The 2015 Spring Rainforest Navigator program has got under way in the beautiful Tweed Valley under the shadow of Wollumbin (Mt Warning). The 13 participants arrived at Outward Bound Australia’s Northern NSW property on Monday where they were greeted by our wonderful staff. An introduction and discussion on participant expectations took place then the team was thrust straight out of their “comfort zone” as they took part in their first activity, the Pamper Pole. This activity rattles even those who have nerves of steel; participants climb to the top of an 8 meter pole then summon the courage to launch themselves off the pole into the air while trusting the safety rope attached to a harness. Once the post activity adrenaline subsided the group proceeded to organize equipment needed for the rest of the expedition. After knowing each other for only a few hours it was obvious that lifelong friendships were already forming.
The second day of the school holidays was a little different from the norm for the participants as they were awoken very early to go and climb a mountain. After a short bus transfer everyone clambered up to the summit of Wollumbin (Mt Warning) to watch the sun rise and be the first people in the country to feel the sun’s rays. Often the top of the Wollumbin is enshrouded in cloud but that was not the case today as there was blue sky as far as the eye could see.
After lunch it was on with the backpacks as all signs of civilization were left behind and the crew hiked deep into the Mt Jerusalem National Park for their 2nd night out. It’s early to bed tonight after a total of 13km’s hiked over some of the steepest terrain around.
Day 3 began as another beautiful spring day in the Tweed Valley.
After a sound night’s sleep and waking up to the bird chorus in the National Park the crew spent the morning facing fears once again as they all completed an abseil down a 15 meter cliff. This was difficult for some members but everyone showed great determination and a willingness to tackle these challenges head on.
After lunch it was on with the backpacks as they embarked on a 12km hike through the picturesque Doon Doon valley. This hike amongst rolling hills takes the group to a campsite perched high in the hills between Mt Jerusalem National Park and Nightcap National Park. The outlook from this campsite is stunning and offers the best view of the surrounding Mt Warning caldera.
It will be all hands on deck once in camp to get everything set up and dinner cooked before “chill” time around the fire.
Days 4 & 5
After a wet and windy night the group packed up camp and set off on day 4 of their 12 day expeditionary journey. The day entailed hiking through the Nightcap National Park along the historic Postman’s Track. This track was the first track cut in the region which allowed the original pioneers to penetrate the thick rainforest.
The group have really adapted well to having to hike with a fully laden backpack. Today’s hike covered 14km’s of some of the most stunning scenery in the Nightcap National Park.
The following morning involved a short 2km walk alongside Boggy Creek to the top of Minyon Falls, a sheer 97m vertical waterfall. The view from the top is magical but rattled a few nerves as the viewing platform overhangs the top of the cliff. After morning tea at the Falls, the group boarded a bus and headed west to the Upper Clarence river.
Much to the delight of some group members their backpacks were traded for waterproof barrels in preparation for the next 3 days of white water canoeing down the Clarence River.
Days 6, 7 & 8
The next 3 days were spent negotiating the Clarence River as they embarked on the down river component of the expedition. This change in mode of travel was welcomed by the crew as during the hiking they had become aware of muscles in their legs that they didn’t know existed!
This river journey saw the participants working in pairs to maneuver their 2 person “Wobbegong” canoes through flat pools which are home to an abundant range of creatures including the elusive platypus. Between these flat pools they needed to negotiate grade 1 and 2 rapids. This tested the newly learnt skills of the group with some participants.
Camping next to the river was a nice change from being deep in the forest. The crew were able to spend small amounts of time in solitude, a rare opportunity to reflect on some of the opportunities and challenges that life offers.
Days 9 & 10
After being transported back to the 2500 acre Outward Bound property the crew started their preparation for the next days “Solo” component of the expedition. The following morning the participants were separated from each other for the first time in 9 days. Each participant was placed at an individual campsite where they spent the next 24hrs in solitude. This “solo” time is an incredibly powerful experience that allows individuals to reflect on the past, present and future. It is a rare opportunity to take time out, free of distractions and put some real thought into life and what they would like to achieve.
The next day everyone regrouped to share their stories and experiences of the previous 24hrs.
Next the journey took another turn with a new mode of transport adopted, mountain bikes. After a “skills session” the crew headed through fire trails and into the Mebbin National Park to the Cutters Camp camping area. This is where they spent their final night “out bush”, with the realization that the journey was coming to an end. It was a time to reflect on what had been achieved so far and share laughter and more stories around the fire.
Days 11 & 12
Day 11 saw the crew make their way back to the Outward Bound Base on mountain bikes. On route they participated in their last roping activity of the expedition, Big Ben. This activity involves all of the participants wearing a harness then getting attached to each other via a long rope, while connected together the group then climb to great heights up a massive Hoop pine tree. This gave the crew another opportunity to really pull together and work as a team once again.
It was then back on the bikes for the final few km’s of what had been an amazing journey.
After arriving back at Base for the final night everyone got to partake in a HOT shower, something that seemed like a long forgotten activity. Then the final night festivities began, starting with a celebration dinner followed by a slide show and an opportunity to reflect on what had been an amazing personal transformation in the last 12 days.
The last morning was spent saying their final goodbyes as the group separated and went back to the “real world” where they can transfer their new found knowledge and skills into their life ahead.
It was at this time that the depth of friendships formed over the last 12 days was realized with many fighting to hold back tears.
All involved said it was one of the, if not the most amazing experiences of their lives.
A big congratulations to the participants on the completion of their Navigator program. Don’t forget that you can share this blog with your friends and family on Facebook & Twitter (see above).