(Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club)

Summer Camp 2006
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Tuesday - Day 1
We had all arrived by 11.30am enthusiastic, excited and hungry, from our long scenic journey and our packed lunches were quickly devoured. After settling in and discussing issues and rules we welcomed Helen Ranson A.K.A. the spider lady. She gave us a highly informative talk on ecology, spiders and how the pitfall traps work. Allowing time beforehand to get ready, we lined up to be counted. Then we were ready to set up our pitfall traps. After stomping through the bush for a while we found, not the originally anticipated 16 traps, but 20 spider traps to repair and then reset. After a yummy dinner of hamburgers we had a talent quest and enjoyed a wide variety of entertaining items. After supper prizes were awarded and everyone went to bed feeling contented and happily anticipating a fun filled week.

Wednesday-Day 2
The new routine of waking up early for duties was a shock for newcomers. Breakfast was much better than previous camps, due to a wider variety of well thought out and cooked food. We split up into two groups. The caving story…… They went on a humongous tramp through bush and farm land. Then when they found the awesome cave some peoples discovered a sheep in the opening of the cave. Dave took a talkie walkie and went to find the exit of the cave to see if we could chase out the sheep. While doing this the sheep ran out, this was good because Dave couldn’t even find the end of the cave. The local farmer and two little kiddly winks came down to the cave. Both boys went into the cave along with a small number of JuNats. Inside the cave we found a little pile of sheep bones and a possum skull. The cave opening was small and you had to go, like, on your tummy. It was, you could say, ‘A tight squeeze’. After a tramp back we arrived just after the kayakers and swapped stories. The kayaking story…… A group of us travelled out to the wharf to start our journey. On our way Kevin’s carload went back to get life jackets. They took their time (tsk tsk) to come. So we left them some kayaks and we paddled away. Awaiting us on shore were hundreds of stronglyocentrotus franciscanus fossils AKA red sea urchin fossils, ready to be chipped out of the rock. Smothered in sunscreen, we combed the beach for fossils. Esther Dale found one of the most intact ones. Jacob Joyce found an unidentifiable fin/wing looking fossil. Hester Rowan found some animal bones and her Dad brushed away the dust to uncover more skeletonal shape. Finally Kevin’s carload arrived at 1pm, just as we finished our lunch. Joanna Stewart and Oliver Hackney quickly found a new crabby friend called Jimmy. He was a tiny crab living on an oyster shell. Soon he was missing so was replaced by the well-named Jimmy Jr. (He’s the cutest crab ever!) We moved our way around a number of bays and coves. The tide went out and we went back to the spot where our kayaks were. A little bit sunburnt, we dragged our kayaks over the mud to the water. The paddle home was smooth and relaxing, and a tip… salt water soothes sore skin. Some frustrated people decided to drag their kayaks through the mud again to get to the trailer. But those more intelligent of the group came up via the boat ramp. This was a very successful day and we really want to do it again. Also a huge thank you to Chris Templer, Tony & Jane Lorimer. ?

Thursday - Day 3
After a little sleep in, we arrived a little late to the abseiling site. Lou, Jane and Dave were waiting there patiently to start. Our challenging day started with a little stroll through farm land to the beach, encountering some scary cows on the way. We arrived at the beach at high tide and in between paddling and building sandcastles; Chris Templer showed us some interesting fossils. With respect we didn’t take any fossils home. We walked back and the cattle were less scary the second time round. Lunch was just filled rolls and fruit with people singing to pass the time away. The groups swapped and went separate ways. The abseiling group started off with the two smaller cliffs, measuring 5m and 10m, easily tackling them. We moved onto a 23m drop which was much more challenging. Most members of our team conquered this cliff, though a lot of skin and blood were left on the rocks. A few people tumbled while still clipped to ropes. Some people got a view of the slopes while upside down. The trip home was peaceful and the hot water ran out quickly, as people rushed to get showers and get ready for tea. Dinner was fresh fish, thanks to Wendy. Rachael Goddard gave us a brief talk about her role with JuNats and wormys. Then she showed us a video about making your own worm farm or compost bin.

Friday - Day 4
After a short drive down the road and being escorted across into the car park by Dave (the traffic warden), we slid/bush crashed down into the Muturangi Valley. There we all continued onto meet in a grassy patch below a Kanukanui Cave. We split up into two groups, one with Dave, and one with Chris Templer. Dave’s group went off searching for other caves. We found a couple that we named Weta Dungeon, Cemetery Cave and Goat Cave. The caves were full of skulls and bones, and a few had glow-worms. After a bit of a snoop round, we met back up in the grassy patch and waited for the other group to return – in vain. Eventually we headed back towards the cars. This took longer than we expected because we lost the track. Eventually though we found the cars and headed back home. Meanwhile, Chris’s group (Chris, 3 adults, 4 Junats) wound their way through the cave and emerged at the other end about 30 mins later. The task then was to search for a large cave system that had been discovered – and then lost – by Junats some years before. Coming out of the cave they headed up the next ridge to get their bearings. Then followed a hard few hours of bush-bashing trying to find their way down into the valley where the cave was expected to be. They eventually got there only to discover that the initial direction was off by one valley so no cave. It was now getting late so they headed back to camp. A tiring day, but a lot of fun.

Saturday - Day 5
Today we got up, had breakfast and got sorted into cars. Since it was only a 25 minute tramp we didn’t pack any lunch, only snacks. The cars stopped at the car park and we started our short tramp through the bush to the waterfall. 40 minutes later though we realized it wasn’t going to be a 25 minute walk. Perhaps a bit longer… The group got to the river and started heading upstream in the water. Some people tried not to get their shoes wet but the rocks were slippery and it was fun to splash each other, so everyone quickly got soaked. At one point Lynn stepped into a rather deep pool of water… it came up to her neck! I think 6 SCARY eels were spotted, some very large ones. There was little time to stop and have snacks because the waterfall was always around the next bend and we would have a rest when we reached it. Most of the group did reach the waterfall (while another smaller group headed back early) after about 3 and a half hours. The waterfall was eventually reached by the rest – with about 30 mins between first & last. Most of the Junats decided it would be fun to cool off under the waterfall – as if they weren’t wet enough already. The group who started back early stopped a lot to wait for the rest to catch up. And how could this group tell when the other group was coming? The singing! They sang for like the whole way back, which took less time because Dave had cut away a lot of the vines and things. When we arrived back at the lodge we had a yummy late lunch of spaghetti and cheese on buns waiting. After that most of the Junats drove out to Kawhia to buy ice creams.

Sunday - Day 6
Everyone woke up quite weary after staying up late on the last night. But that didn’t stop the hard work that they all knew couldn’t be avoided. Each group was assigned a job and they got started soon enough. Although there were a few lazy people the chores were completed on time and as a reward all the kids (sorry adults) got chocolate bars. For most people the drive home was slow and sleepy as they reflected the things they had achieved in the past week. Big thanks to Wendy Mortimer. She cooked the most amazing meals for us, including catching fish for one of the meals. This camp was enjoyed by all, see you next year!

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