 5 finger expectation model, briefly this one is about;
Thumb – fun/encouragement, Pointer – personal responsibility, Middle – Respect, Ring – Commitment and Pinky – don’t forget the little guy, safety.
The group was very responsive to the talk and a few students even shed tears about some things discussed.
Day 4 – Tuesday 16th
Today the gang were met by our bush tucker extraordinaire Sean. Sean is a local who has spent years honing his knowledge of wild edibles, bush tucker, rain forest plants and trees and knows how to put on a feed with just what nature provides for us. He volunteers his time to come down and take the group for an information packed, interactive session on what is available in the area, the group makes baskets, natural teas and homemade Jam from Sean’s private collection made with Australian natives.
For the afternoon the group took the navigation reins and made their way back through the rain forest towards an exciting celebration dinner waiting for them, before their solo time begins tomorrow. The dinner which we call a Bush Cook takes a little more effort from the group but the rewards are always worth it.
Bush Cook takes a leg of lamb and roasts it over the fire in a cast iron oven filled with veggies, spices and if there brave our secret ingredient – Vegemite!
The group enjoyed there dinner, but a somber mood filled the air as they began to process the next days challenge … Solo.
Day 5 – Wednesday 17th
Solo came about on an Outward Bound program many moons ago, the story goes that a group were hiking in the mountains when a large snow storm came in (maybe it was an avalanche?), the group was unable to continue and had to quickly find shelter. The group was split to allow each participant to dig their own snow cave and provisions were divided among the group, and they waited out the storm for 3 days (something like this don’t quote me!). When the group had finished there program they were asked to evaluate the experience and hands down everyone’s largest growth and highlights came from their time alone. Time to just be, time to process what had happened so far on the journey and to put an action plan in place for the time that remained and most importantly for the time beyond the program.
Over the next 24 hours the group will be having a similar solo experience. It isn’t about survival, they don’t have to navigate themselves hundreds of kilometers. They will be given enough to get them by and a space to make their own and they will rest and reflect.
Society today is so connected, these guys will almost always have some kind of noise in their lives, distractions, screens, TV, movies, music. When these things are removed you have no choice but to listen to your thoughts and it is often now that participants have their most profound thoughts.
Day 6 – Thursday 18th
The group spent the past 24 hours on their overnight Solo. The experience was profound for the team, Isabelle said that she loved solo, she drew a picture of a person within there comfort zone looking out into her stretch zone drawn as an adventure. Alec wrote the lyrics of Prince of Bel air lyrics, drew comparisons with it and the team he is with now. He described his OB experience as coming home and feeling like he belongs.
Whilst the team were out there tasks were to write about their values, thoughts and feelings that they may have gained from outward bound. They were also asked to think about self confidence and what it means to them and also how do their own values reflect the man or women they want to be. The group have returned from Solo with profound insights into themselves, on how they participated not only on the course but in life in general. All were excited to gather as a group again despite whatever frustrations and tensions may have occurred in the group dynamic prior to the Solo.
After a mentally intense day the group get to bed early as tomorrow brings a challenge of a different kind – To summit Wollumbin/Mt Warning!
Instructor Spotlight – Rosie and Simon
Rosie and Simon completed their training together, being in the same intake and training means they spent a year living, breathing, working, playing in each others pockets. Lucky for them they are two fun loving, easy going all around great instructors and this time together has forged a bond that I’m sure will be a great benefit for the Navigator team. Both having been with Outward Bound for 2 years they have worked across all corners of Australia with a tool-belt including, rock climbing and abseiling, white water canoeing, flat and open water rafting, high ropes as well as their proficiency in the soft skills of facilitation and character development.
Simon comes from Country NSW, he is just as comfortable behind the wheel of those big trucks that bend in the middle as he is with a group of young teens finding there place in the world. Simon has received many commendations for his understanding of safety in adventure. In his free time he loves to go on his own personal expeditions including mountain climbing. Rosie is a beacon of sunshine and smiles, living nomadically in her caravan she is one of our most organised and meticulous instructors. Rosie is a keen bushcraftswoman and loves to share her knowledge with the groups.
