I warn you, this is quite long, and I broke into a sweat while writing... maybe I was just wearing too much. I went through a lot of music writing this. Even 'Red Hot Chille Peppers - 'Stadium Arcadium" could not go on for long enough. I hope you like long stories... I might hand this into school, I've never written anything as long as this before. We competed in the Regionals, and won them, so we thought we would give the Nationals a whirl... not that we had a choice. Of course the fundraising was the big issue. None of us had a spare $2000 in the bank. But, being us, we managed to raise $10 000 dollars. Not a bad effort... For the first time ever, our team manager let us have a sleep in. We rolled on up to school at 12:00, ready to go at 12:15. Landed in Auckland, and nicked a bus to get to the hotel. (Not really) SUNDAY ------------- So, Sunday... We had to get up at some outrageous time in the morning (about 8:00) and were on the ferry to Sir Edmund Hillary O.P.C, Great Barrier Island. We arrived about 13:00 and dumped our gear in the accommodation. All 12 teams had 1 hour to get our gear sorted for the first challenge. First, build your raft. This was in preparation for the challenge. Bit of a hint really... Ok. The race begins. Each team was given a sea kayak each, which we had to paddle around a course with no rudder, 2 people at a time. No problems for us, an average result on that - 7th. Next part of the challenge was to run around a course. This was somewhere between 8km (5 Miles) and 11km. (6.875 Miles.) O.P.C weren't quite sure. We got overtaken about half way around, and then caught up again. We couldn't overtake though because the track was too narrow, and very indistinct. So, Because of this, we followed them right off the track. For at least 100m, no one noticed, and then the supposed track we were following disappeared. Both teams kind of joined up at that stage, trying to figure out which way to go, until Shane (the tank from our team) strolled off through the bush in the direction I indicated. We hit the track dead on where I wanted but also hit another team... So now three teams were battling for position, with us coming out in front. This was great, until I didn't quite know what to do. Looking, at the map now, I can't see why I was confused, but for some reason I thought if we hit the marshal we had gone too far. One team passed us again. We followed them, and did what we should have done to start with. We crossed the second road and ran along a path to another bay. Pretty uneventful really. Then we hit the predator fence. This is basically a fence that stoats, rats cats, or anything that can kill birds cannot get through. Of course, It has to be on the steepest possible hill. They did put a rope out for us though, so that was nice. We were catching a team the whole way up, so that was encouraging. We arrived back at camp about 15 minutes later. The challenge was not finished, however, as we still had to raft around the water course. All 8 members of the team on 2 sit-on-top kayaks is a pretty amusing scene though. To be fair, the girls were holding the raft together at the back end. Came in to finish in 2 hours 52 mins. We were 8th, but it was done on time, and we were almost exactly halfway between the first team and the last team. Our whole team had showered and recovered when the last team finished the rafting. MONDAY -------------- Up at 7:00... 7:00!?!?!? Ok then. I guess we didn't have curtains... Breakfast at 7:30. Grab a bit of gear for the day, and we were off at 8:30. Three hour-long challenges with half-hour breaks between, followed by a big challenge in the afternoon. The first challenge was to build a bridge using four sit-ons. That took half an hour, as you are not allowed in the water while you are building it. If you are, you cannot touch the bridge. Richard, our team leader, thinker and comedian, got out there by him placing a kayak in the water, then taking a running jump onto it. It took him a few goes and a physics lecture from me before he got there, but we still bet the team we were there with in building the bridge. The actual challenge was to get the balls, one at a time, from the bucket on the sea kayak our bridge was connected to, back to the wharf where we started. Only three people on the bridge at any one time, and you have to go in alphabetical order of your first name. Of course, how we had built the bridge, two people were needed to hold it together. (We only had 2 bits of rope) One to hold the gap between Richard's kayak and the rest of the bridge, and Richard to hold his kayak in place. This was a good team bonding exercise, as we had to actually crawl and wriggle on top of the person holding the bridge. We got 9 balls, and very sore hips, as there was plastic wall things on the sit-ons, which made sliding very painful. Challenge 2. High ropes. This was actually two challenges. The two teams split up, one did one challenge, the other did the other. then they swapped. We did the tower-building one first. This was where we had to build a tower from wooden blocks. Sounds straightforward? Na. Your not allowed to touch the ground for about 6 feet on each side of the tower platform, which is where you build the tower. Of course, we