Looking Back at Camp

By Brigid Allan | Posted: Monday April 6, 2020

Watching the rain glide down the windows at home, my mind takes me back to those bad weather days hunkering down at Mt Aspiring Lodge, one of Otago Boys’ hidden treasures.

For over forty years teachers have taken junior boys and senior leaders from our school to the Matukituki Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park. The most impressive part is that back in the 1970’s many of the students and teachers even helped build the lodge, a history that makes for a good yarn over the campfire.

This late article comes 3 weeks after our Year 10 camp, with lockdown occurring almost immediately after our return. However, it is hard to forget, as apart from one overnight rain, we had sun almost continuously, a far cry from last year’s leadership camp!

So welcomed we were by sun and after ferrying a few loads of food, tents and gas bottles to the lodge, the river started to look very enticing. With bunkrooms allocated, everyone was off for a swim in the river.

Waking up to sun again, into the river we went, this time for kayaking, helped by our awesome team of senior leaders. Richard Roe showing his true stamina by spending the whole day in the water whilst he taught the 5 different groups. Developing basic river-kayaking skills the boys paddled down the West Matukituki river having fun on some rapids, learning to fairy glide, as well as spotting and paddling into eddies. And yes, the sun continued to shine.

A few days later, the overnight camp took us up towards the Rob Roy Glacier where students learnt about river crossings, how to read a river flow and how to cross as a team. On arrival to our campsite, each group pitched their tents, made impressive campfires with the river stones, figured out the best way to start a fire and realised the value of packing the right gear for an outdoor excursion. I am not sure, who won the cooking prize…. It could have been when the scone mix was added to the chocolate instant pudding instead of milk powder or, the eating of undercooked crunchy rice risotto, maybe cooking the scone mix as if it was porridge? Perhaps hungry by the time they returned to the lodge, the sun was still shining.

Fuelled by what seemed to be a perpetual flow of sugar, students did many different activities throughout the week: some waterfall swimming, night time glow worm exploring, bush walking, team building activities, dam building, spot light, rogaining (think orienteering with a twist), keeping the lodge going with firewood and chores, evening reflections, frisbee golf and even a bit of installation art. Over this time, the boys continued to work within their groups, guided by some exemplary senior student leaders. A weeklong experience, with many students developing great leadership skills, a care for the environment and a willingness to be part of the team.

And so, the time comes for everyone to head back to a busy life with family, sporting events, staying current with news and social media, playing virtual games and learning, there is hardly time to breathe between the click of each button. I look back and feel grateful for the opportunity of camp, to remove ourselves from everything for a while and have the occasion to stop, be at Aspiring Lodge surrounded by bush (and no reception), glance up and be in the environment for a week. It is a unique experience, every time.

A big thanks to the cool, calm and collected camp leader Richard Roe and the rest of the leadership team David Roe, Dan from the Albatross Colony, Jacob Barnes, Walter Savage, Oliver Bixley, Connor Eyre, Anthony Cowley and helper Otis junior. What a great week!

Various student reflections on camp:

  • It was overall a very good camp to not think about your phone or the social media, just be one with my friends and nature. (Josh Caulfield)
  • All of the food was good but my favourite was the spaghetti bolognaise. (Hwi Chang)
  • At the start we were all arguing, but then we started working as a team. My strength was lighting the fire. (Finn Casey talking about his group on the overnight campout.)
  • A big thanks to the staff for a great camp and I look forward to coming up here with my family sometime and maybe as a year 13. (Tama McNamara)
  • The overnight experience was way better than I expected because we did everything ourselves and worked as a team. I really enjoyed sitting around the campfire eating marshmallows and just talking with the boys. The food was good and we kept the fire going the whole time. (Harry Summers)
  • Since I don’t have my phone I’m way more social and open to meeting new people. (Noah McDowall)
  • I really enjoyed this camp. It was a lot better than ones that I had been on at other schools, and also the amount of time that we go away for as other schools travel long distances to run camps for only 3 or 4 days. (Jack Thom)
  • I enjoyed the hard challenges such as cooking with a fire we had to make ourselves. I enjoyed it a lot. (Carter Smith)
  • My favourite activity was kayaking or learning to play chess. I have discovered I rely heavily on my phone. (Taitelea Tasi-Cordtz)
  • I don’t need technology to be entertained in my own time. (Jadin Cumming when asked what he had learned about himself during the week.)

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