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The Year 5/6s, accompanied by Year 5/6 teacher Charlotte Nixon, Year 4/5 teacher Emma Westbrook and K-10 teacher Tim Tuck left school bright and early on Monday October 18 heading for the Illawonga camp site near Swan Reach on the Murray River.

The campsite was originally built to showcase gymnastic equipment and was used by the Australian Olympic team in the 1980s as a out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere training centre. The trip from Maitland takes three hours so the rest stops along the way were welcomed by all.

Monday

We shared the camp with staff and students from Lameroo and after our first meal together (tacos for lunch!) we headed down to Swan Reach for our afternoon of aquatics. Students loved the knee-boarding with Year 6 students demonstration increased confidence and skills over the previous year.
The afternoon was warm, so swimming with life-jackets on in the roped off area was popular. Floating cushions were used as targets for jumps, dives and bellyflops.

The paddleboats were also a hit. These four person craft were paddled by the bow-pair with students on the back trying to drench each other with buckets of water. 

After the evening meal we headed into the gym for a round of gymnastic activities and an introduction to the foam pit. Students worked around a circuit of trampolines, hoops and bars, with many students achieving quite difficult poses and movements.

We finished the evening with marshmallows around the campfire, hot cocoa and cake.

Students were still excited after their busy day and took a little persuading to settle for the even bigger day to come.

Tuesday

We finished breakfast and all the morning chores by 8.30 and headed down the steep hill that leads from the campsite to the jetty where the camp boats are kept.

We took the ‘River Truck’ across the Murray and explored some deep caves in the cliffs. We experienced total darkness and hunted for fossils in the furthest reaches of the cave. Students tried several challenges, wriggling along narrow extensions of the main cave system.

We trekked back up the now even steeper hill to get ready for lunch and the afternoon activities.

We went back down the hill and swapped with Lameroo to travel down the Murray to the Big Bend. We toured a hidden billabong and watched birdlife including kestrels, pelicans and kits. Students were allowed to drive the boat and some even had the opportunity to use the boat’s horn on passing traffic.
On our return to the jetty we learned the basics of kayaking and paddled across the Murray and into a nearby lagoon. We played hide and seek, swam, and splashed the instructors.

We returned to the campsite for a short break then boarded the bus for the next round of activities and travelled by bus and ferry into Swan Reach.
We saw the flood markers on the local buildings then arrived at the Swan Reach museum. Groups searched the buildings and outhouses for answers to a series of scavenger questions, learning about Murray Lock system, the local Aboriginal people and how children were taught back in the ‘old days’.

Back at camp we had our evening meal then re-boarded the bus to travel out to the ‘Big Bend at Night’ show, a marvellously entertaining farming show with shearing, sheep dogs, sheep racing and much more.
Students bid in a sheep auction, visited the petting zoo and learned how to crack a bullwhip. Miss Nixon was VERY good with the whip.
We drove back to the camp and everyone was asleep VERY quickly!

Wednesday

We were up bright and early on our last day in camp, cleaning the dormitories, packing bags and organising for the bus.
After breakfast we split into groups with students learning archery out the back of the campsite and a second session in the gym, hiding in the foam-pit and playing gladiators.

But the big hit were the pedal-karts on the race track, with all groups achieving a high number of laps. The bus arrived just after noon and we headed back to Maitland for a 3.30pm return.

Thank-you

Illawonga is an action-packed camp and made all the better by the wonderful camp leaders including Mark, Darren, Jackson and Joseph.

Our cooks were wonderful too, and so helpful and organised!
A big thank you to all the teachers for their energy, supervision and involvement.