Monday, October 29, 2012

Caving - part 2

After we had exited our last cave for the day on Saturday, we piled back into the mini-bus for the short trip back to the camp site. Brett did not come caving, choosing instead to take a trip to Hamilton and stay back at camp and get dinner ready.

19 hungry scouts and 2 hungry leaders joined Brett back at the camp and demolished a dinner of spaghetti bolognaise followed by bush donuts and custard. Karen and I had pre-prepared the bolognaise sauce and frozen it before the trip. It was well received.

After cleaning up from dinner it was time for all present to don their uniforms and head underground - into Tunnel cave for 4 of the 1st Upwey scouts to be awarded various badges/awards. The caving team set out a ring of tea-light candles in the cave and all scouts, leaders and caving team members lined the ring for the ceremony. It was a great opportunity to make a big deal out of these awards and one that the kids won't forget. Patrick received his Pioneer level badge and cord. This is a requirement to attend Jamboree and one that he has been working towards all year. Well done buddy!

After that it was back to camp and we set about making a camp fire. Given that we'd had a couple of showers earlier that evening, it wasn't looking promising. The rain stayed away for the rest of the evening and the scouts all gathered around the fire just chatting and having a good time, while the leaders (and the leaders from 6th Melbourne) had a chat and generally just had a relaxing evening. In comparison to the previous evening, we all turned in relatively early on the Saturday.

Sunday morning saw a breakfast of pancakes for the assembled throng. Very nicely done too! After this was all cleaned up it was back to discover more caves before wrapping up in time for lunch and the long road trip back to Upwey.

After a quick lunch at the camp it was time to pack up the tents and all of our belongings and load them into the trailer. One last thing to be done before we bid farewell to the caving team was a closing ceremony where the kids were all presented with their caving proficiency badges and certificates. Another achievement for all of the scouts in attendance.

The caving team were very complimentary about the scouts and their achievements this weekend and encouraged them all to carry on to Venturers and go caving as a Venturer - where you get to abseil into limestone caves! Sounds like a hoot, and I'll be volunteering.

After a final check of the campsite and making sure we'd left no belongings or rubbish behind, it was back onto the bus for the trip home. We arrived at Upwey just after 6pm - about 48 hours since we had departed. It was a very full weekend, but one that the kids thoroughly enjoyed made up of experiences they won't be forgetting in a hurry.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Caving - part 1

Last weekend (20-21 October), Patrick and I jumped in a mini-bus on the Friday night with 18 other Scouts and 1 other Leader and headed west to Mt Eccles National Park. A further leader, Brett, drove up in his own 4WD towing a trailer with all our gear. After an extended stop at Hungry Jacks just outside of Geelong, we finally made it to our camp site a little before midnight. We then had to wrangle 19 kids to put their tents up, stow their gear and go to sleep. Somewhere around 1am, Brett, Tim (the other leader) and I finally got to bed.

The following morning Brett cooked a fantastic breakfast of bacon and French toast for all 22 of us. This was a great way to start the day and provided sustenance for the first part of our caving adventure.

After breakfast we set up a production line for the kids to make their own rolls for lunch. Once this was done and tidied away we were off to meet the caving team for our safety brief.

The caving team are one of the many adventurous activity groups throughout the scouting movement and come from all over the state. Their experience and willingness to share that experience with scouts is part of what makes the whole adventure great. Some of these guys don't belong to a specific scout group - they freely give of their time so scouts can have a caving adventure. And they run these trips one weekend a month for ten months of the year. That's commitment!

Anyway, after our safety brief we were kitted up with helmets and split into three groups. Each group had pretty much the same caves to visit, but on a different timetable.

The first cave my group went in was a pretty easy affair and the kids acclimatised quite well. Through tunnels either crawling, hunched over or sliding on their bellies, they were equally at home underground. And enthusiastic!

After our first cave we took a little walk and settled down close to the cave exit for lunch. We took some time to get to know each other a little more (scouts involved in the weekend came from 1st Upwey, 1st Belgrave South and 6th Melbourne from near Kensington).

After lunch we walked across a small valley and headed to our next cave. All of the caves in this area were formed thousands of years ago from lava flows and are quite rough throughout. No stalactites here!

The caves required a great deal of crawling, sliding, pulling and just stamina to get through. It was an awesome experience.

In our last cave on Saturday, we had made it inside and were relaxing in a cavern. Some of the kids were making noises about wanting to keep going as they wanted to see more of what there was to see. The caving team told us there were two possible exits - one with a slightly longer route (crawling all the way) and a slightly shorter route with crawling and a tight squeeze. The group broke into two and I decided I would try my luck with the squeezier option. After all the kids and our guide were through, it was my turn. I crawled down the tunnel and lay on my belly, with my arms stretched in front, as I entered the squeeze (also referred to as a letterbox). I was wriggling and clawing my way through, getting up to my shoulders through the gap and then I felt like I was stuck! Great. What now?

I called over to our guide, Greg, and told him of my predicament. He told me I was through. My shoulders were past the gap so I should be right to power on through. Good in theory.

I took a few deep breaths, gathered my thoughts and tried again. Brute force and determination pushed me through that hole. Gee it felt good to pop out on the other side! What a rush.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Off and racing

Last night marked the start of the Foresters Venturers unit meeting at Upwey. It was a fun, if quiet, night with 4 Venturers and 3 Leaders in attendance.

We had a games night involving twister and various themes on that classic game. It was great fun.

As we opened the doors to the hall it was a great surprise to see a paper banner covering the doorway to the hall welcoming the Venturers to their new home (and some welcome snacks!). After running through the banner and crossing the threshold to their new home it was down to business - the business of Twister!

Overall it was a successful night and we look forward to the numbers building over coming weeks.

Next week - tent night! Stay tuned.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Royal Melbourne Show

We were fortunate enough to go to the Royal Melbourne Show yesterday. Buying your tickets in advance and taking advantage of some of the offers certainly helped us out. That way we got discounted entry and $80 worth of ride tickets for the kids.

This year we headed to the farmyard nursery earlier in the day and were not confronted by the massive crowds which had turned us off in previous years. Having a few calves, kids and lambs wandering around the assembled throng was a novelty, and I hope the animals weren't too stressed.

The boys enjoyed the roller coaster and log/flume ride the best and Lily enjoyed the jumping castle/slide thingy!

The day after AFL Grand Final day is DEFINITELY the busiest day, but short of taking a days leave I couldn't go any other day - and I wasn't being left behind! And just as we were heading for the car, we detoured via the woodchop stadium to see the last event for the day. I would dearly have loved to see more of the woodchop, but you can't have everything :)

I firmly believe the way to see the show as an adult is to take the kids on one day and leave them at home another day while you go again and see all the things the kids can't be bothered with. Maybe next year.