By Gabrielle Sauntv (Tauraroa Area School, Northland)

This journey challenged us not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. We enjoyed the wonders and some amazing experiences as us five Gold girlies worked together to get through the challenges we faced. Our mission was to safely navigate ourselves (and the accompanying adults of our shadow party) down the Matemateaonga Track and Whanganui River.

As we hiked this amazing tramp, we were challenged mentally and had to keep focused on what we have set out to achieve — physically, the hiking and canoeing, while emotionally, keeping the morale of the group in good order despite any bad weather or mishaps along the way. We were constantly learning and adapting as we hiked and overcame any trials that presented themselves, recognising and relying on each others strengths and using them to the best advantage in each situation.

This Gold qualifier hike has bettered us individually and as a team, as it has helped us grow and develop as individuals and leaders. We already have learnt so many leadership skills, not the least of which is the art of cooperation and compromising.

From the planning of this trip through to successful completion, we have all really enjoyed how we have grown as a group and how far we have come. The skills we learn will help us in our futures with work, leisure and community activities, as we will have learnt the importance of knowing that each individual has something unique to offer in any situation. Most significantly, if we work as a team then we can do anything.

We are a group of five tough wahine that really wanted to finish our Duke of Edinburgh awards off with a bang. We specifically chose this trip as it is very special and memorable for us to come full circle, given we started off as wee little Bronzies [Bronze level candidates] going down the Whanganui River.

But now it feels very strange — something that has been the biggest part of our lives for the past three years is over. It is the most bittersweet thing any of us have ever experienced. We have all these memories and experienced all these things. We made lifelong friends. We learnt and grew. But it’s not like we can’t learn and grow further, or we can’t make more memories. We just need to put the skills this programme has given us to use on our own.

Each day of this trip presented challenges, such as:  cold weather, rain, ripped pants and the path changing to something more like a route due to fallen trees and slips. But none of us would change a thing. We wouldn’t even change the mouldy hut mattresses.

The thing that has always made our group have a good time is our attitude. Every time something went wrong or not according to plan we didn’t see the negative; we always brought out the positive. We just laughed it off and created yet another great memory as we joked about it for the rest of the trip. We have always done it like this (like the time we nearly burnt down the bathrooms in Cape Reinga). We yelled “FIRE! FIRE!” and the boys thought we were yelling, “Spider”!

The point is, we could let the things that go wrong define our trip, but we don’t. So really, what we have realised is that any situation can become a good one if you have the right attitude.

During our trip, we wrote in journals each day. But instead of writing this report as a recount, we decided to write more about the lessons we learnt. The most important thing we have learnt from this experience is that attitude is key.

We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.