The ninth Maclean High School Central Australia Safari left Maclean High School on Monday 12th September bound for another 8,000km, three states and one territory excursion in 18 days. On board were 44 very enthusiastic students and a mix of old and young crew/ staff.
This was the wettest and coldest trip yet, as the Bogan and Macquarie Rivers were in flood. This was followed by a sea of green grass, as well as water in the paddocks, all the way to Broken Hill.
This year was the first time we visited Dubbo Zoo and the meerkats and giraffes were a huge hit amongst the students.
At Cobar the students were the last school group to experience a manned weather station, which will be fully automated in October.
At Broken Hill, students were given an old time mine tour as well as exploring the historic mining town of Silverton. Students were able to see the unique paintings of the Palace Hotel which featured in the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert. From there they were given a tour of the Silver Mint including the largest canvas painting in the southern hemisphere, finishing off with a tour of the unusual Broken Hill Sculptures.
We may have missed the cyclonic weather in South Australia by a few days however the conditions were cold and blustery. A very early pack up in Woomera, due to an oncoming cold front, meant a stand up breakfast in Rocket Park Woomera. At Lake Hart, the rain over recent months had almost brought the lake right up to the shoreline; very different to previous years when soccer matches were played on the salt surface. The
inclement weather followed us all the way to Coober Pedy, which did not dampen the enthusiasm for noodling for an elusive opal in the mullock heap.
The Centre, having received twice the annual rainfall, was in full bloom, with water lying everywhere almost in every water hole around Uluru. The wildflowers and desert plants were all out on display, some of which have not been seen in years. Students managed to pack in two sunset viewings and one sunrise viewing and two walks. The tour of Uluru by a National Park guide was excellent and gave the students another perspective of the rock and its meaning to the Anangu people, the original custodians of Uluru and the surrounding country.
The walk around Kings Canyon was perfect with lower than average temperatures, mid 20s and a slight breeze.
The pond in the Garden of Eden at the bottom of the canyon was overflowing with water and was very impressive.
The group visited the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Alice Springs and made a donation. This was a very worthwhile experience so that students could see first-hand what a vital service the flying doctor is for so many Australians.
The camel ride at the Pydan Camel Farm was a real novelty, as was tenpin bowling at the Dust Bowl in Alice Springs.
We continued north past Alice Springs exploring the Devils Marbles en-route before turning east at the Three Ways; this was our greatest distance from home.
Once we hit Queensland the trip really flew. Each day the tent packing became more streamlined and all campers had their morning routine down-pat; early rise, quick breakfast and pack-up, and on the bus for a morning sleep.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs at Winton was a very different experience where students were able to work on ancient fossils in the museum workshop and then make their own dinosaur claw.
This year Queensland was a different landscape, endless green plains had replaced the drought ravaged paddocks and countless road kill both sides of the highway.
In Rockhampton there was a little bit of luxury for all, a meal prepared by another chef to give Mrs Bebb the night off, fresh sheets, a bed and a great tour of the Capricorn Caves. The cave tour was then followed by a sing song around a camp fire. A short stint of shopping was followed by a good movie and then back on the bus home to the Clarence Valley.
Such a trip cannot go ahead without the unwavering support of staff; special thanks goes to Scott Dinham, Ben Patch, Leena Vadher, Carol Goodwin and Tony Hickey. From packing the bus each day, preparing dinner, supervising students, administering first aid and running bingo nights, these people have shown tremendous dedication and enthusiasm for the trip, with sometimes quite limited sleep. A special thank you to our esteemed travelling cook, and jack of all trades, Jacelyn Bebb. This lady takes multi-tasking to a whole new level. Without her preparation prior, during and after the tour we would all be definitely very hungry and certainly disorganised.
No trip can happen without a coach and, more importantly, a driver. Simes Bros Coaches Lismore have been part of this venture since 2010, a hearty thanks to Paul Simes our driver, who, not only drove the coach, but looked after us all brilliantly ensuring staff had cappuccinos (where possible) for morning tea and somewhere to watch Friday night football. This trip could not happen without them, thanks again to Simes Coaches.
Thank you to NRMA Maclean, for once again providing us with maps to eliminate that dreaded question. “Are we there yet?” Answer: Half an inch on your map.
Finally to the tour group of 2016, well done and congratulations. In all, they were fantastic ambassadors for Maclean High School and the Lower Clarence. They were quick to adapt to changing camping conditions or the itinerary. These students are a credit to the school and their families. It has been a pleasure touring with you.