Monday, April 18, 2016


I know it was over a year ago, but I've only recently finished putting my notes together. So here's a few words about my time Australian Venture 2015.

Day 1: early start to get to Sydney airport as independent travellers and make our way to Adelaide. Caught the airport train something you can't do in Melbourne!

Got to Adelaide airport, just happened to see some Viccon shirts heading out of the terminal towards the bus, so tagged along.

Arrived at Adelaide Arena and checked in. It was obvious that the temperature was rising both inside and out. The check in process was quite simple, but it took a long time waiting on each contingent to turn up before the opening ceremony (as lacklustre as it was) finally started.

Once the opening ceremony was complete we waited for our exped leader. Jay finally showed up about 45 minutes later and then the whole exped kicked off.

We loaded the trailer and then headed out towards Hindmarsh Island - up the long hill on the highway heading east from Adelaide. The original plan was to camp at the Tanunda caravan park and ride at the Cuddlee Creek MTB park the following day, but bushfires were threatening that area. The severe heat and our loaded bus and trailer meant we had to wait on the side of the road twice while the bus cooled down!

Once at Hindmarsh Island we set up camp and bumped into the Hindmarsh Island Getaway units at the same WEOA campsite. We had a lovely BBQ dinner followed by a bit of 'get to know you' before chilling out and turning in for the night.

Day 2: After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, we packed down our camp with the intention of moving on after the day’s activities of riding along the bike path from Hindmarsh Island, through Goolwa to Victor Harbour. The ride went as planned and we stopped for lunch at Port Elliot where one of the Venturers took ill and was not feeling capable of completing the days ride. He and I joined our guide Moira on a road trip to Victor Harbour to rendezvous with the remainder of the group. While at Victor Harbour the Venturers made use of the nearby shops and purchased some refreshments. We were also treated to some thrilling scooter, BMX and skateboard tricks at the local skate park, while others took to the beach to cool off.

Once the bikes were loaded on the trailer it was back to Hindmarsh Island for another unplanned overnight stay. After setting up our camp again, it was time for dinner and a bit of frisbee'ing before turning in. While Hindmarsh Island was not our anticipated camping spot, it was very comfortable (apart from cold showers).

Day 3: A somewhat lighter breakfast this morning was followed by once again packing down and then finally heading off the Island. Our destination was Craigburn Farm MTB Park. This park is set in the middle of some recent housing developments in Adelaide's southern suburbs. The trails are quite open and they cater for all skill levels. I had my first 'over-the-bars' moment for the exped here while attempting NOT to drop off the track. I was successful in NOT dropping off the track but less so in braking without lifting the back wheel and ejecting myself! No drama, just a bump and a scrape and hopped back on. The few Venturers that saw this effort were quite impressed (i.e.: laughed a LOT!). We spent all day here and had two sessions on the trails, broken up by a lunch break. These trails were a good intro to trail riding for those that hadn't done much (any) before. From here we headed off to Douglas Scrub Guide Camp to camp for the next two days and use it as our base for more trail rides. Dinner while at Douglas Scrub was cooked using Trangias on both nights and there was quite a debate on how to pronounce Trangia between one NSW Venturer and the rest of the exped crew. He wasn't persuaded! After dinner and the washing up, we headed over to the other side of Douglas Scrub to visit the tree-dwelling Venturers - those adventurous souls that chose to build and live in tree houses during their exped. There were some amazing tree houses and the ingenuity on show was fantastic. Some even had LED lights strung around the rails, with two levels of platforms! Awesome.

Day 4: This morning we headed off to Kuitpo Forest to blaze some pine forest MTB trails. Some of these trails were quite technical and narrow which was a real challenge for most of us. Most of us came out unscathed, except for one Qld'er landing on his chin after not taking enough speed into a double jump and another Qld'er being bucked from the same jump and landing heavily on his wrist. Later on that day one of our NSW brethren took a fall and it was thought that he may have fractured his arm. A visit to the ED found that this was not be and that he had merely bruised his nerve around the elbow. Ouch. That night we were back at Douglas Scrub and after dinner paid a visit to the rock walls for some bouldering.

Day 5: We farewelled Douglas Scrub and headed to Eagle MTB Park on the outskirts of Adelaide. In some pretty hot conditions (my Garmin registered 40+ on the trails) we were treated to some sweet trails, including a trail that has been used as the National Downhill track. It was hot, damn hot, but for those brave enough to tackle the conditions they were paid back in spades by the awesome technical track and wicked descent! The view from the top over Adelaide was pretty good too. After a lunch break we packed up the bikes and headed to the beach for a dip and the chance to raid a convenience store for a slurpee and ice cream. After a refreshing dip we made tracks for our accommodation for our last night on exped - Flagstaff Hill Scout Hall, in the suburbs of Adelaide. The hall was well appointed and spacious - even having shower facilities. The overnight low of 20+ made for an uncomfortable night no matter the location, so it was a weary crew that awoke the following morning.

