On Friday the 5th of April, 51 enthusiastic Duke of Edinburgh students went to Waharau, in the Hunua Ranges, for their adventurous journey training.
This practical training weekend was preceded by the theory training, held at Hillary Commons, on the 25th of March. It was to be a two-night stay, with the students arriving at the campsite on Friday evening and departing on late Sunday morning. The purpose of this training weekend was to give us the necessary skills required to survive in the bush, which would prepare us for the difficult tramps we had to complete later on in the year.
The main event was on Saturday morning, which was a four and a half hour tramp. The tramp began at our campsite, and ended on top of a hill – the highest point in Waharau. The Silver participants had to carry all their belongings with them (including their tents!), while the Gold students only carried a daypack. Due to this, the tramp was far less tiring for the Gold students, who led from the front.
Going uphill drained the energy out of us, and we had to take regular breaks in order to not collapse from exhaustion. Although the uphill was fairly steep, it was relatively shorter than the length of the tramps we had done in previous years, so we felt confident that we could complete this one successfully. It was immensely rewarding when we had finally reached the summit, as the view from there was stunning. The way back down was a piece of cake.
Aside from the tramp, the other activities focused on building our navigational skills and environmental awareness. We learned how bearings worked, and how use a map and compass to navigate our way back to a certain point if we were lost. We also learned how to read weather maps and predict the weather by looking at the types of clouds in the sky. Another activity required us to sit down for 10 minutes and notice everything around us using all our senses. It was surprising how much we could notice. In addition to this we re-learnt how to pitch a tent and pack a backpack properly.
After the tramp, while the Silver participants were enjoying their spare time, the Gold participants went down to the campsite of the neighbouring valley to build their bivouacs for sleeping in during the night. This was a unique and surprisingly enjoyable experience for most of the students. “Contrary to expectations, the bivouacs were actually quite comfortable. The only downside was that if you turned on the torch fleetingly, you were in for a surprise: cockroaches right above you on the tarp and crawling on your sleeping bag,” said Jim Wang.
Overall, this was a fun and enriching experience for most of us, and it gave us the important knowledge and navigational skills, to stay safe in the wilderness. It was an easy but fitting introduction, to prepare us for the outdoor challenges we would face over the upcoming year.
Article by Aditya Arora.