During the recent September holidays a group of 17 students and 4 staff members explored the magnificent area of the Grampians for a Duke of Edinburgh Silver and Gold journey. For many students, this was their qualifying journey and they had to plan and manage themselves independently for the 4 days. The teachers were there as back up, to provide pastoral care and general safety.
Below are two reflections from Ada Chen (Year 11) and Joel Williams (Year 10). Ada is an international student, new to Tintern this year, and this journey was her first experience of hiking and camping. Joel is an experienced outdoor education student and leader. I hope you enjoy reading their reflections.
by Anne Bortolussi, Co-ordinator Duke of Edinburgh program
Duke of Edinburgh Gold Qualifying Journey Reflection
On Sunday 18th September, I arrived at Tintern Grammar at 9am and headed to the farm to help pack the trailer with packs, food, fire wood and group gear. The trip was supposed to take 3 and a half hours of driving, however, we did not arrive at Halls Gap Caravan park until around 3.30 pm to due stops along the way for bus driver breaks. After arriving we quickly set up our tents. My tent buddies were Jack and Hollis. After the tent went up we started the camp fire. That night all we had a camp-oven dinner, which everyone helped prepare.
The people in on the hike were Abi Baker (Knox School), Ada Chen, Angus Maynard, Belinda Rees, Eliza Mignot, Elizabeth O’Dell, Emily Cowin, Erin Hynson, Hollis Huang, Jack Read, Julia Doupe (Yarra Valley Grammar), Karly Rosenbrock, Miranda Molnar, Patrick Kenna, Tara McAsey and Tash Bigg-Wither. Before we went to bed, we all has a meeting about what the plan would be for the next day.
The next morning we got up early and ate some breakfast which was delicious. We packed our day packs and walked to the Indigenous Cultural Centre, Brambuk. In the centre we watched videos on the scientific history and Indigenous stories of the landscape and read about the history of the local area. We had lessons on how to throw a boomerang and Jack won a boomerang to take home. We then walked to Lake Bellfield Dam and Jack and I ran across the dam wall, which was a lot longer than we expected. We had lunch below Sundial Point and then walked to the Pinnacle. It was a really good view. We could see where we had walked earlier that day and also where we were about to go. After walking through the Venus Baths, we arrived back at the campsite. It was a long 18 – 20km but it was well enjoyed with great views throughout the day.
That night we went to the supermarket to get some food to cook for dinner. We all had burgers and a brownie for dessert and it was a group effort to prepare. It was all delicious and then the group sat around the fire talking. We all went to bed ready for a big day and the first part of the Major Mitchell Plateau.
On our second morning we ate breakfast and dried our tent in the sun before we packed up the trailer to drive to the Sheep Hills carpark. On the way to the carpark we got a little lost but we found our way by checking the amp more carefully and giving better instructions to Ms Constable who was driving our bus. We got our packs out of the trailer, said goodbye to the other group and started walking 14kms to the Jimmy Creek campsite. The 10 students in my group were Jack Read, Angus Maynard, Patrick Kenna, Emily Cowin, Erin Hynson, Eliza Mignot, Hollis Huang, Julia Doupe, Abi Baker, and teachers, Ms Ord and Jannick. We walked along a fire track management road all day so the view didn’t change much. We came across a dead deer that smelt really bad and we found a big D bolt which we tied to people’s packs as a fun game which lasted most of the trip. I was ‘Navigation’ person that day which was I found easy as we were on the same path all day but it was fun to gain more experience in that field. When we finally arrived at the Jimmy Creek campsite we set up our tent and Angus, Jack, Yannick and I played boomerang. We went for a swim in the creek which was very cold but it felt good to be clean and not smell like the dead deer. For dinner Jack and I had gnocchi, which was nice and filling followed by pudding. After we washed up and everyone when to bed, Angus, Jack and I stayed up and talked about the day and Emily and Erin joined us for a while before we all went to bed.
It felt good to get out of the tent in the morning and after breakfast we packed up the tent and set off to the next campsite. We established a comfortable pace and everyone was having an enjoyable time. We started ascending and we were in the clouds and couldn’t see very far around us. It was a strange feeling being so high up but having no views, just cloud all around us. The hills started getting very steep and I was finding it very hard to scramble up the path. At the end of the hardest section, we ran into the other group and it was perfect timing. It was good seeing the others and getting an idea on how the areas were going to be, and what to expect at our next campsite. After a long talk with the other group, we said our goodbyes and set off walking to our lunch stop. The lunch was great because we were so hungry. After lunch, with a view of only clouds, it started to rain so we all put on our rain jackets and started to walk in the rain, clouds and wind. At some points we were walking next to a cliff and we looked down to only see more cloud. After walking on mossy rocks for a long time, we arrived at our campsite, dripping wet and cold, but very excited to set up our tents and get dry. We had an early dinner. Jack and I cooked pasta under a tarp in the rain and it was satisfying to have some warm food in our stomachs. We went to bed at 6.30pm but it rained and was windy all night so I didn’t get much sleep.
In the morning, I couldn’t hear any rain drops on the tent so I got up and looked outside and it was a blue sky. We could see around the campsite and it felt so good to see the actual sky. Most of us were in a happy mood which made packing up the tent very easy. We left camp early that morning and started heading towards Mount William. The views were fabulous and we could see all the mountains and valleys in the distance. It was such a change to yesterday’s experience and it didn’t feel like the same place. The other group had warned us about the rocks that we had to scramble down, but it wasn’t as hard as the other group had found it. Everyone was wearing different clothes because most of our clothes were wet from the night before, and most people were wearing overpants and spray jackets. It was great to reach the top of Mount William which is the highest point in the Grampians. We walked down the mountain and had lunch at a lookout with lots of waterfalls and cliffs. The last couple of kilometers felt a lot longer than they should have, but at the end of the trip everyone was getting along really well, considering we barely knew the people in the group before this trip.