are all about the same weight, so belaying with pulleys was fun... Oliver, the team idiot, was actually in the air while belaying - It was Shane he was belaying, and Shane is a bit heavier than the rest of us, but I was also in the air, pulling him down, while Rebecca, the girl's tank, was pulling me down. I didn't have a harness on, (I was only back-up, and there weren't enough harnesses for all of us) which made being airborne a little more difficult. Our tower wasn't very tall... Challenge 2.5 was we had to climb up a wire and wooden ladder with bits of string and tie them on at regular intervals. We ended up just walking backwards with heaps of people holding onto the rope, and pulling the 'climber' up. we did pretty well on that one. Challenge 3. Flying by memory. Not really, but it was a game of memory, where we were not allowed to touch the ground in a square 8x8 ft. So it was airborne memory. Two harnesses per team, and a rope tied to the roof. We got 13 pairs, worth 5 points each, (65 pts.) and got 7 penalties, worth -3 points each. (-21 pts.) Total = 44 pts. Not as bad as it sounds, there were many teams that got something like -13. What made it really difficult was that the rope did not reach when you were standing on the ground. I became the stool, to get them high enough. This was painful when Shane got on, and one of my arms actually nearly collapsed. (My left) It was his shoes too though, they were pretty rough. Afternoon Challenge. This was a good one. It started off (for one member of each team, me for ours) kayaking a sit-on over to another bay. The rest of the team walked around. I quickly found that kayaking with a pack with everyone's gear for the day in it was not easy, and soon adopted a technique that was not exactly ideal, but much easier. In other words, I was lying down. I was still overtaking people, so it was all good. A nice relaxing 2 minute wait at the bay for the others to arrive, followed by a challenge briefing. They split the teams, so 6 went to the kayaking first, while the other 6 went to the yachting. We were kayaking first. We were ****. For some reason, I was the only one in our team capable of going backwards, in a straight line, at a decent speed. So that's what I did, to earn more points. Rebecca and I were the only ones who could stand up, but when we gave it a go, it just wasn't mathematically worth it. We were earning more points by me going backwards than if we had stood up. I killed my right arm. I was using my chest and left arm to lever the right hand strokes going backwards. We went sailing. Lucky we are all pretty good at that, because we got the worst wind - downwind of everyone. Oliver and Dyane (Dyane was our least determined team member) managed to get us into 3rd by the first turn, and Rebecca and Natasha (Likes being called Tash, our second best sailor, diabetic and our Wednesday + Thursday Raft's Figurehead, structural support and mechanic) kept it on their first lap. Richard and Tahlia managed a gutsy move on the inside a few laps later, and another one for the lead a few laps later. by now we were overlapping other boats, and Shane and I were adequate enough to not go backwards. We won the sailing. TUESDAY --------------- Another reasonably outrageous start, and the day was spent in much the same way, just with different challenges. Challenge 4. Water transportation challenge. This was quite easy. There were two people (Rebecca and Dyani) in one area, who went and got the water. They were the only ones who were allowed to voluntarily move their legs while carrying water. In the next section, there were two bits of hose with funnels on them, which Tash and Tahlia used to get the water to the next section, where me and Oliver (wearing harnesses) were standing with egg cups. We then passed it along, with huge stretches, to Richard, who had a bowl and was in his harness. Once that was complete, Oliver and I would sprint to where Shane was standing with 2 carabinas open ready for us to clip into the rope. We waited for Richard to give us the nod, and ran backwards, lifting Richard up to a bucket, in which he put the water. Challenge 5. Jamie Oliver. One pancake, one omelette, and a cup of nice hot tea with milk. Sorry. Not really a challenge is it? Anyone could do that in an hour right? Try doing it blindfolded. Not so easy. Well, the judges drank a lot of pancakes that day, but we managed to get ours solid. We also made a brilliant omelette and a slightly warm, black cup of tea. Oh, you had to clean up as well. We are quite good cooks it turns out. Challenge 6. Rowing. Started off easy, but long. We had to paddle out and around a buoy, 4 members of each team to a boat. Yes. Paddling with our hands. We weren't allowed oars. Then we got given 1 kayak paddle, which made it quicker, but we could only use one end. So it went on till we had 2 oars, and 2 kayak paddles. Then it got really difficult. We had to start blindfolding people. Only one boat had to be blindfolded. So it was us. First Dyane was blindfolded, as she wasn't needed. We did a lap, then I was blindfolded. And I was rowing... that was the weirdest feeling ever. Eventually no one on our boat could see, and we had to go do a lap. the other boat was shouting at us, telling