Making Tracks

Making Tracks

I wrote this when after I’d attended Year 9 camp in Grade 7. Obviously somebody liked it because it wound up in the school magazine at the end of the year.

There is no better way to get acquainted with the typical Australian countryside than by hiking through it, and this was the way our 5-day camp at Moray started. After dodging several of the teachers’ four-wheel-drives and watching several backpacks self-destruct, we arrived at the gates of Moray to find that we didn’t have to go into the old shed, but had to climb a large hill instead before arriving at the teachers’ quarters and students’ shower block.

Having rested for a while we waded our way through the bracken to find a new campsite. After stringing up two pieces of flimsy-looking shoelace, we hung a large piece of black plastic (which cost us extra if it was damaged) over our equipment and speculated on the degree of discomfort which it would provide us with.

Of course, if we wanted to eat, a fire was needed. A few local trees were persuaded to donate a few branches to the cause. With the help of a team of six fire lighting experts, the wood happily ignited and then just as happily extinguished itself.

By this time we had realised that our journey into the “Twilight Zone” had just begun…

Morning presented us with a cold shower provided by Mother Nature, and we sat snugly on the veranda and brushed up on our first aid techniques, pondering the fate of those going down the river on air mattresses. We soon found this out later in the afternoon, as our arms and legs became nerveless, and we entered a state of cryogenic preservation before being rapidly defrosted by the “hot” (luke-warm) showers.

The next morning broke through a thick layer of fog, most of which had managed to condense on the insides of our plastic sheets. We were soon greeted by a happy morning of tree planting.

“What happened to those trees we planted last year?”

“Somebody left the gate open and the cows ate them”

Cunning running was far from stunning as we endeavoured to find several icecream container lids somebody had absentmindedly left nailed to the bases of several trees.

The initiative exercises provided a great test of our group and our initiative. Having completed several of the exercises we were able to assure ourselves that we were able to do “anything”.

After wiping our campsite off the face of the Earth, we packed our bags, jumped into a 4WD and waited as the teachers drove us what seemed like half-way to the moon.

We were dumped in the bush near a sign that said NO CAMPING, however the teachers assured us that it was OK far us to camp there.

Getting off to an early start, we made our way to a place where we found the first of those dreaded `yellow triangles’ which marked the start of our march.

Eighteen of the teachers’ kilometres (25 or more of ours!), several thousand yellow triangles, prickly bushes and steep hills later, we arrived at the dam to be greeted by the welcome sounds of a 4WD driven by one of those teachers telling us that after our rush to get to the checkpoint in one day we had actually managed to be the first back. We rested for an hour, seeing nobody else return, and slowly watching our blisters inflate to maximum size. Then we made our way to a primitive campsite located near one of those sickening triangles.

After nightmares of being last in dense forest looking for yellow triangles and then finding out that there was one on every tree, and being painfully strangled by them, we awoke and set out.

Several (11) kilometres later (off course), we found the first sign of civilisation, a bitumen road, which we followed until we ran into the teachers who told us that we were 40 minutes behind the leading group. We were also told that no other group had the “common sense” to stop, sit down and “make a brew”. Shortly afterwards we collapsed by the roadside and had a snack consisting of those dreaded “Vita-Wheats” which were slowly driving us insane.

Signs advertising the local deli and hotel were well-received and at one stage we decided to get lost and accidentally book a room for a night. Most of us would by this time have traded all of our worldly (and dirty) possessions for just one bottle of famed Coca-Cola.

The Nanga bridge looked so good that we could almost jump off it, and we were nearly forced to when caught in the middle by a lag truck. Unable to run, we hobbled to safety.

The quagmire specially constructed for us was well-received as several members plunged up to their waists in the black mud.

After scaling the remains of a barbed-wire fence. and slogging up the amazingly humid, slippery and log ridden slope we arrived only to be greeted by jeers from those who had arrived before us.

The “30” (50+) kilometre hike was over and most of us were resigned to hobbling for the rest of our lives. However it was all downhill from here.

After peeling off our clothes and having a hot shower we settled down to our final meal of noodles and (of course) Vita-Wheats, fallowed by more noodles and (of course) more Vita-Wheats

Breakfast consisted of more noodles and more of those you-know-whats. Mr Bedwell woke half our group up by severing the hutchie string, camp was again packed away. and all the rubbish (packets of noodles and Vita-Wheats) was buried, burnt or eaten.

After kindly having been volunteered to sweep the verandas we walked out through the gate. Looking back we could almost see the imaginary sign hanging in the sky, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”.

By this time, most of us were suffering from tree phobia, a dreaded fear of trees resulting in convulsions, (yellow triangles have the same effect), and the bus trip was a welcome opportunity for sleep, as we had already seen enough countryside to last several lifetimes.

Then it was back to reality, and those Coca-Colas, pizzas, television shows, saunas, spas, baths, non-repetitive meals, beds, roofs, rest and relatives that we had only now grown to appreciate.

Page 61, Scotch College Magazine

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