Rainforest Navigator, Spring 2017 – Youth Development Program
Welcome to the Blog for our Spring Rainforest Navigator Program which is starting this weekend on Saturday 23 September from our beautiful Northern Rivers Base, just outside of Uki, NSW.
Follow our 16 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 – Lauren and Ed. 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.
The weather for this weekend is forecast to be hot … summer is definitely arriving early in the Northern Rivers. Our team can expect temperatures in the mid 30s on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
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 23 September
From around Australia our 16 participants arrived at our Tweed Hinterland Base Camp this morning. Some fresh off interstate flights, others deposited at Base by their parents. Everyone excited, shy and a little nervous about what lies ahead. The first day has been spent re-packing back-packs – our participants will carry these back-packs on their expedition journey – instructors were on hand to make sure only the essentials go on tour.
A session was held on navigation and expectations – everyone now has a clear idea of what they have signed up for – 12 days of varying challenge, great company and good fun. It was a hot day in northern New South Wales today – most of our first day activities were held in the shade with a gentle breeze, helping to aclimatise some of our participants who have travelled from cooler climates.
Prior to heading off on the first part of the expedition a trek to this evening’s campsite everyone took part in the “Blue Peter Ceremony”. This is symbolic and a naval tradition that we use at Outward Bound – prior to heading off to sea the Ships would raise their flags signalling leaving the harbour. At Outward Bound we like to raise the Blue Peter Flag at the beginning of a Program to signal leaving the Base Camp and going into the Rainforest, leaving comfort zones and definitely leavinghome comforts behind.
It’s a beautiful evening in the Tweed Valley and everyone is safe and happy, sitting around a campfire and getting to know their new friends in this adventure.
Sunday 24 September — A Hot Day Out
The word from the ground is that this a truly awesome team of teenagers who are all excited to be taking part in this incredible journey together. The group has spent some time contemplating their journey and have come up with a ‘full values contract’. This contract has been written on a rock and this rock starts the day in the back pack of the days designated leaders. While the rock starts in the leaders pack the plan is to hide it in someone else’s pack. Throughout the day, depending on whether it is found or not, it can be carried in various packs. The person who ultimately walks into cam with the ‘values rock’ must perform for the group. Today it was Sophie’s turn and she excelled in signing a song from Moana.
Sophie was not the only performance of the afternoon … the group worked together in getting out of their ‘public performance comfort zone’ with a round of theatre sports.
There is no campfire this evening due to a total fire ban and strong winds in the region… a cold dinner for all this evening. This is really what an Outward Bound Rainforest experience is about .. adapting to the different conditions and situations.
Speaking of.. there were no water activities scheduled today but the photos show a different story… On route our participants found a great swimming hole and every body enjoyed cooling down and their first ‘shower’ of sorts.
Today was about climbing and mountain bike skills … it was a super day in the bush for all.
Monday 25 September — trail riding
It doesn’t happen every day or even on every program but I did hear that our Navigators were up and rearing to go very early this morning. Tents packed up, back packs ready, breakfast prepared – eaten – and cleaned up all before 7 am. It seems everyone was looking forward to their day of mountain biking. A hot day was forecast so perhaps this was extra special incentive to get an early start to the day.
It’s a really energetic group who are having no problem keeping up with the challenge of the expedition — our thoughts are maybe we need to tweak it and make it a little more challenging for our fit and adventurous team.
Mountain biking was a great success on our new fleet of bikes…. down time this afternoon, after finding another swimming hole to cool down in, was all about planning for the zombie apocalypse … perhaps we will have some more news on that another day…
Asher divulged a secret with the group … he demonstrated his very adept ability in knowing every word to every song in Moana… it would appear the group is being well entertained by the various personalities on board.
Tuesday 26 September — A Gourmet Delight
Today started off with unique and exploratory experience for everyone – a bush tucker and edible natives session. The Northern Rivers has been home to the Bundjalung people – the original custodians of the land – for longer than we can perhaps guess. The Bundjalung land stretching from the Clarence River at Grafton to Ipswich in Queensland was known to be one of the richest and most fertile hunting grounds in Australia.
This hands on experience is a great way to connect to Country and experience first hand how food has been foraged throughout the ages. Tom, one of the Western Australians on the team apparently could not eat enough and was very game to try it all. Everybody got to taste something a little unusual and surprising this morning.
It’s a loud group that likes to sing and the tunes kept everybody going on their hike through the rainforest this afternoon … Today’s hike included some off track navigation with just the right amount of challenge.
There was a very good reason to keep the tempo going and get to camp on time and set up for the evening…..
The great news for today is that the total fire ban has been lifted and after the last couple of nights with only cold food options….tonight is the bush cook. There is nothing better than after a few days in the rainforest to sit down and relax around the campfire and tuck into the best camping roast ever!
Wednesday 27 September — Big Ben conquered
The first of the high ropes was completed by the team today.. Strapped together they overcame any fear of heights and successfully climbed one of our larger Norfolk Pines, Big Ben.