Day 6: After breakfast and cleaning up the hall it was off to City Dirt - an inner city pump track that offered another chance to test ourselves on the bikes. It was another hot day and after a few hours at City Dirt and a bakery lunch in a nearby park we headed to Woodhouse to join up with the other exped groups and begin the onsite part of AV2015. We ended up being first on site which was quite odd. At least we had the chance to use the shower and laundry facilities first! Once we set up our tents (on our sloping site) the next buses started making their way on site. It was great to see the sea of hike tents start to pop up and the site start buzzing with the hundreds of Venturers about to start the next part of their adventure. Once on site there was no need for cooking - all meals were catered for at the catering marquees. The queues were quite a sight!

Day 7: The first full day on site was totally on site. There were carnival rides, flying foxes, hands-on activities, all manner of games and every opportunity to socialise. This is when the weather started to turn. Although it made some things a bit more difficult (like drying clothes), the cooler weather was welcome respite from the higher temperatures both for us and the fire fighters battling blazes across the state. Today provided a great opportunity to catch up with our unit, those Venturers from our District and some familiar faces. It was also the beginning of making new friends.

Day 8: The Sherbrooke Forest contingent decided beforehand to embark on a coach trip to the Monarto Zoo. This is an open range zoo and you take a tour aboard your coach (or one of their coaches if you didn't bring your own). This was a very relaxing half day tour and the inside of the air conditioned coach was the place to be on yet another drizzly day. The size and composition of the meals from the onsite catering brigade had started to take a downward trajectory by now. Scouting organisers should realise that you can get away with a lot if people have full tummies. Keeping teenagers hungry (underfed) is NOT the way to get them on side. Luckily for them the leaders were being treated the same and we went into bat for them with the organisers. The result wasn't great, but it was better than it had been. That was the one lowlight for this camp.

Day 9: This was a day I chose to stay on site and recharge the batteries that were just about well and truly spent. I caught up with several leaders and Venturers I knew, visited the contingent headquarters and bought a few badges, checked out the lay of Woodhouse and just chilled out. The Venturers were doing any number of on and off site activities and coming and going as necessary. It was great to see the Venturers being (mostly) mature and responsible and getting on with their own things either with others or on their own. After more than a week living in close quarters with even you closest mates, you need some space. Some took the opportunity to go shooting or undertake activities like laser tag or even go to the beach on organised. There was loads to do - even though we were in Adelaide!

Day 10: I headed out on a leaders trip of the Adelaide Hills. We visited a car museum not far from Onkaparinga, the Giant Rocking Horse and associated wildlife sanctuary and had lunch at the local cafe. After lunch we visited a chocolate factory (and the visitors shop) and a few other local haunts before heading back to Woodhouse. The day tour was a bit underwhelming, but the company was good - a break from the kids!

Day 11: After spending the morning on site and catching up with people I took a trip into Adelaide city for the afternoon. After being deposited at Rundle Mall I went for a walk. Nothing really took my fancy so I headed to the Casino. I duly located the sports bar, ordered a beer and watched whatever sports happened to be on the big screen for a couple of hours. It was a very relaxing afternoon indeed. Once back on site it was time to start getting my gear together and making sure the Venturers were also making a start on packing as tomorrow was departure day. After dinner tonight was the closing ceremony. This was meant to be outside, but a last minute decision saw it moved into a very large marquee as the rain continued to fall. There were presentation about AV 2018, The Moot 2017 and some other scouting events coming up. Compared to a Jamboree closing ceremony, it was very small scale. But when you've only got an audience of 1,200 people you can't really lash out.

Day 12: Up at sparrows and searching for Patrick to make sure he was up and getting ready to depart as well. He slept in Declan's tent which wasn't in my plan, but after finding him it was all good. We packed up in the rain which meant our tents weighed a bit more than when we arrived! We bummed a lift to the airport with the NSW contingent (since we were independent travellers) and checked in for our flight. Upon checking in I was notified that my bag was now 1kg over weight - thanks to the rain soaked tent no doubt. I was able to move a pair of shoes into Patrick's bag and we were good to go. Now it was just the wait at the gate lounge. It was a great adventure, and my first national large scale scouting event. Angus will be 16 for AV2018 which is being held in Qld, and it will be interesting to see how that goes!