Pierson Tan’s last post from Tasmania

Two weeks ago I went camping in Freycinet, which is located at the east coast of Tasmania. This was a year 10 outdoor education trip, with the main theme being rock climbing. Because only boys signed up for the trip, there were only nine kids. We arrived at school on Monday and packed food, tents, supplies, and bags into the ute and trailer and then piled into a bus. We drove for a few hours to Freycinet, making the occasional stop for a bathroom. When we arrived at the campsite, we set up tents and the large main tent where we kept food and kitchen equipment. Nick, the English climbing instructor, took us to White Water Wall, about a 5 minute walk away. There we learned how to tie a few knots and how to test and set up anchors. We set up anchors until sunset and made it back to camp before it was completely dark. There a few designated cooks (we all had specific jobs; I was the photographer) cooked curry while all the rest of the boys cooked rice in our trangia’s, which are essentially personal stoves run on methylene fluid. That night I was so hungry from the day of climbing, I started to eat my rice before it was completely cooked. I ended up burning my tongue on molten hot, crunchy, rice soup.

For the entirety of the next day we climbed White Water Wall and mastered all five of her climbs. On Wednesday we spent the first half of the day climbing White Water Wall again to let everyone finish all of the walls and to take down the anchors. We went back to camp and had some lunch before hiking to a new location. There we set up something called a flying fox, which is the Aussie term for a zip line. It was between the corner of a cliff, about 50 meters above water. After we all zipped across, we took a short walk to another wall called Harlequin. This wall was extremely hard after an entire day of climbing and such. One boy that had previous climbing experience made it about 15 meters up. After a couple other boys tried it and couldn’t make it as high as him, I gave it a go. I managed to beat him and was pretty proud of myself. One of the boys who tried it last was an extremely slow climber and occasionally couldn’t finish climbs. He proved to everyone that slow and steady really does win the race. He got up higher than any of us, causing all of our jaws to simultaneously drop. After him, the boy with climbing experience tried one more time, in the spirit for a bit of competition and ended up finishing the entire climb and going farther than anyone else. That night we went on a night hike to experience Freycinet in the darkness.

The next day we went to a wall that we had passed the previous night. We set up ropes and started climbing five new walls. One of the walls was a grade 22, which in terms of rock climbing is fairly high. It was mainly very difficult because its only feature was a crack about the size of a fist. When I attempted to climb it, I fell around 4 times in the first 3 meters. But after I got a hang of crack climbing, I began to get into a rhythm. Every meter up I progressed I wanted to quit, as my hands began to hurt more and more. I kept thinking that it would still be pretty impressive if I got halfway up. I decided to keep going and I finally made it to the top, I realized how much I dislike that quitter mentality that I so often keep in the back of my mind. That climb changed me a bit and it won’t be something I soon forget.

On Friday, our last day, we packed up camp and made our way back to school where we re-unpacked trailers and sorted all of our gear into the school sheds. When I got back to the boarding house, I had my first shower in five days. While thinking about how lucky I am to be able to come home to a clean hot shower, I simultaneously became a shade lighter.

The next day I slept in and had a giant breakfast and another shower. Later that day I went  with a couple of friends to a medium-sized zoo called Tasmania Zoo. I saw a bunch of native Aussie critters such as wombats, koalas, fairy penguins, and tassie devils. That night my mate Jye and I went to a friend’s house for her 17th birthday get-together. Jye, DJ (another boy from the boarding house) and I were the only boys there with around 15 girls. After a fun night of dancing and chatting, Jye, DJ, and I slept in the spare room in our sleeping bags. We woke up the next morning and called a taxi to drop us off back at the boarding house. Jye, Ahmed (another boarding house friend) and I went to breakfast in town. We went for a bit of a skate later on and I ended the weekend with some homework and laundry.

On Monday I had another normal day of school and began packing up my things. Tuesday was the school’s cross-country carnival. The first half of the day had normal classes until we grabbed our packed lunches and headed down to Scotch Park. I was in the boys open division (under 21) which was the last to race. The race was about 7 kilometers and went up this massive hill twice. I didn’t stop running the entire time and passed the boys in front of me that stopped and walked on the hill. I ended up finishing 12th for my age group out of the entire school. Later that day I had my last footie practice. Since all of the boys had run the race earlier that day, the practice wasn’t terribly hard but it wasn’t easy either.

On Wednesday I had normal school until 2:00 when the footie boys left on the bus to go to St. Pats to play a match against their thirds team (thirds being the lowest level of competition, similar to JV or novice). It was rainy and very windy that day, causing the field to be extremely slippery and muddy. This led to a lot of slipping and sliding and a very sloppy game overall. I got a couple of touches and passes and a few good tackles. Towards the end of the game I tackled a kid and he sucker punched me. I was wearing a mouth guard and it was kind of a wussy punch so it didn’t hurt at all. I got a free kick and passed it to a kid who later scored a goal. Later the same kid that punched me purposely bumped into another boy on our team and started a pretty decent brawl. All of the boys that were in the tussle got kicked off the field. We lost the game 25-30, which is an extremely low scoring game. The match started with 18 boys on each side. We ended with 13 on ours.

The next day was my final day of school at Scotch Oakburn. I said goodbye to the friends I had made over the course of my exchange and took heaps of goodbye photos. Right after school I went out to town with one of the girls to get some last minute souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home. We caught a cab back to the boarding house just in time for dinner. Thursday was the day before term ended and each term everyone has to switch rooms in order to meet new people. Everyone’s room had to be completely emptied, inspected, and then they could move into their new rooms. All of the bags had to remain packed except for sleeping gear and necessary toiletries so they could take their bags home while the rooms were deep cleaned over the holiday. I spent my last night in the boarding house in a friend’s room.

The next morning I had my last breakfast and said my final goodbyes to all the boarding house kids. It was one of the saddest goodbye’s I’ve ever had to say. Ben Jenkinson, the Round Square representative for Scotch, drove me to the airport for my flight to Sydney.

I was spending the weekend with some cousins in Sydney. That night I went to a restaurant called “Pancakes on the Rocks” which serves pancakes with ice cream for dessert. We walked over to the Vivid Festival which projects lights and figures on buildings and structures like the Sydney Opera House. Later that night we caught a late night showing of Men In Black 3 in 3D.

Saturday I had lunch with some other relatives and dinner with even more relatives. I did some final packing and went to bed early to catch my 8:45 am flight. When I arrived in Armidale, I met Mr. Harris, who gave me a quick tour of the town. I met some of the boys in my house (Tyrrell) and went for a skate with them.

On Monday and Tuesday I began to get into the rhythm of The Armidale School with classes and class locations. The all-boy aspect of the school is a little unusual because we occasionally have a co-ed class with girls from our sister school who take a bus over to attend certain classes.