“One of the best parts of the camp was that I didn’t think about tomorrow or yesterday. I was never in any moment but the present”.
These were the words of my 15yo son Daniel, who came back from a five day survival camp in Anglesea a few weeks ago. He was exhausted but looked fitter, healthier and happier than I’ve seen him in a long time.
To give you an idea of my boy, he’s not very sporty and his passion lies in programming and computers. Despite all of our camping as a family, this five day hiking survivor camp, organised by the school, was way out of his comfort zone.
There were no phones or communications and the weather was not kind. It was scorching hot on the first day then turned to thunderstorms, rain and cold.
This Yarangabee Anglesea-Otways experience became a test of stamina and endurance for him and I wondered how he’d cope. So when he got back I asked him.
These were his answers, completely unabridged and unedited.
What did you find the most challenging thing on camp?
To just keep going! There were countless moments where I felt far too tired to continue, and a lot of the other group members were exhausted too. Persisting when things are really difficult can be hard, but supporting others, having a bit of food to keep you energised and a positive attitude can help a whole lot.
The huge bush walk was one of those moments. To believe that you are so close to your destination, only to be let down at the top of the hill can be extremely challenging after a number of times. Another time I felt super challenging was the Monday, when the storm hit and we trudged through the rain and wind only to be no better off.
Sometimes challenges are not just physical, in fact, most challenges on camp were about attitude and mindset. When trudging through a pouring storm, your mind is screaming for warmth.
What was your favorite activity on camp?
My favourite activity was the bike riding, and more specifically, a single moment of exhilaration when I was flying down a hill on the BMX bike.
The bike ride did involve very tough uphill lengths, but when I was flying down the hill, with the wind in my hair, flying down a stony track and becoming airborne when hitting potholes, nothing can stop you from screaming out to the land around.
Do you think that camp conquered any fears you had?
Fears of embarrassment, oceans, spiders, lack of ability, there are lots of fears I have, and they’ve all been challenged in some way by camp. A single experience doesn’t always conquer a fear, but it can make you recognise it and become familiar with it, so you can challenge it personally.
For example, it was only when I was in the ocean that I realised my fear of oceans is somewhat unneeded, even if the experience was unpleasant.
What was the most physically taxing thing you did?
The nine kilometre hike with the packs on my pack, by far. Nothing can describe the burn that your feet can feel and the ache your shoulders can have. With every down there can be an up though, and gee, did I feel the relief of taking my pack off when that hike was done.
What was the most emotionally taxing thing on camp?
Having to trudge through wet weather as a storm rages above can be very emotionally taxing. Your feet are wet and your shoes feel destroyed, you’re soaked to the bone and you just want to go home!
What surprised you the most on camp?
That spider when it sat on my shoulder with it’s eight billion eyes and poked it’s tongue out at my scream.
Did you learn anything about yourself?
My ability to keep going and stay in the moment. Sometimes, in the middle of a long walk, my thoughts would be reduced to ‘left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot’. It’s then that you forget your worries, you past, your future, and become engulfed in the present moment.
It’s almost like meditation, but a little more painful. You can feel the weight on your back, know that you might be hiking for hours more, but you just forget that and just take another step.
Any funny moments?
Seeing my friends and I sink in a raft we had spent half an hour of back breaking time in might seem pretty sad, but was pretty funny. The realisation dawning on everyone that our raft trip across the body of water would be more swimming than paddling with an awe.
Stand out moments?
Sitting around the campfire with mates and a nice dinner, after finishing the days work, just knowing that you can relax for the night. Friends make a camp like this.
What did you miss the most
You! Oh and warm cooked food and a thick mattress.
Aww, and to think I thought he was going to say his computer. I’ve never loved him more.
He came back with a new perspective, a new appreciation of life and the knowledge that he was capable of much more than he ever thought of.
Wishing you all a little bit of adventure today.