By Natalia Orchard
(Otamatea High School, Duke of Edinburgh)
During the eight hour drive home, I had plenty of time to reflect upon the previous nine days of adventuring. Our group had been through a lot together – some of us had been in this group since starting Bronze three years ago and some had only joined this year. The written purpose of our trip was to explore the history, geology, and rivers of the central plateau, but it was more than that. It was to grow in the outdoors, experience new challenges, and conquer our fears.
It was a long drive down to the Kaimanawa ranges and we had to leave very early in the morning to get through Auckland traffic. Getting up this early meant we had to be completely packed and ready to go the night before, so all we had to do when the alarm went off was get up and go. When I first started DOE I found this hard, as I always liked to triple check everything. But by now I had learnt you just had to trust that if you had checked everything off the list, it would be there.
It was raining when we arrived and we only had 15 minutes to get completely ready to start tramping with packs, boots, and raincoats on. It is always harder to get ready in the rain because no one wants to get wet, but it also motivated us to get ready quickly, so we didn’t get cold standing around.
A lot of people (including myself) prefer walking in the sunshine on a perfect day to walking in the rain and wind. By the end of this trip, I learned to enjoy walking in all weathers. Each type of weather brings a new challenge, but a lot of the time it is your mindset that determines whether you enjoy it or not.
It is always an amazing feeling seeing the hut. It energizes everyone to pick up the pace and everybody starts smiling. When we got to the Waipakahi hut, we took off our soaked boots and socks and went inside and claimed a bunk. Everyone was eager to eat, so dinner got made pretty fast. Not long after that, we went to bed. Our first day had been a blast despite the weather.
Our group is very organized and we were ready to go by the allocated time the next morning, starting down the Umakarikari river. Unfortunately, we had to change our plans and head off track straight uphill to join with the other track, as the river was too high for us to be able to safely continue. At first this was a disappointment since everyone was looking forward to walking down the river for the day. But after we started walking up the hill for a bit, everyone enjoyed navigating off track and it ended up being a highlight of the day for many.
We arrived back at the start of the Urchin track and started walking up the road, while one of the adults went off to get the van. As we were walking, we were notified that the river levels were too high to do our three-day Canadian canoe down the Wanganui river. Everyone was gutted, as we were all looking forward to this. That night we had planned on staying at a campsite. Due to the bad weather, however, we decided to go stay at the lodge earlier than planned and decide what to do next from there.
The river level stayed too high to canoe, so instead of canoeing we visited the Turangi Visitors Centre and the trout hatchery, canoed on Lake Taupo from Tokanu to Little Waihi, walked to Silica rapids and Tawhai falls, and did an extreme walk in Owhango. We constantly learned new things and it was really interesting learning about all the volcanoes, rivers and mountains in the area.
I used my FMC scholarship to buy a new lightweight tramping raincoat, leggings and a buff. It is one of the best purchases I have made. I used them so much while I was down there, and they worked amazingly.
After we had finished our five-day Gold Qualifier, we stayed on at BMAC lodge and tried canyoning. We also did the high ropes course, rock climbed, abseiled, whitewater rafted, climbed Mount Ruapehu to the crater lake (using ice axes), and played volleyball any spare moment we had in between. Each of these were challenging in their own way. Some were challenging just mentally or just physically, and some were both mentally and physically challenging. I loved every single activity we did.
For me, I think the most challenging thing was the final eight metre jump when canyoning. I knew I couldn’t think about it too much, otherwise I wouldn’t jump. As a result, I barely even looked down and I just jumped, really loving it once I had done it. But it did take that one second of bravery to jump.
The trip was an amazing experience, despite the fact that we had to change so many of our original plans, and it confirmed that I would love to work outdoors. I would recommend DOE to anyone who has the chance to do it because it will change you for the better.
Thanks so much to FMC for the $250.00 scholarship money. The raincoat, leggings, and buff I purchased with it will be well used in the years to come.
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.