One of the essential ingredients of an Outward Bound Program is a session that we call ‘Service’ … on each program this is different and today our team helped to regenerate the river banks which were completely devastated in the Mebbin National Park during Cyclone Debbie earlier. We are grateful for their assistance in planting trees along the bank this afternoon and for giving something back to the environment.
Thursday 28 September — Wollumbin Climbing
It was a really early start to the day with a pre-dawn summit of Wollumbin (Mount Warning). Yes, that’s a huge hike before breakfast – Wollumbin is 1156 metres high .. this roughly translates into a 8 km hike up and down.
With head-torches on our Navigators started the summit at 3 am in order to get to the top by sunrise.
Wollumbin is a sacred place of great cultural and traditional significance to the Bunjalung people and is the site of many traditional ceremonies and initiation rites. It was given its European name, Mount Warning, by Captain James Cook in May 1779 – it was a landmark warning sailors of the offshore reefs in the area.
On a clear day at the summit you can see out to the Coast and up to Brisbane and then way down to the South past Byron Bay.
Lucky for our team this energetic start to the day was over and done with before the real of heat of the day kicked in – temperatures reached the mid thirties on this very hot Spring day in the Northern Rivers.
The afternoon was spent back on the water – definitely the best place to be! Our team had a short canoe to their campsite and spent a night that will be unforgettable to all.
Solo. It’s an incredibly valuable part of this Program and the part which is generally dreaded – practically a whole day to rest and reflect, alone.
Each Navigator during solo will set up their campsite for the night and prepare their own dinner, breakfast and lunch before re-joining the group. Participants during this time cannot see or speak with other members of their team. The only contact they have is with their instructors who are in checking in throughout this adventure.
We can all be assured that Friday afternoon and evening will be a pretty loud and amazing reunion as participants regroup and share their tales.
Friday 29 September — Survival Euphoria
It’s been quite the afternoon in the bush today – every body is well rested after 24 hours of down time and just so happy to reconnect with their new friends and share their experiences of solo.
The word from the ground is so exciting — the debrief was amazing – at times emotional and so very positive. Participants shared insights into what sort of values they would like to have as an adult which was super encouraging for everyone involved.
During solo each Navigator was individually tasked with preparing a gift for the group — there were lots of poems and one crafty teenager made a model house out of their surrounding environment.
One of the upshots of this debrief resulted in everyone choosing a super hero … henceforth they will be known by this name for the rest of their time in the Northern Rivers.
Already one week into Program, there is a great energy after a great day’s rest to propel everyone through the weekend and into the final countdown to home.
May the force be with them.
Saturday 30 September & Sunday 1 October — Birthday Cake and Some Rain
It’s always fun when there is a birthday in the rainforest – it means cake for everyone and a lot more singing. Josh turned 17 and had a birthday he is unlikely to forget.
Our team had a great time canoeing and played a game called fruit salad which generally involves everyone getting very wet. Upon arrival at Crams Farm they did a bomb shelter scenario – everyone gets a character but only 3 can make it into the bunker. The only way in is to argue your way in. Yet another very nosiy and robust discussion!
No task seems to be too great for group of Navigators. Everyone flew (figuratively) over the abseil – even those that were nervous went straight over the edge.
Today was their biggest day of hiking – the ultimate opportunity to face a challenge independently with very little help from the instructors.
Temperatures have dropped and it was drizzling all day – their job was to bush bash to the summit of Mt Jerusalem and back down again to camp. Their reward was the most stunning campsite on our circuit overlooking Mt Warning and ‘doughboy’ mountain. It’s going to be a wet night, the first one on this trip and the first one in the region since June. The good news is they have a fire going, a nice hot dinner has been cooked and everyone is in very high spirits. The countdown is really happening now…
Monday 2 October — Trekking the Nightcap
Our Navigators have been lucky to recieve the full Northern Rivers treatment – a heat wave to start the Program and the commencement of the wet season to finish! It was a rainy day but our team were largely under the rainforest canopy as they hiked their way through the Nightcap National Park. This is a historic transport route between Lismore and Queensland.
The Night Cap trail was named as such because of number of ideal resting places ‘night camps’ for the early settlers trading along this track — a pretty good place to be on a wet Northern Rivers Day. Perhaps by the time they make it to Minyon Falls the water will be flowing again.
Our group was introduced to an interesting lunch experiment which we call a ‘tied lunch’. All hands were tied together and as a team they negotiated the preparation and eating of lunch in this state.
During the afternoon the team took part in a ‘first aid’ lesson — this session was about building skills for a scenario that will take place prior to the end of program.
Word from the ground is that Tom is standing out as the ‘gun navigator and our quietest member, Lily has found her outside voice.
Tuesday 3 October — Circle is Complete
Just a quick post to let the support team know that our hardy team of Navigators have arrived back at Base Camp after a completely unforgettable journey through the Northern Rivers. This afternoon there will be some more high ropes before hot showers and a home cooked meal in the Long House. Tomorrow is a very exciting day ?
Wednesday 4 October — Victory
An amazing team of young adults who have stepped up to the challenge of being away from home for 12 days and learning about how to be the best version of themselves through physical, intellectual and emotional challenge are now on their way home. Congratulations to each outstanding young adult who had the courage to take part and succeed in this adventure.