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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Wops...

Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee

Recently I went on an excursion to The Bush.

This was not entirely by choice as it was part of a work Getting To Know You by Trying To Kill You experience, however one must do what one must do.

The thing about The Bush is that it takes a long time to get there. And whilst getting there, you see a lot of The Country. The Country, although severely lacking in exhaust fumes, people wearing heels (both genders), and concrete, is also very repetitive.

My companion on the journey is also from the city, and so we got very excited when we saw:

A)     An Actual Horse and Buggy.

B)      A sign saying “Cheep Liquor.” (An intriguing mystery as we couldn’t figure out if this was intentional, particularly as we saw another one a few miles down the road.)

C)      Another sign saying “Lights on at all times.” Is the country that dark? Is it a test to see if you’ll follow simple instructions?

D)     Trees. Also sheep, cows, a lot of grass, and more trees.

This was quite novel at first as we don’t get a lot of the above in town, however, I have now come to the conclusion that once you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen ‘em all.

Once we got to our destination however, The Bush became a different kettle of fish (so to speak.)

We were bound for the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre at Lake Tongariro, which sounded to us a lot like there would be tents and outdoor toilets, however we were pleasantly surprised to find both cabins and indoor plumbing.

The setup is like this: you can choose to do courses to suit your needs, from corporate to schools to Women’s Adventure Weekends (I kid you not).

There are a range of outdoor activities coached by the OPC staff, and you can also bring in your own lecturers and work in your own tailored events.

My week was basically Camping for Coporates, and consisted of my work events and also things like jumping off tall buildings (not in a single bound but a series of very slow shuffling sort of steps towards the edge), crawling through wet underground tunnels (backwards, in the dark), and climbing things that look more like giant art sculptures than structurally sound constructions.

There was also a fair amount of acclimatising to do. You can see Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro from the Centre, and by golly, you get sympathy frostbite just looking at them.

But it snowed for 15 minutes while we were there, (I missed it, I was glued to the fireplace), and the people who did actually witness this miracle were high on it for hours after this. (I’m not bitter.)

We ate healthy meals daily, and had three square meals a day (unheard of for me- I’m a coffee-for-breakfast, lunch-on-the-run kind of girl). I also had conversations that didn’t solely consist of “Can you do...”, “Why haven’t you...”, “Let me make a call...”.

The group cabin situation was also a new one (or seemed like it; Girl Guides and School Camp are well and truly in the selective memory box). Six females trapped in one room for a week is usually taking your life into your hands unless alcohol and/ or lots of sugar is involved (chocolate: check, alcohol: contraband).

However, despite some determined snoring and sleep talking on everyone’s part, we all managed to live together happily and not rip each other’s hair out.

For a city girl, particularly one used to a fairly consistent intake of Starbucks and a daily shower with water pressure, central heating and 24/7 access to my cell phone, the whole event was a humbling experience. Not only can I, despite novels’ worth of evidence to the contrary, survive being in an environment where everything is not at my fingertips, I actually ended up really enjoying it.

Our bush walk was my favourite part, for the sole reason that nobody in my group had a clue how to survive in the bush, and misery loves company.

It has believe you me, now been ensconced in the minds of my fellow campers and I as an Achievement of near-epic proportions.

We walked for three hours through dense forest, over logs, through streams, picking thorny things off our clothes, wondering who on earth thought putting a track through the Middle of Freaking Nowhere was a fantastic idea.

Helpfully we devised a system of advance warning for possible danger, consisting of the front people shouting out, and the rest of us repeating it back down the line.

As we were all from the city, this was only helpful in broad terms, as “Mutant vegetation!”, “Pricky things!”, “Potential testicle remover!”, “Sticky up twig!”, “Evil foliage!”, were not easily identifiable to someone from the area. “Pissed off city slicker!” might have been the exception.

At the end though, there was a real sense of achievement, not least because we’d come, saw, and conquered, and all without caffeine.

I recommend this experience to anyone wanting to push their limits, get outside their comfort zone, or test themselves to see how long they can go without cellphone coverage. It certainly opens your eyes (and your lungs), and makes a world of difference to how you see the world.

What: Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre

Where: To quote the OPC website “OPC Tongariro is located on the Central Plateau of the North Island. OPC is situated 4km off State Highway 47 on the western side of Tongariro National Park. It is an area rich in natural and cultural history surrounded by lakes, river, mountains and native bush.”

Why: May as well, it’s a 3 day hike to civilization otherwise.

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