The learnings of a city dweller into the wilderness

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The sun was not up yet and we were already on board, on Nooramunga, a 20 metre twin motor boat, harboured in Port Albert, Victoria. We were all mentally prepared and organised for at least nine hour boat trip to Deal Island. Sea sickness pills were our first breakfast…prayers whispered for them to work.

This five-day trip, away from work and from all the skills required to live in the city, was a journey of learning. I guess that’s just what happens when you leave the comfort zone of your home, of your office, and end up in a place when all your tech and professional skills are completely useless.

9 hours on the boat = great opportunity to get out of your head and learn something from others.

Wynne, an experienced white beard captain with red cheeks said nobody got sea sick on the way back. “It’s all in your mind” he said. Carol, the first mate of Wynne and excellent boat operator, taught us the rules of conserving the precious water and toilet usage on the boat and outdoor. Mate, we, the city people, do not even know how to poo properly on a boat or in a National Park #LessonLearnt.

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When we arrived to our destination, Wynne used an inflatable small boat to take us to the shore, on Erith island. This was where we were base camping, just 20 minutes sail away from Deal island. Wynne told us to take the backpacks from the boat and put it to the shore, away from the sand. Applying what I knew from the city (when someone gives you something to do, you need to rush to complete it asap), I started running with backpacks, between the boat and the shore.

“Why are you running? You are not in the city. There is no traffic light, there is no rush. Whnne”

On Erith, we all unpacked, put up our tents and got together for a yummy dinner. Oh yeah, in the middle of nowhere, we even had chocolate cake. When we go away from the city, we take with you as much as we can, somehow to recreate the comfort of the city and the habits we have there. But this time, there was no point in taking the laptop, not even the phone. There was no phone reception, no electricity, no water on this island. Good luck with staring at yourself!

On Saturday, Wynne gave us the first lift to Deal Island. We visited the Museum (East Cove) and for the morning tea we were already up on the hill to the Lighthouse. In the past, the Deal Island Lighthouse was raising proudly as the highest light in the Southern Hemisphere serving fishermen and sea travellers from 1848 till 1992. A couple of us allowed themselves a longer tea break to admire the view from the Lighthouse. Others walked down to where one of the military aircraft crashed in Australia during the World War II. Then we all head towards Squally Cove for lunch. The first day of bush walk ended with Little Squally Cove and, for the fastest and fittest (Gina, John F and Carol to be more specific) – Barn Hill too.

On Sunday, Wynne dropped us to Garden Cove. Walking from there to the Winter Cove, I learnt how little wallabies care about humans here. Wallabies could not bother any less about us taking close up photos of them for Facebook. I learnt how much extra time I had every day without using Facebook and all the social media toolkit that you need in the city to promote yourself to employers, to your friends, to complete strangers.

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Through my inexperienced eyes, all the coves on Deal Island look pretty much the same (stunning clear turquoise water, beautiful sandy beach, a lot of bushes with wild Australian geese, wallabies and dry looking pine trees), except one – the Winter Cove which felt special. It must have been the warm brownish-orange colour of the rocks, the wide opening of the beach, the lovely lunch and afternoon we spent there on that Sunday… or maybe the marvellous encounter with some serious kayakers who showed us some tricks and equipment for light camping. I learnt that the limits are the ones we set ourselves. These kayakers were about 80km away from their departure point. With full awareness, they had to choose what to fit into their small kayak for 10 days in the wild. And I thought that coming by boat, with toilet and tap water was difficult!

Monday was our last day on Erith. We truly made the best out of it by walking to Swashway, crossing over to Dover island, walk to headland and then return to the camp taking different routes. This is when I learnt that every single gram in our daypack matters in enjoying a walk effortlessly.

“Every gram in your daypack is like an emotional baggage. You may not be aware of it, but it bothers you over and over again.”

When you are walking, you have to get your priorities right with everything you put in your backpack. You can take the wok on a base camp if it means a lot to you (there was someone who did that actually!), but not on a pack carry trip. That Monday was certainly a memorable one, as the day when many of us pushed their limits once more. With encouragements and a lot of helping hands from the leaders of the group, we all walked rocky paths we had never dreamed we could walk. We were sweaty (and sometimes frightened too!) while climbing those rocks, but it felt so rewarding at the end of the day.

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On the way back to Port Albert on Tuesday, nobody was sea sick, to confirm Wynne’s wise observation. Two groups of dolphins had raced with Nooramunga on our return, jumping up and down, and singing joyfully.

We are spending a great deal of time worrying about who we ought to become, where is our career going, what is the haircut that suits me best…I felt right there, on the boat, when we listen to the song of dolphins, we see better than ever who we really are at heart.

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