Day 7 – Friday 19th
An early start this morning, the group, bleary eyed and by head torch light, packed up camp and clambered onto a bus at 3am for the ride to the base of Wollumbin/Mt Warning. Wollumbin/Mt Warning is an incredibly important cultural/historical/geological site of the Northern Rivers region. The epicenter of an extinct shield Volcano which last erupted some 23 million years ago. This volcano was responsible for shaping what is now South East Queensland/Northern NSW. The Caldera (volcano walls) still present today cradle the tweed Valley, make up the Border ranges, shelter the world heritage gondwanaland rainforest and compromise the largest intact Caldera in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mt Warning/Wollumbin is the central vent of this huge shield volcano, a harder section of rock which has stood the test of erosion, it once reached to the cap of the volcano which stood just shy of 2000m nearly double the current height of the Summit.
Mt Warning gets it’s European name from Captain Cook, who noted the distinctly shaped peak as he passed Cape Byron, shortly after he and the Endeavour nearly ran aground on the reefs outside Tweed Heads, He named this area Point Danger and the distinct Mountain Peak, Mt Warning to serve for future sailors.
Wollumbin is of aboriginal significance to the Bundjalung Nation, Wollumbin was used as an initiation site and for many important ceremonies. Wollumbin has many legends attached to it from the many groups which make up Bundjalung Nation, Popular origins are that Wollumbin translates to Cloud Catcher or Weather Maker – Often Wollumbin’s tallest peak can be seen with a lensicular cloud engulfing it. Other translations include Warrior Chief and The great Turkey. These are the stories of the Warrior and the Turkey.
Wollumbin – The Warrior Chief
Legend has it that the spirits of the mountains were warriors. The wounds they received in battles are the scars on the mountainside, and the thunder and lightning are the results of their battles. If you look today towards Wollumbin from certain angles, you will see the face of the warrior chief in the mountain outline. Wollumbin is a very sacred initiation site for men. In traditional Aboriginal life only the fully initiated men could go to the top of the mountain.
Wollumbin – The Turkey
Once, a long time ago, turkeys could fly greater distances than they can today. Well, one turkey flew from Mt Brown. He had joined a gathering of other birds talking, when a giant bird approached. All the birds, the turkey too, were so frightened they flew away quickly. The turkey flew all the way to Wollumbin, stopping on the top of the great mountain to catch his breath, but as he rested, he was wounded in the head by a spear from a warrior. Because of his head wound, the turkey’s flying ability was impaired. That is the reason why turkeys today can fly only short distances before they must rest; and if you look at Wollumbin you can see the mountain top has a small bend in it where the spear hit the turkey. The mountain tip is the point of the warriors spear.
Navigator had a great day out on the mountain, the sunrise here is the first to be seen on mainland Australia, the group enjoyed the mystical and reverence of this truly special place. Takin time at the top to reflect on the significance of climbing this mountain and its place in their own “rite of passage” as a young adult finding their place in the world. Max helped the team to reach the summit. The final 400m of the climb is an almost vertical ascent scrambling up a steep rockface with the assistance of a chain, he encouraged and supported Dylan all the way to the top.
In the afternoon the Group began their canoe expedition, starting at the top of Clarrie Hall Dam and making there way to a campsite on its shore. Ruben was an outstanding leader today, the team couldn’t have accomplished what they did without his leadership.
Day 8 – Saturday 20th
This morning the group was back on the water to complete their canoe journey, waking up at this pristine lakeside campsite is always remembered by participants. The surface of the water is like glass this early in the morning, the soft morning light casts amazing colours and reflections as the bird life wake up with the group and share this amazing body of water. The group navigates there way along the dam, with games and any excuse for a swim along the way. It is a welcome rest to work a different muscle group for a few days, and the dips do a good job of staving off the shower for a few more days.
After traversing the length of the Dam the group leave there canoes behind and again load packs onto there backs and set off for more hiking. They ascend towards an abseil site, a beautiful section of exposed rock in the forest above the dam. This abseil has a particularly tricky start, being overhung, which really pushes the comfort zones of many participants. This group took it in their stride and reported to be very competent and supporting of each other through the process.
Outward Bound uses a process of “challenge by choice” inviting participants to give their 100% to an activity. For some people this is as simple as putting on a harness and making it to the edge, for others its a challenge to try a jump or two, or even putting on a blindfold. Isabella reported really enjoying the abseil and getting a lot from facing her fear and tackling the abseil head on.
The evening was spent preparing for the groups last challenge – Final Expedition!
Day 9 – Sunday 21st
Today saw the group commence their final expedition, a process which hands over full responsiblity to the group. Simon and Rosie continue to support the group on their journey, however the group must step up to the challenge. Running the days themselves involves, electing leaders, selecting their own routes, navigating, choosing meal times, managing breaks, running camp life and essentially putting into practice all they have learned over the past week.