us which side to pull harder on. We weren't going very straight. We kinda managed it though. Then it was the time-trial. We didn't have to do this blind. We put Shane and Oliver at the oars, and me at the back with a kayak paddle as a rudder. We were pretty quick. Not top, but up there. Afternoon Challenge. More rafting. Everyone was going with a nice stable tri-maran design (one sea kayak and two sit-on outriggers) but we decided to go with the more streamlined in-line design, hoping it would provide less drag and be easier to paddle. Well. It was quick, but we had done something fundamentally wrong because it seemed intent on turning left, no matter what we did. So we got the award for the longest distance covered, and the award for the most foul-mouthed team, plus the loudest. We were NOT a pretty sight. However, we were surprisingly not last. We still don't know what was wrong with that raft. WEDNESDAY - EXPEDITION - DAY ONE ------------------------------------------------------------- The day started at the usual outrageous time. However, we didn't start rafting until 9:30 because the briefing was so long. A small string of quick challenges like lifting a ball up with your head, or climbing the cargo net, and we were building our raft. We had a slight communication problem, as we had gathered that because you were allowed to make a rudder for you raft, you could use other things on it too, so we taped our lashings up as well, which worked quite well, until it was spotted. That slowed us down. We had no turning issues, but for some strange reason our raft was very slow. We figured it out about an hour later. The bung had broken on one of the outriggers and it was full of water. Tahlia and Richard got off that pretty quick. Soon after, Rebecca and Oliver found out that the water was actually quite warm when you fall in. Their outrigger capsized all by itself, and they just managed to save the bags. This was a 3.2 mile journey, (Roughly) and it took us 2.5 hours. we landed at the island we were going to about an hour after the team before us, tidied up and left. The run was better. 10 miles. it took us about half an hour to get into it, but then we were just tank. Except Dyani, who we towed up every damn hill. And thanks to Tash being a type 1 diabetic, we got regular stops every half hour for food and drink. It obviously worked to our advantage because we managed to finish 10 minutes behind the last group. We were actually dragging our instructor into camp. (The instructors were just there to make sure we didn't die.) After that success, we decided we were creatures of the land, rather than of the sea. Our tents were up in 10 minutes, and we had tea cooked 15 minutes after the food was given to us. we made a bit too much, and I was forced to stop eating because we needed to examine our map for the next day, plan our route etc. We went to bed about 21:02.46. I don't know what woke me up, but i did. I couldn't get back to sleep because Shane had developed a very loud snore. I glanced at my watch and realised I had only been asleep half an hour or so. I don't really know when to go onto Thursday because that's all the sleep I got. half an hour. I guess now will do... THURSDAY - EXPEDITION - DAY TWO ---------------------------------------------------------- Everyone crawled out of bed around 6:04.23 to find me sitting outside with the map and a head torch. I hadn't changed my mind about the route, but spotted a few other points to pick up if we had time. I gave my rubber band holding my bedroll together to Richard, and he illegally went down to touch up the raft. He didn't get very far, but he was down there for quite some time, doing unknown deeds. I think he was taping the bung in etc. Breakfast was 2-minute noodles, followed by O.P.C 'dog biscuits,' and a few burritos I went and nicked from the instructor's food supply. A mass start to the rafts down the hill, and we were fixing our raft. Of course this meant that we were behind almost all the other teams again, but surprisingly, this time we were overtaking other rafts. Our fix-up had done the trick, and we got back to O.P.C in half an hour. A hurried pack-up of the raft, and shoving everything roughly where it needed to be plus putting some anti-chafing cream on, and we going our steady Southland pace up the hill. (This was a brisk walk uphill with me at the back pushing any stragglers up) I also had the map, so I was navigating, shouting at them where to stop. I will never get over how steep those hills were. It turns out Shane would be a good DOC Ranger - He's good at making tracks. We had to go bush, and stuck him up the front to clear a path up to an 80 pointer. The day went like this most of the time, and we ended up coming into the finish 20 minutes before cut-off. This is kind of what we had planned. I do not advise running for 9 hours on half an hour's sleep. A quick photo by the trophy and we were stumbling towards the wharf, and drowning the cool water. FRIDAY ------------ A more forgiveable start in the morning, (8:07.19) and pancakes for breakfast. On the boat by 11:32.57 and sailing away by 11:43.12. OPC facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/opcnz pictures will possibly be uploaded in the future.