Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, District Council of Yankalilla, Yankalilla & District Lions Club, Yankalilla Community Opportunity Shop, The Rotary Club of Yankalilla, Club Fleurieu, The Uniting Church and the Yankalilla Quilters, students at YAS were able to participate in Operation Flinders for the first time. I had the privilege of accompanying the 10 boys with Phil Noel and my sister in a mentoring role. I have to admit to some feelings of trepidation on the eve of Operation Flinders and my adventure into the ‘great unknown.’ What was I thinking!
Our adventure began on Tuesday 9th May as we boarded the bus for the 10 hour drive to Quorn for an overnight stay. Judging by the amount of whinging and complaining on the bus, I could tell the boys were as nervous as I was! After a relatively short 4 hour drive the following day, we met up with our team leader, Abby and assistant team leader, Kieren. Mr Wilson quite literally dropped us off on the side of a dirt road, somewhere in the middle of the Flinders Ranges! We were equipped with our packs, sleeping bags, roll mats to sleep on and hoochies (thin tarp covers to protect us from the elements!) Sadly, we were forced to cull any unnecessary items, including our secret stash of lollies! And then it was ‘Packs on Tango 5!’ and goodbye to Mr Wilson. I begged him to come back for us a week later – and thankfully he did!!
Operation Flinders would have to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’m sure the boys would share my sentiments. However, it was also one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences I’ve ever had. We were denied all the creature comforts of home and quite literally had to fend for ourselves in a beautiful but remote bush setting. Very quickly we had to adjust to the routine of camp life: 5.30am starts, packing up bedding and gear, lining up packs and reporting to the camp fire to start the jobs for the day. Top Dog was voted the most popular job as it involved navigating and making radio contact with Base. Being a Blowfly was the least popular as this involved dealing with the stench of the long drop or the thunder box or digging the trenches. The Master Chefs were in charge of food preparation for the day and the Dishwashers had to clean up – they soon realised that it was easier to clean the billies and pots if the food wasn’t burnt! The pyros were in charge of keeping the fire alight – a very important job as it turned out.
After breakfast every day, we’d have some warm-ups courtesy of Phil and Isaac, a niceblend of yoga stretches and footy training drills. And then it was ‘Packs on’ and off and walking. Walking sounds easy you might think – nothing to it. No way! It was hard and difficult terrain through dry river beds with huge rocks and boulders to navigate or hilly prickle-infested plains. Thank heavens for goats and the goat tracks
that made our lives a little easier. You should have heard us on the first couple of days – lots more complaining and a few expletives thrown in! Sadly, expletives meant extra metres and hill climbs so we soon cleaned up our act! But they breed ‘em tough at YAS and we soon became hardened to the heavy packs and difficult terrain. Our boys set a cracking pace and by the last day we were ready for our final challenge – climbing Mount Rose (the highest mountain at Yankaninna) with packs on. We blitzed it and climbed the mount in a record time of 35 minutes.
We were faced with challenges and struggles on a daily basis and the 20 metre abseil certainly tested a few of us. However, we came together as a group and supported each other to get through the daily struggles. It was wonderful to witness the transformation in the boys as a strong bond formed within the group. Throughout the operation, the boys learnt many great skills to help them through tough times and hopefully they can draw on these skills beyond Operation Flinders.
Congratulations to Caleb who was awarded a special boomerang for showing most improvement physically and to Cameron for showing most improvement emotionally. He was awarded the team mascot, Pedros, (who lost his pants on the trek!)
I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity that I was given to get to know all the members of Tango 5. They are an awesome group with so much potential. I wish you all continued success.
By Mrs Joshua, Tango 5 Team