Max thought it worth noting that Simon looks really funny when he wakes up, probably a combination of his wild mop of hair and mustache. The group is really feeling the connections (and frustrations) of being so tight nit and Noah and James have become really good friends.
This expedition will make its way off track through Mount Jerusalem National Park, over the Nightcap Range, to an expedition campsite (a wild site selected by the team), into Nightcap National park and on to finish at the mighty falls Minyon Falls, an impressive 100m drop to the valley below.
The Group set off today over Jerusalem Walls. The walls form part of the great Caldera talked about above. From this rim the group has expansive views over the entire Tweed Valley and to the Summit of Mt Warning/Wollumbin which they stood on just days ago. From the same point the group can look eastward and see to the coast with views of the Byron Bay Lighthouse at Cape Byron.
The group faced some difficult interpersonal challenges today, they are being supported by the instructors in the field and our network of co-ordinators and logistics staff. Tuckmans model of group development states a group must “storm” to be able to get to a point of truly “performing”. Staff have had to remain directive in their guidance through this time. The team have been working through resolving their differences and look well on the way to being an ideal group in which everyone will not feel that they are being judged, and will therefore share their opinions and views. This stage of group development can involve tension, struggle and sometimes arguments occur. This stage can be upsetting but paves the way for the group to perform.
Day 10 – Monday 22nd
Due to the aforementioned “storming” the group had not covered the ground they intended to yesterday. This put the group in an interesting position today, they could be defeated, hang their heads, point the blame… Or they could rise to the new challenge, keep there intended campsite as they had planned and have a very(very) big day today. Isabella took the helm, she was super organised and put together the plan to make it happen.
The Group would essentially need to cover 2 days of walking today to meet their target and get to Rummery Park, the reward other than the satisfaction of completing their original goal and smashing their final expedition, would be to see the impressive Minyon Falls tomorrow.
Having decided as a group they wanted to make it to Rummery park, it was all hands on deck to push there. It took them till 2230 until they finally marched triumphantly into camp. The group were tired but in a state of absolute euphoria. Max was the loudest voice in the group to drive the team as darkness approached.
Making it to this campsite has really lifted the spirits of the team, all the hard work and effort, all the lessons learnt, all the natural consequences throughout the week culminated tonight in the completion of this final expedition, together as one unit, striving for one common goal.
Day 11 – Tuesday 23rd
Today the group got to enjoy the fruits of their 18km labours from yesterday. The group enjoyed a swim at the top of Minyon falls before being transported back to base for an activity we call the “Pamper Pine”. Participants climb among the hoop pines and leap off attempting to catch a trapeze. The group really enjoyed having a thrilling fun activity to round out the week.
Today the group did a lot of reflecting, revisiting and tried there best to capture this life changing experience as best they could before being thrust back into the real world tomorrow.
Among other things the group shared their “biggest learning and how they can use it in life”. They would like to share these learnings with you
Tygar – To be more confident to jump into things in life and get out of my comfort zone.
Max – Trying harder even if I don’t want to be there. Make the most of every experience. Made this a whole lot better.
Dylan – To trust people more and be able to trust people in my home life.
Alec- To keep taking chances to detox, leads to experience something new and different
Noah – Learning to interact with different people.
Alex – Endurance. Mental gains to be able to block things out and focus on my goals. Can lead to having a lot more fun.
Isabelle- Should’t fear the unknown. Definitely going to spend less time on my phone. Detox. Not waste a lot of time and step up to challenges.
James- Take opportunites to chat with myself. Use the skills I have learnt at home. Make change.
Ruben- Gave me a chance to grieve and let things go.
Final Day – Wednesday 24th
This morning the team were treated to hot chocolate and surprise pancakes a welcome change to the muesli and weetbix had throughout the week! After breakfast it was time to begin deissung the gear, drying tents, packing away group gear.
The group were tasked with cleaning the mountain bikes which quickly errupted into a full scale water fight. We thought the hose didnt quite get 12 days of hiking in the bush stink out of sweaty teenagers, so we had them shower and get changed into their fresh clothes for the ride home.
Finally it came time to say goodbye, the final blue peter ceremony was had, certificates handed out and hands shaken. New friendships forged over the past 2 weeks, were evident as the group had to be pulled apart to get on busses and rejoin family. Final hugs, intricate handshakes, thank you’s and goodbyes and that was it – another group “Outward Bound” back into the real world hopefully a little better off for it!