Off we set on a sunny Monday morning accompanied by 106 children, five teachers and eight parents. The trip was a quick one and we arrived at Arribri Lodge just before 11am. After some morning tea and a welcome from Dave, our camp director, we found our cabins, unpacked what we needed to, made our beds then hurried back to the meeting place in anticipation of our camp tour.
Dave showed us around the beautiful site – explaining rules, regulations and expectations before we returned to the main camp area for lunch.
The children had been divided into eight groups from across all the different classes with about 13 children in each. Ms Murphy had drawn up a rotation of eight different activities: swimming, orienteering, initiatives, flying fox, damper cooking, low ropes course, giant swing and archery, of which three were completed that afternoon.
Around 4:45 we straggled back to the meeting point – a little tired and dusty and looking forward to dinner but also looking forward to a bit of free time. The children could choose to jump on the in-ground trampoline, play a round of mini golf, practise for the talent show, play tennis, kick a ball on the oval, play pool or table soccer in the games room or basketball in the gym – no chance of having nothing to do!
Duty group got to work half an hour before dinner then it was into the dining room with one and all to eat, chat and make new friends. After dinner showers were taken if they hadn’t been done before then it was into our cowboy hats, flannel shirts, jeans and bandannas and into the gym for the bush dance.
The dance was hosted most ably by Paul. We learned about different types of instruments like the lager stick and a drum which he beat with incredible timing and expertise. We also learned partner and line dances that left us laughing at our missteps and poor timing but also at our willingness to give it a go.
The night had not quite finished for then it was off in groups with our torches to accomplish the Arribri Lodge Nocturnal walk where we followed a windy path through he trees looking for the scrambled letters which named the activity. On completion we sat around the campfire munching (untoasted!) marshmallows and having a good old sing-a-long led by Michael Burrows who had not only brought his guitar but had printed out song sheets to share.
And still there was more … as it was such a beautiful clear night, we lay down in the paddock, turned off our torches and our voices and gazed at the stars and the moon. We sighted the Milky Way, the Southern Cross and Orion’s Belt (or big saucepan) which was a lovely way to end an action-packed day.
After an earlier start for some than others, we assembled in the meeting place for a pre-breakfast chat and cabin inspection by Ms Kentera – needless to say some children were sent off to have a little tidy up!
After a two-course breakfast of cereal, then hash browns, we were back off to our rotations. Teachers, parents and camp staff led all the rotations while the children moved themselves from activity to activity when instructed. It was a seamless operation punctuated by screams of excitement from the swing and flying fox, smokey smells from the fire that cooked the damper, and tummy burns from getting pulled and pushed through the tyre on the initiatives course.
It was a morning tea happy birthday to Ariella so we sang and ate cupcakes to wish her well.
The rotations lasted until mid afternoon when it was time to get on our old shoes, grab our hats and drink bottles, and find our class for a walk to the Yarra River. We ambled along a shady path past the East Warburton School then made our way to the riverbanks. Gold pans were distributed and off we went in search of our fortunes! Plenty of Fools Gold was discovered along with the knowledge that the pans were fantastic wetting devices, much needed during the parents vs children splashing contest!
We returned to camp none the richer in gold, but definitely more well off in experience and memories.
Mr Chant had arrived at the river as we were departing and he joined us for dinner and to watch the Talent Show. There was much excitement in the lead up with costumes being changed into, acts rehearsed for the final time and even an impromptu hair salon set up in the courtyard.
Show time! Every child had a partner or a group and performed an act of their choice – we laughed at great jokes, watched dazzling dances, sang along to tunes we knew, and marvelled at magic. Exhausted and entertained it was off to bed.
As per the previous nights instructions, everyone was up and packing before breakfast. Sleeping bags were stuffed, cabins were tidied, lost shoes were found and it was a birthday breakfast for Zara who blew out a candle in her pancake!
On to the bus we went for a surprise trip to the Dandenong Ranges National Park and the 1000 Steps. We alighted from the bus, leaving our jumpers and backpacks behind and started the climb to the top. We made our way up over uneven paths and winding steps shaded by cool ferns, and with constant encouragement for one another every single one of us made it to the top. On reflection many children said this was one of their most pleasing and proudest moment of the trip.
We walked a different way back down the hill to a welcome lunch break before getting back on the bus. The journey back to school was only a short one and the noise levels were at a much lower level than they had been Monday morning, in fact, there may have been more than a few eyes closed during the ride!
Back at Gardenvale we quickly unpacked, said our goodbyes, and went off to tell of our adventures and to sleep happily in our own beds!
Thank you to our wonderful teachers: Peter Monotti, Julie Murphy, Tanya Kentera, Victoria Pidhirny and Catherine Sangster and to our parent helpers; Steph, Alida, Daniel, Dan, Michael, Brent, Al, Ian and to all the staff at Arribri Lodge for allowing the children to have such an incredible three days.