The Year 7 Camp was definitely an event to remember. I was already full of energy and excitement from the beginning of the bus trip. Everyone seemed to be feeling the same way, even though some of us had got little sleep from packing at the last minute. It was a racket on the way to the campsite. When we got there after one and a half hours, we were all welcomed to Old Watulunga.
There were a few rules we had to follow. It was going to be continuously hot and sunny throughout the week, so everyone was to be sure they were wearing a hat at all times, had applied sunscreen and always carried a drink bottle around. We were told this while we sat and shifted uncomfortably in the heat with the dry grass itching at our skin, looking up at the gumtrees and hoping that no autumn beetles or caterpillars were going to fall on our heads. Some students made sure that they also kept some insect repellent on them; the mosquitoes in particular showed no mercy. I learnt this lesson the hard way. In the first half an hour I was bitten by—something—that made my knee swell up and sting for a good 30 minutes.
We then got to set up our own tents and heave our bags into them. The temperature inside the tents was stifling during the day but would drop to freezing cold at night. I was relieved that my first activity for the day was kayaking—maybe it would cool me off a bit when I went into the lagoon? The lagoon water appeared to be a bluish grey from a distance, but when one was sitting in the boat the water that surrounded you was so brown and murky that it was impossible to tell how deep it was. It was infested with plants, weeds and slimy gunk so I was very careful and tried my best not to
capsize. Some of us weren’t so lucky and fell over in the first few moments they were in the water.
Then there were the beach activities. We had a lot of fun taking part in these creative and competitive challenges. One started with everyone lying down on their stomachs, to see who could get up the quickest and run across the sand to grab one of the limited number of orange bars that were sticking up from the ground. The other games were competitions between the different Houses, an example being when we had to try and fill up a bin full of holes with water—only one person could fetch water in the bucket at a time, while the others had to try and block up the holes with sand. When the time was up we would see who had managed to fill it up the most. In the second game each team had a single oar lying across the sand. The task was to try and dig a hole underneath it without anyone touching it, and to get every team member to the other side.
At the end of the day everyone got to have some free time to play in the water. Some of us got bodyboards for the giant waves. I could say it was a fun experience except that I got pushed under by the waves several times. Water managed to get into my head in every way possible— mouth, ears, eyes and nose. But now I know what it’s like to be inside a washing machine full of salt water.
Everyone quickly gathered their things once they got back to camp and dashed to the showers before the line got too long. Then we had dinner outside at some wooden tables. Everyone was hungry and ate quickly as they chatted to their tablemates. The sun sank below the horizon and all the mosquitoes began to come out, but the day wasn’t over just yet. For a night activity we each made sure to apply insect repellent and went over to the meeting areas. We were each given a small journal to write down our experiences of the day, and all that could be heard for a while was the flipping of paper and the scratching of pencils. Everyone began to settle down a bit and relax. The next thing we did was tied in with a survey we had all done before camp—our character strengths. This survey determined what our top strengths were and now we all finally knew why we had taken it to camp. We discussed our top three strengths and chose an animal that would represent those strengths. After a long day we all returned to our tents. Although we were supposed to be sleeping, most of us stayed up and talked to each other between tents for a long time.
The second day we all got up at the crack of dawn. It was freezing cold and it took a lot of effort for us to get out of our sleeping bags. Our backs were sore and stiff from sleeping on nothing but thin mats. This was the morning when we were introduced to the Father Abraham dance, a tradition of the Year 7 Camp. Every morning all the students were to take part in this exercise to help warm up in the cold.
After breakfast we quickly moved on to the next activity—for me this was gardening. We had a tour around the gardens, chicken coop and compost station, and then helped plant different vegetable seeds—from broccoli, peas and so on. After we had finished doing this we were shown to a small lake nearby. Nets had been set up overnight and we found a great number of yabbies caught inside them. Some were enormous and frightening but some were small enough to just wriggle out of the cage.
Then it was raft building—what fun that was. Before we started we were taught how to tie different types of knots. While this information was helpful, it didn’t benefit either team. Our raft didn’t even make it into the water. White shoes turned grey and my clothes dragged me down in the muddy water. Surprisingly, both teams failed and nobody won.
The last activity of the day was surfing. This was one of the highlights of the camp for most students. It was easy to pick up and lots of fun. Sadly, I wasn’t that good at it, only managing to stand up two or three times, but most students could catch great waves with ease by the end of the lesson. By now it was nearing sunset and we got on the bus back to the campsite.
This time the night activity was for all the Houses to create their own House chant. Some had difficulty coming up with ideas together with their teammates, but for others it ran rather smoothly. Each House had to perform their chant in front of everyone while their score was being determined by the judges. Medlin won! And our wonderful prize was to perform it all once again. Then we had a quick supper as everyone began to bicker about which House should have won. Students returned to their tents and everyone fell asleep quickly from exhaustion.
Once again we all woke up early, only this time we were greeted by the noise of a blaring car horn while Langers yelled, ‘GET OUT OF BED!’ This made the students emerge from their tents a little quicker. And again we all took part in the Father Abraham dance, but with everyone a little more tired than before. All the students changed into their House shirts and then we were off to the high ropes obstacle course at Woodhouse. After we had packed all our things and cleaned out the tents, we got on the bus for the hour-long trip to Woodhouse.
The high ropes were inside a small forest next to a rockclimbing building and giant swing. From the ground looking up, for me at least, it didn’t look too scary. Before we could start we had to learn a few things. First, we put on our harnesses and helmets. After these were adjusted correctly for each individual, we also had to learn how to correctly handle all the equipment, such as the carabiners and ropes. In each group there were four people: one person was the climber, whose position is quite self-explanatory; one was the belayer, who was in charge of either tightening the rope or making it more slack; the third was known as the anchor, who held down the belayer from getting lifted off the ground; and the last person was back-up, who also pulled the extra rope through from the belayer.
One rope course I did was easily the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life. Imagine walking on an extremely slack tightrope, with nothing to hold onto except your own harness and the only support being ropes that are roughly 3 metres apart. I was terrified. There were many different courses ranging in height and length. Some were made up of wooden planks and others were of simple ropes. It was a windy day with the trees swaying as we climbed up them and leaves blowing in our faces. The experience overall was thrilling, exciting and just fun. I may have been terrified in the moment, but I’m glad that I got to do it and that I didn’t quit.
Some students were disappointed that the trip was already over and some were looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep. It can be agreed that everyone was worn out and exhausted but the things we got to do and the experiences were unforgettable.