It was an early start for the 7 participants of the Discover program, who left the comfort of their warm beds in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney to make their way up to the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales for 5 days of fun, challenges and building of new skills. The participants had an opportunity to meet and chat with each other on the ride from the airport to base camp, with a mix of nerves and excitement in the air. The instructor passed on information about the program and what to expect (insects and creeping crawlies were a hot topic), before loading up their hiking bags with gear and equipment and heading out for their first adventure, a canoe on the scenic Clarrie Hall Dam, traveling 2.5km to the first campsite placed close to the edge of the water. The group were in high moral as they cooked their dinner over the fire, with the strong scent of insect repellent in the air they settled in for the night.
The first nights sleep in a new place can often a be difficult one. This was the case for the participants this morning, with unusual noises overnight and pillows and mattresses which weren’t their own. A good breakfast was had and once in their canoes on Clarrie Hall Dam with reflections on the water; it looked like glass. With the morning fog hanging around the mountains, everyone was blown away by the picturesque views and got right into the swing of things for day two. With the blue skies coming out from behind the fog and the humidity starting to go up, the next test for the participants would be mountain biking. 7 kilometres of undulating uphill terrain, cycling past farms, dense pockets of trees and mountains made of lava from a dormant volcano. It was a hard push at times for the participants, but with regular breaks and team support they got through it in good time. After lunch the group were into their first hike, 2.5 kilometres, which starts off with a gentle gradient at the start, with the last kilometre or so being a solid climb up to one of the most scenic campsites, Doon Doon Platform. This will set them up well for the next 2 days of hiking to come.
After having a goodnights sleep and waking to spectacular views, today began a little easier for the participants. The group were able to clearly see how the land has been shaped over millions of years due to dormant volcanos and the high rainfall level of this area, leaving the two dormant volcanic plugs exposed. The closer one being Mount Doughboy and the one in the distance with a little cloud around the top being Mount Warning. Today the participants took more ownership of the program by completing tasks as a team, without instructor input. A thorough expectation session and navigation brief was had as a team and then they were on their way! The team pulled together really well as they hiked the historic Nightcap trail, which was used as a postal route at the turn of the last century. With their efforts and hard work, they made it to camp at 3.20pm. This meant that the group had time to hang out with the fat goannas roaming around and make a tasty dinner of vege pasta (with a bit too much chilli in it!).
The group headed off earlier than planned this morning as they had perfected the morning pack down routine! The tired muscles appreciated the lighter bags, with less food to carry due to returning back to base today. They headed down the road to the Minyon Falls, when they came across a creek crossing with flowing water over the road, one participant decided to have a “walking on water moment” and forged ahead leaving the others in her wake. The group were blown away with the view from the top of Minyon Falls which is 100 metres high. On the way to the bottom of the falls the instructor showed the group how the Xanthorrhoea (Black Boy) Tree could be eaten, and the group passed though a pocket of forest that was reminiscent of times of old, when Australia was part of Gondwana land. 2 participants were brave enough to take a swim once at the bottom, they are quoted by saying “that this was a breath taking experience and something that they will hold onto long after the program has finished!” On the walk back to the top the group took the opportunity to have a solo experience (reflection time on the journey the have gone through) one last opportunity to be immersed in the wilderness and removed from the modern world before heading back to base. Once back where they started, the group relished the home comforts which included hot showers, a cooked dinner and famous Outward Bound Australia sticky date pudding.
The last day of the adventure the participants were up at 2.40am, and ready for the 3am departure. It was amazing to see that all the participant were ready on time and there were no sleep ins. The group headed to an iconic feature in the Northern Rivers, Mount Warning. The local aboriginal tribe, the Bundjalung people, call it Wollumbin, which means cloud catcher and is a place of importance, with the top of the mountain being the first place in Australia to be touched by the sun in the mornings. The group headed up the mountain in the dark in hope for a clear skies. Along they way they saw the twinkling glow worms, as they passed their checkpoints along the way. The anticipation started to built for the sun rise and the final scramble to the top began. The forewarning of the chain rope can not prepare you for how steep it actually is, but when the group made it there just before dawn they were rewarded for their effort with an incredible sunrise. With 360 degree views they could see out to Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and the surrounding hinterland. Whilst on the top eating breakfast the group reflected over the view and over they journey they had completed over the last 5 days. From their location they could seen the entire jouney they had travelled during this experience. On the way back down, the group marvelled at how completely different the track felt in the day light. At the bottom, they had a well deserved foot soak in the creek which felt amazing and refreshing on their weary feet. Once back at base there was as only a few things left to do, have lunch, a giggle over the photos collected, and receive their certificates and Outward Bound Australia pin. With tired muscles and refilled appreciation for the Australian bush, the Discover participants said their goodbyes.
Here at Outward Bound Australia, we would like to thank the participants of the Discover program for taking the opportunity to set away from their lives, their creature comforts, to step out in the great unknown, reclaim the wonderlust of adventure and gain new skills and confidence on this glorious shared adventure.
We wish you all the best for your future endeavours and hope that one day we once again have the pleasure of helping create an experience to remember for you!
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