28th September - 2nd October 2011.
I don't even know where to start. How do I even begin to describe it? Perhaps I should start at the beginning...
I received this email at the beginning of September from one of the Melbourne University Duke of Edinburgh's Award coordinators:
An opportunity exists for YOU to attend an Outward Bound expedition scheduled for Wednesday 28 September – Sunday 2 October. This expedition can be counted towards the Residential Project section of your Dukes Award. Outward Bound expeditions are a fantastic way to help set your goals and go beyond your comfort zone.
Just a quick overview of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award: It must be completed before you turn 25 years old. There are 5 criteria you must fulfill: Skill, Service, Physical Recreation, Residential Project, Adventurous Journey. 2 of either Skill, Service or Physical Recreation must be done for 12 months each, and one of the three must be done for 18 months. It requires participation in said activities for at least one hour per week for the said period of time. Residential Projects and Adventurous Journeys cannot be shorter than 5 days and 4 nights.
So. I'm pretty much done with the Skill, Service and Physical Recreation sections of the Duke of Ed Gold Award, and I'm left with the Residential Project and Adventurous Journey bits. And when I got that email, I thought, "Hey, I might as well get it done, I've heard of Outward Bound before, it sounds fun, plus it's heavily subsidised". So I signed up for it within the week. Got all my info filled up, signed the form, paid, and that was that.
The typical sort of high school camp, you know, nothing too hard, you sleep in bunk beds, decent toilet and shower facilities - cold water of course, that can't be helped. Okay, well I wasn't expecting the bunk beds, I thought we'd have tents. And I thought there would be an outhouse of some sort. The packing list that they gave us vaguely hinted at the activities we'd be going through: rock climbing, abseiling, rope courses, bush walking, hiking... easy sort of stuff, didn't sound too difficult at all. I mean, heights were never really a problem for me, so pfft, easy peasy. Rope courses, bring it on! I admit I was slightly worried about the bush walking and hiking but come on, I used to be a cross country runner (disclaimer: Even though maybe I'm not neaaaarly as fit as I used to be). So hey, how hard could it be? Right?
I have EVER done.
We didn't have tents, we had a bivvy (also known as a bivouc) which is basically a more lightweight version of a tent. It also has open sides and does not zip up. And also does not have a base, i.e., rain water can flow through in the middle of the night.
And let me tell you, it rained.
Oh and the packing sheet they gave us that vaguely mentioned the activities we'd be doing? Bushwalking and hiking? The ones that didn't sound too bad? I mean, pfft, 2 kilometers, I could run that in less than 10 minutes. Welllllllllllllllllll.... if you have to carry a 15 KG PACK THAT WEIGHS A THIRD OF YOUR BODY WEIGHT.... let me tell you, it is a whole different story.
I mean, I didn't think they'd have a cart to carry around our luggage for us, pfft, how silly would that be? *shifty eyes* No, in all seriousness, I really didn't think we would have to carry ALL our luggage with us. I mean, I honestly thought we'd be making the trip back to "base camp" once every 2 days or so.
But when this is considered "base camp":
Oh, by the way, don't forget about the hills that you have to climb, some of which have at least a 50 DEGREE INCLINE.
See that little slope?
And oh, one more thing. It almost never stopped raining. I don't know about you, but when it rains, I actually like it. I really, really like the rain. I stay inside, snuggle up in a blanket, have a hot drink and read a book. If I get caught in the rain, I get really upset when my shoes get even a little wet.
All our shoes were pretty much SOAKED THROUGH for most of the camp.
Do you know how hard it is to get out of a sleeping bag at 5.30 AM, and have to put on wet socks, and wet shoes? It's not something that you can really understand until you have to do it. Don't forget, you've also hiked up some 50 degree incline slopes the day before and your feet very possibly have blisters and are extremely sore.
Take my word for it, it's HARD.
Oh, I didn't mention did I? No bathroom, no outhouse, not even a tap. 5 days. No shower. But then again that was the easiest part.
Setting up camp in the dark, pulling ourselves up even when we don't want to, trying to light a f**king fire in the rain, keeping each other sane, eating simple meals with essence of grass *cough*Tessa*cough*, supporting each other, watching, helping, learning, being a friend...
The 5 days were tough. The rain and wet conditions made it tougher. It pretty much started when we got to camp... and only stopped when we left camp. Literally. I don't usually believe in this kind of stuff, but it's almost like it was meant to be. So.