Our Snowy River Navigator participants are already into Day 3 of their program! After meeting at Bairnsdale the group drove 1½ hours before beginning their wilderness journey. They had their first meal, sorted their gear and then got into some initial activities. Coming out of their shells was the first challenge faced but once that was over their first group challenge was to get through the ‘spiders web ’ (low ropes element) as a team. It took a few attempts but through perseverance and team work they succeeded – a great practical demonstration of experiential education! There was a lot of learning today around campsite set up and how to use the tools they will need to survive in the bush for the next 12 days.
The focus of day 2 was rock climbing and abseiling. Everyone seemed really keen and excited to be involved in these roping activities which was a great way to commence the second day of this action packed program. Although climbing and abseiling are mainly individual activities, support from others was essential to success. A good team bond is already beginning to form. This busy morning was followed by a navigation briefing and practice walk to prepare the group for their first expedition which will see them head into the Snowy River forest region for days 3 and 4.
It was an early start to the day with some yoga whilst watching the sunrise. After a follow up navigation session to yesterday’s briefing, today’s group leaders plotted a course that would lead the group to a river to replenish water supplies. It was nice to relax by the stream before taking on the multiple climbs up and down the terrain which proved to be harder than the group expected. However, at the first peak, welcome rain made the hike a little easier. When morale was low at points in the day some singing and quality banter certainly helped! It was a terrific finish to the day, finding a great camp spot at sun down and cooking dinner under the stars. Fact of the day: geese fly in v-formation to increase fly time by 71%!
On fourth day the group was once again up with the sunrise. They packed up camp with a world breaking record, had breakfast with a great view and enjoyed another yoga session. After a small initiative activity, the group continued on a ridge line that would lead them straight into their next camp site, but not without a creek crossing or two! This afternoon, the group split in half, with the first group abseiling into Slocombes Cave where they explored the deep caverns, while the second group set up camp and cooked dinner.
Continuing on from the previous day, the second group headed into the cave before sunrise for an underground scramble through Slocombes Cave. When they returned, the final bits of their camp site were cleaned up before following the instructors to the nearest tree line on a conspicuous mountain side to commence their solo experience. Each participant was given their basic camping equipment and ration pack and were individually led into their camp area to rest and reflect for an overnight period. Included in this activity was the opportunity to write a letter to themselves which will be sent to them at a later date.
On Day 6 the group was reunited after their solo experience and spent time discussing their confronting personal experiences as well as sharing a gift. These conversations continued as they began their hike toward the Snowy River to begin their rafting expedition. The intention was for 3 rafts to float down the river in harmony but this did not go to plan with rain making it warmer to be submerged in the river rather than above it. It was a tough day with the group mood mirroring the poor weather.
The group continued on their Snowy River rafting expedition. It was quite entertaining at times as they worked in smaller rafting groups to manoeuvre their way through the rapids avoiding rocks and other submerged hazards. Some great learnings to be had, particularly in the area of effective communication. Experiential learning all the way! At times, the views were stunning, such a place apart from the chaos of the usual school holiday activities. Without the interruptions of anything electronic also made for some interesting conversations! They arrived at the end point of their rafting expedition on Day 8. Once the rafts were deflated and all equipment packed up and returned to the trailer, the group refocused for their final expedition. This group has come a long way, both in the friendships gained and in the willingness to take on leadership roles. The Outward Bound Instructors have now stepped right back and individual participantss are taking charge planning routes, organising food, preparing meals and expeditioning together as a well formed unit.
Day 11 was their final day of hiking – the group was in high spirits knowing that they were close to the end of the program. They pushed through a few difficult navigation sections and some scorching heat to make it to camp in the early afternoon. With a well-deserved rest and an amazing final night dinner, the group packed away their gear and bunkered down, excited to return home tomorrow. It was an early start on the final day, finishing off the final bits and pieces including cleaning and returning all group gear and organising personal items. It was then off to Buchan Caves for showers and celebrations as the participants said their final farewells before returning to the comforts of their own homes with the satisfaction of having completed their Navigator journey. What an amazing experience with many life skills to be gained. As one participant commented “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I couldn’t be prouder and I loved every second”.
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