By: On: 17/03/2015 In: Adventurous Journey Comments: 0

This is a Supervisor’s perspective on the Adventurous Journey. Check out some participant’s Journey Logs.

Adventurous Journey Level: Silver and Gold
Route: Great North Walk – Hornsby to Cowan / Brooklyn

Day 1 Hornsby Station to Crosslands

It’s always a good start to a Duke of Edinburgh Award Adventurous Journey when you arrive at the meeting point ten minutes early and all participants are there and ready.

After a briefing about the route, track conditions, weather and safety, we divided everyone into smaller map groups of between five and seven people. We discussed the route in more detail and headed off.

It was hot so we rested in the shade whenever possible and had lunch in the relative cool of Galston Gorge, watched over by a big goanna who was eager to eat up any food he hoped we dropped.

Continuing along Berowra Creek to our luxurious (by Duke of Ed standards!) campsite, who do you think arrived at camp first? Not the group who had led all day! They had accidentally taken a detour off the main track for several kilometres and were overtaken. With everyone arriving in to camp between 5-6pm, there was plenty of time to bathe in the spa-like heat of the creek to rest our aching muscles before dinner.

That “detour” is one of the most important lessons of a Duke of Ed hike; building independence, decision-making and navigation skills. After thorough briefings, each group is free to find their own way as long as they stay together and work together as a team. No one walks alone and participants have been instructed what to do if they suspect they’ve gone off-track. One of our supervisors is always at the back and there are regular checkpoints. If someone doesn’t arrive at a checkpoint we know where they’ll likely be, so off we go to find them. The feedback we receive from participants and their parents is they appreciate this trust we place in them.

After dinner, a debrief about day one and a briefing of day two, we toasted marshmallows and played Mafia around the campfire.

Day 2 Crosslands to Berowra Heights

After agreeing on our first checkpoint, we departed Crosslands at the agreed time of 8am and headed north along the Great North Walk through Berowra Valley National Park to Calna Creek, where the broken bridge still hasn’t been replaced.

We’d checked the tide in advance and knew the water level would be under one metre so we took off our boots and waded through with packs over our heads. Some stripped down to swimwear, others correctly predicted they’d dry off in the heat of the day and crossed in their hiking clothes.

It’s a beautiful level walk from Calna Creek to Sam’s Creek where I witnessed this classic Adventurous Journey moment. One participant on the far side of the creek, was trying to help another, newly-formed friend who was halfway across the natural, uneven stepping stones.

“Put your foot on that rock there”.

“But it looks slippery.”

“It isn’t. Trust me, I did it”.

The mossy, sloping rock was indeed slippery and the participant slipped, boots submerged, into the creek.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry.”

Tip: Step on level (not sloping) surfaces wherever possible; especially not sloping, wet surfaces.

The view from Naa Badu lookout at the top of the hill north of Sam’s Creek is worth the tough climb. We regrouped at the checkpoint and continued down to Berowra Waters.

We sat and swam in the shade at Berowra Waters for a couple of hours to avoid doing the steep climbs to our next campsite in the afternoon heat. It was paradise and everyone appreciated being able to relax and get to know each other.

All good at the next campsite except for one participant who realised they’d left their state-of-the-art poles for their ultra lightweight tent at Crosslands that morning. One of our supervisors repositioned the tent between two trees and suspended it with guy ropes borrowed from another participant. A good result for a night but devastating for the participant to lose their poles.

Tip: Develop a packing system, and always pack everything in the same place. You will soon notice if something is missing… Always check the ground before leaving anywhere you have stopped.

We debriefed on the cliff west of the campsite to watch the sunset, as black cockatoos screeched goodnight. A joey came to see what we were doing and a spider enjoyed its day’s catch above us in a tree.

Day 3 Berowra Heights to Cowan (Silver) / Brooklyn Dam (Gold)

Seven AM exactly, as agreed, we were off. A short day for the Silver participants finishing at Cowan, but a tough descent and ascent before enjoying the views over the valley first. We farewelled the Silver participants at the train station and Gold continued to Jerusalem Bay for a divine swim.

We discussed the next section on the map and “steep, steep, and more steep uphill” was the consensus. Like everything it’s one step at a time. It was two hours from when the first group arrived at Brooklyn Dam campsite to the last group’s arrival, with a few participants taking the steeper shortcut down the hill. The back group learnt how different eucalyptus have different nuts and lunched in a beautiful, cool cave overlooking the valley below. The lead group walked down the firetrail in the heat of the day then relaxed in the dam for a couple of hours. Everyone had a different journey, but it’s their journey.

We all enjoyed a swim in the dam after the briefing and light rain sent most of the group to bed at 9pm. Others stayed up later to joke with each other about which part of Sydney is actually farmland and whether they are sitting their P plate driving tests on tractors. Open hikes are great; participants meet like-minded people from loads of different backgrounds from all over Sydney and beyond.

Day 4 Brooklyn Dam to Hawkesbury River Station, Brooklyn

On all our Duke of Ed Award Journeys, participants are responsible for removing and carrying their own rubbish. At this campsite, there were loads of ants that crawl all over your pack the minute you set it down, so we created a rubbish pile slightly away from camp to attract the ants away from us. The rubbish needs to be bagged and carried out in the morning, ants and all. Whoever contributes to this pile has the option of retrieving their own rubbish or playing a game of “closest to the pin” to see who carries all of it.

The rules are simple: choose a rock of any size and with your non-preferred throwing hand, underarm it, bocce-style at the big rock. Furthest away loses and has to carry all the rubbish. Luckily for the loser, on this occasion two participants weren’t ready for the agreed 7am departure and the group voted unanimously that they should carry the rubbish bag to Brooklyn, complete with hundreds of ants secured inside.

After three extremely long, tiring days we had a short fourth day and arrived at Hawkesbury River station to conclude our Duke of Edinburgh Award Adventurous Journey. A final debrief, a few hugs from new-found friends and the Adventurous Journey was complete.

Interested in hiking your next Duke of Ed Adventurous Journey? Find out more.