With our phones locked away and our beds set up, Sunday night started off the camp
with many of us boys out of our comfort zones. Before the camp, many of us barely knew that we went to the same school as each other, which led to Sunday night’s talk being mostly dominated by those who knew each other.
Group one was woken early, not by the rising sun, but by Mr. Lockwood at 5 O’clock in the morning. Despite breakfast duty beginning at 6:30, the boys of chalet one helped to prepare the tables and food for the happy campers, slowly waking up after a night in a new bed.
Following the nervousness and excitement of our Sunday afternoon journey, we went to Hillary Outdoors in the Tongariro National Park. The first activity, “Bushwack'' took place on Monday. It started off with exploring the forest surrounding The Camp centre. Using our knowledge with Maps and the sun for bearings, we were able to navigate our way through the massive Bush, to locate activities and challenges.
As the day went on, we were fortunate enough to witness two rare and native species. The first one was called the “Wooden Rose”, which was a parasite that grew by attaching itself to other roots, later creating unique wooden rose-like ends, hence the name “Wooden Rose”. The second one was a white flower named the “Clematis' '. What made it rare was that it only grew during spring, a little similar to the Japanese Sakura. These two rare sightings kick started our week to a high.
With day one done and dusted, our boys were beginning to come out of their shells and make connections with each other.
After breakfast we headed over to the resource centre, where we were told our destination for the day, caving. Caving was the last activity the boys wanted to do as we were all new to the idea of crawling through tight spaces.
With a bumpy ride and a slippery walk downhill, we eventually arrived at three dodgy entrances, the way into the Okupata caves. As a group, we decided to make our way down the entrance to the far left. We climbed over rock after rock, and the light and land slowly became further away from us.
By an hour into our journey, we came across a point in which the roof of the dark, murky cave was getting lower and lower with each passing step. At one point in our journey, we were forced to crawl on our stomach with the rocks bruising our knees and our jackets filling up with raging cave water.
The boys were all coming together and working as a whanau and team. All of our strong personalities were coming out and boy was it showing as we gave each other cheek over ping pong and last card with western heights who were staying at the camp at the same time as us.
At 8 O’clock our instructors came down from their morning briefing and huddled us around a set of couches in the recreation room. Here they briefed us that we would be venturing up ruapehu today and that we must wear our warmest clothes and a pair of sunglasses.
After another bumpy van ride we were waiting outside the sky waka where we met another interesting character who goes by the name of Le Animal, a local snowboarder who was very high spirited. From here we took the brand new sky waka gondola up the mounga which gave us a beautiful view over the horizon.
It was my first time feeling snow since I was four years old and I was joyous to see that there was a large patch of snow right after you stepped out of the gondola. I had heard many people talking about their snowboarding holiday over the school holidays and I was very envious of them but now I was able to experience it for myself. The boys must have thought I looked like an idiot but my face lit up as the snow crunched under my foot.
Using our ice picks we climbed up the mountain staircasing our way up the steep sections. We only stopped for lunch and occasionally we stopped to create a slide or because someone just got smashed in the face with a snowball and world war 3 broke out. After stopping for lunch our fantastic instructors set up a rope on a steep hill meaning that we could climb up punching our ice picks into the snow and kicking in our feet to reach the top. Once there we created a fast bum slide where you could sit on the edge and slide down with your legs up at a fast speed. The slide was great fun especially when you got to halfway and a small hole in the snow created a mini jump, the only trouble was coming back down.
Throughout the week we participated in many trust building exercises, but on Day Four we put it all to the test with a High ropes course. With just a harness and 2 ropes we took the most difficult section in the system. This section of the course was a 15-20 metres tall pillar which the group had to climb. As we near the top of the pillar, it narrowed and became more precarious. Once atop the pillar, what awaited you was a butt clenching, 2 metre leap into the air and onto a trapeze. If you missed or slipped from the trapeze you would have to trust in the boys to catch you with the ropes! This was arguably the most intimidating experience of our visit at the camp.
Soon after, we then started an overnight expedition with our tramping packs. Using our recently acquired skills with a map, we navigated our way to our group's chosen location named Bev’s. We then set up our shelter on a nice dry patch of grass and made a fire. After some cooking with our guide, we spent the rest of our time vibing, sharing matauranga Māori, and as Day turned into Night, our Haka erupted around the fire.
After waking from a terrible night's sleep in our makeshift shelter, it was time to head back to our Camp Centre. We gathered our gears, made porridge and after taking in the sights of our campground for the last time, we started making our way back to Camp Centre. As we tramped back to Camp Centre, our guide taught us about Aotearoa’s edible Plants like Horopito, Ti kōuka, Pirita and much more!
With our group's good teamwork and efficient pace, we arrived at Camp Centre quite early and had time to spare. Since this was our final day at Hillary Outdoors, we decided to finish the week off on a high and go for something more “extra”. So we squeezed in one final challenge which was to jump from Tawhai falls, with a 12 metre drop, into the 2° Tongariro river.
The boys did an absolutely phenomenal job of upholding our school values and growing together to be better leaders. A big thank you to our instructors Matt, Jono, Ollie and Kyle who kept us safe and shared their knowledge of the outdoors and how to be great men and great leaders. Also a big thanks to Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Makan who were able to accompany us on our journey.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
-Sir Edmund Hillary
by Manaia Christiansen and Dean Richardson