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Our Senior Retreat: camping, canoeing and camaraderie

In a four-day excursion filled with team-building activities and high-octane fun, ACG Sunderland's Year 12 and 13 cohorts recently had the opportunity to participate in a range of new experiences at their annual senior school camp, learning some valuable life skills in the process.
ACG Sunderland's 2022 senior school camp

The final week of the summer holidays was an action-packed time for many college students at ACG Sunderland with the arrival of their annual – and much anticipated – senior school camp. Every January, just before the new school year begins, our Year 12 and 13 cohorts have the opportunity to bond as a unit, build their leadership skills and enhance the camaraderie of our school culture in a four-day camping sojourn.

This year’s adventure was based around the Whanganui River and National Park Village in Okahune and was filled with canoeing, mountain biking and the occasional cooking mishap. Year 12 student Anjika Sharma shares the fun, hijinks and hilarity of this unique experience from her camp diary below.

“The journey began on a Tuesday morning. We sat on the stairs at the front of the school with our overly stuffed bags, and before we knew it, off we went.

“We all significantly underestimated how long it would take, but the card games, conversations and laughter we had as we sat in the cramped seats, were unmatched. Then, about halfway through the drive, we took a break to swim in the Waikato River. It was scorching hot; not a single cloud to be seen, and it was incredibly refreshing to jump into the cold water.

“When we got to our campsite, we worked in pairs to set up the tents, and then it was time to make dinner. Everyone was busy, with different groups focussing on the butter chicken, rice, salad and dessert. Hopes high, tummies empty, we began to devour the food. Unfortunately, we left the rice so undercooked that it was still crunchy!"

"6am was wake up time. Once we were ready to go, we drove about thirty minutes from our campsite. Mr Keen (who was the teacher in charge) also showed us our final Cambridge IGCSE results; luckily, a majority of us were beyond pleased with our grades.

"When we arrived at the launch point, Stu (the owner and chief instructor of the canoeing company) gave us instructions and taught us how to use the paddles to steer and control the boat. I sat in the front, mainly because I didn’t want to steer, but also because I quite liked paddling.

"When we hit the first big rapid, two canoes (including mine) capsized. In all honesty, I enjoyed every bit of falling into the water; it was very relaxing. Although I don’t think Stu, Simon (another instructor), Mr Keen or Mr Gerrard would say the same because it was them who had to pull the heavy wooden canoes out of the water. When we encountered the second set of rapids, three more canoes capsized, including the two boats that had capsized before. This wasn’t as relaxing as we were drifting downstream, and I also lost my drink bottle and sunscreen to the river!

"After we made another stop, we switched boats, and I went in Stu’s boat and never capsized again! Eventually, after a tiring but enjoyable day on the river, we made it back to our campsite. And soon after, we began prepping dinner. We made mashed potatoes, sausages and bought garlic bread – it was a major upgrade from the night before."

"Another 6am start where we had to pack our tents up first thing in the morning. We had some breakfast and then started canoeing downstream again. The river had far fewer rapids along the way, and we were now much more experienced canoe handlers, so although the distance was roughly the same as yesterday, the trip only took us six hours today.

"It was a huge amount of fun out on the water, and we all had a great time with lots of laughter and shouted conversations. It was made even more enjoyable when we got to our motel rooms and had the opportunity to have hot showers, which was a massive relief."

"It felt impossible to get out of bed at 6am as everything was so comfortable. Nevertheless, we did it anyway. On the last day of camp, we mountain biked down Horopito, Old Coach Road. At one point, we went down the wrong track, which was very steep and rocky, but it was awfully fun. No one was hurt, and we all loved it. After biking, we hopped in the van and came to the realisation that camp was almost over.

"We returned to Auckland and reached school around 7pm. While we were all pretty sad that this amazing adventure had come to an end, we thanked Stu, Mr Keen, Miss King, Ms Davies and Mr Gerrard for transporting us, keeping us safe and making senior camp an absolutely unforgettable memory."

Camp diarist and Year 12 student Anjika Sharma