At 6am on March 27, Year 12 students left Willoughby Park by bus for the six-hour ride to their Solo Camp on a property near the Warrumbungle National Park. On arrival we were greeted by our guides Scottie, KG, and Eric.
Tents were quickly set up and we helped prepare our dinner of kangaroo burgers cooked on the open fire.
During the afternoon students discussed various campsite options with Eric and Scottie before deciding on where they would set up camp the next day.
Students were up early on Sunday morning and were packed and ready to leave for their campsites by 9:30am.
Once they arrived the sites were checked by the supervisor and a spot for the letterbox was arranged. By 11am all students had reached they campsites and teachers were back at base camp. However, there was no rest for them as Scottie and Eric had started building a pizza oven as a surprise for the students on the last night of the camp.
At 5pm on Sunday, teachers undertook the first of the letterbox runs to check if the students had settled in and were comfortable.
Some had forgotten their torches, insect repellent, or water etc. but it did not take long to supply these missing essentials.
The next day, letterboxes were checked at 9am and again at 5pm. Comments left in the letter boxes were all positive with students being aware of the nature around them and enjoying it very much.
Between letterbox runs and other duties, the teachers continued to work on the pizza oven, and it was completed on Wednesday afternoon – with the help of some students who gave it the final polish.
Students were due back at the main camp at 10am but a few arrived earlier and once everyone had arrived, we sat in a circle and the students shared their experiences of their time alone. Many students saw emus, wallabies, various birds, and other wildlife and kept themselves busy with creative works, such as art or writing.
After lunch we set off for our land care tasks which was to help prevent erosion and scouring by using wood off-cuts in one of the creeks to slow the water and stabilise the creek bed.
On Tuesday evening, Scottie cooked another feast, this time it was freshly harvested goat and a vegetarian curry.
The Landcare work continued on Wednesday and in the evening, we feasted on pizza from our brand-new pizza oven.
After dinner we were treated to an exploration of the night sky by astronomer Donna Burton from Coonabarabran who shared her love of the night sky through her portable telescope. Donna had brought her self-made transportable telescope and we were all in awe being able to watch fascinating sights in the sky that are invisible to the naked eye. I think, none of us will ever look at the stars at night in the same way again after this experience.
Thursday morning came and it was time to say farewell to Eric and his property. We arrived back at Willoughby Park on time at 4pm and within seven minutes all students had been collected by their parents – the fastest pickup ever.
From all reports the Solo Camp Experience was a resounding success, and all credit goes to the Outdoor Education team. Thanks to Scottie, KG, Taylor, Tom, and Eric, who gave our Year 12 students this unique opportunity not only to enjoy the outdoors by themselves but also give back to nature by working on the land to improve its condition.