When we arrived at the car park, we discovered that the other team had beaten us to the bus. This was a little sad as we wanted to get to the finish first. On the way home, we had dinner at the Beaufort Pub which was very filling. The drive back to Tintern was quiet, with not much talking and most people sleeping. When we arrived back at the Outdoor Education sheds, we all helped unpack and it was sad saying good bye to everyone.
I highly recommend this excursion to Major Mitchell Plateau. It was great to make new friends and to gain more experience in the outdoors. In the future we can go on similar trips with friends and know how to plan, prepare, be safe and have a good time.
by Joel Williams, Year 10
Silver Practice Journey Reflection – Major Mitchell Plateau Walk 18th Sept-22nd Sept
This practice journey was actually my very first hike. It gave me a brand new experience of a totally different way of life. I learned to become a tougher person as well as to embrace the beauty of Mother Nature. For this journey, we decided to go to the Grampians. Then we prepared our food, borrowed camping gear from school and we were ready to go.
We arrived at Halls Gap after a long drive from school. There were several wallabies waiting for us at the campsite. We chose a flat area to set up our tents which was easier than I expected. Unfortunately, one of the tent poles snapped in the middle. Thankfully, our teachers helped us out by securing the pole with a short metal pole. The camp fire dinner was an amazing experience and I toasted marshmallows on an open fire for the first time. This was a great start for the upcoming journey.
The journey was split into two parts. For the first part, the whole group of about 20 people did a day walk from Halls Gap. For the second part, we divided into two groups walking either clockwise or anticlockwise over the Major Mitchell Plateau. As a beginner, I was placed with the group doing the easier clockwise walk.
Our second day was to be a day walk carrying a light pack. First, we visited the Aboriginal Centre in Halls Gap (Brambuk) where we saw amazing short films about the dreamtime and aboriginal culture. We learnt that people have been living in this place for thousands of years and that the Grampians were never a barren land. That afternoon our walk officially started. I knew it was going to be tough being my first hike, especially as I have always been considered unfit. Surprisingly, I found going uphill quite easy, possibly because I was born and raised in a mountainous area, or because I walk to school every day. Nonetheless, going downhill was a huge challenge for me. I didn’t have a pair of proper hiking shoes and my runners were not able to grip on the slippery rocks. This resulted in me constantly tumbling down. However, the views over the mountains were mesmerizing. The ups and downs of the mountains, the yellow fields fading into horizons and the ever-changing shadows of the clouds, all made me feel that the hard work had paid off. What made it even more wonderful was a wild emu bumped into us on the way. I even got to keep one of the emu’s feathers! We encountered a few waterfalls, too. The water was transparent but brown in colour due to tannin from the trees.
The next three days were much more challenging. The overnight hike meant we had to carry our packs all the way to our next campsite. Fortunately, my pack was relatively light. My teammates had helped me repack it without all the unnecessary stuff and taught me how to fold my tent correctly. Their friendliness and positivity encouraged me to face the upcoming challenges. Ms Bortolussi gave me some pieces of foam to alleviate the soreness caused by carrying my bag. I struggled to keep up with the pace of the group and I struggled with negative thoughts and feelings of frustration. I had a meltdown when I nearly fell down a rocky, steep hill. The whole group was so supportive and courageous that I was able to brace myself again. The rain started pouring when we reached the campsite. We had to cook dinner in the cold rain and the frustration caught up with me again.
After a lovely, long sleep, my energy bar was replenished. The pleasant, foggy weather made the place look like a wonderland. This area was nice and flat with a long easy boardwalk, which was the way I had imagined the journey to be. The vegetation in this terrain was mostly dwarf bushes. Some colourful succulents, crystal-like moss made it even better. When we met up with the other group, everyone was excited to be together after a long day. The other group told us that we would experience two steep descents but the rest of the walk should be relatively flat. For the last day, we would be crossing several creeks and the track would be merely undulating.
After saying goodbye to the other group, we were on our way to our last camp site. I was able to keep up with the group most of the time, however, near the end, when we were just 2 hours from our campsite, I was left behind again. Finally we crossed a road and arrived at our campsite. The environment was awesome and we saw a large group of wallabies. There were clean toilets and crystal-clear water fresh from a tap! A friendly man taught us how to light a camp fire on a rainy day. The weather was bad but we managed to cook delicious pasta before it got dark.
Finally, the last day arrived and we were all excited to be going home. The tracks were muddy, which was much better than rocky. (I was so over that rocky scramble!) Rather than steep rocky tracks, we had creeks and puddles. We were singing every time we crossed a creek. There were 12 creeks in total and every time we crossed one off the list, I felt a real sense of relief. With our positive vibe, we beat the other group to the bus. I was so glad that we were going back to civilization, but I also knew a part of me was going to miss this unforgettable adventure with such an awesome team.
I would not say that the journey was a highly enjoyable experience. However, it definitely widened my horizons to new aspects of life and I learnt how efficient team work can be. Without our supportive team, I don’t think I could have made it through the whole journey. It also made me appreciate modern technology. I never realized how inconvenient it could be to not have lights at night; nor did I realise how frustrating the rain was without a shelter. I am so proud that I have participated in this journey. Now I have one more thing to brag about when I go back to China.
by Ada Chen, Year 11