Learning experiences

We were once again headed off into the back of beyond to be hut wardens. No cell phone reception and not much to ‘do’ as everything has to be carried in on your back.. a place to just be. The biggest hurdle is the first days walking. On the map and the signs it says 5 hours walking up along the valley, last time it took us 8 hours to not make it and we slept trackside on some moss. We were not keen to repeat the experience this time as it had rained and we knew a front was coming in bringing with it copious amounts of rain. So this time we left at 9:35am. Mostly it went well although there was a bit of “I don’t want to come” mainly due to missing one of her favorite people’s birthday party, and that I’d packed such terrible food…. then at hour 7 mere moments before we camped last time (only 20 minutes from the hut) and fortunately just after we’d eaten, drunk and weed the rain started spitting and I slipped on a rock and broke my other wrist. Once again to the point it was very deformed.

Helena cried a lot but was able to empty my pack to retrieve my yellow pack liner and put everything else back in. She put on warm clothes and retrieved her sleeping bag to wrap around me. She found the personal locator beacon, pulled out the aeriel and found the radio and put it together. With as firm and as direct instruction from me as I could summon. I think these actions would have been nearly impossible for me without my dominant hand. There was a brief period when I couldn’t see properly and thought maybe I’d pass out. Helena cried in between having something to do and in the end sat listening to a talking book.

Together we followed the instructions we were given at our briefing for being hut wardens. Set off the beacon and called search and rescue as it was after 4:30 DoC was shut (fortunately there was someone to be a friendly and reassuring voice still in the office). It was mostly exciting in that way things are when they work out, and you abdicate a certain kind of responsibility and you don’t realise quite how close you are to failure. The helicopter found us after some serious pack lining waving by Helena and me shouting over helicopter noise into the radio “you are above us now”… It was all a little tense as as soon as the medic was winched down he was hurrying us up as the weather was closing in. I was starting down the hypothermia path. Helena went up first, scared but doing it. I was winched up but couldn’t get my bum over the edge into the helicopter so they landed with me and Rob the medic dangling so I could be shoved into the helicopter and we were off. Through the earphones I could hear them discussing where to land as it had to be close, I was not reassured by the pilot’s “It’s ok I can see a mountain”… we ended up grounded on the school field of the school I want to do my teaching practice in… and next minute we are in the principal’s, who I’ve met, house. Me all wet, smelly and broken. At this point Helena wanted to just go home. Luckly they fed her while we waited the hour and a half for the ambulance to come and pick us up to then drive back to the hospital in the torrential rain. The helicopter pilot and navigator disappeared, something about a friend giving them a lift. The school woke up to a rescue helicopter in their sports field. The principal and his wife were recieving texts asking who was being rescued. Gota love a small town.

Back home and all is excellent for Helena, a birthday party, a visit from her cousins, and an extra day with her friend. I have an operation, can’t drive and I’m worried about being work ready in 2 weeks…

This was a learning experience. Perhaps richer than a school visit? Or a unit on our emergency services? It is so mired in a real life experience where our responses were actually tested. We had never done or thought about this before. Our bravery was stretched. I don’t fly due to fear but I totally suspended those ideas. We saw professionals at work. It was all true. It has become our story to tell. It is an extreme example of learning by living and it is also not as ‘useful’ as the things we just do, regular living learning experiences but there are real world consequences. So what will this mean when Helena attends her next health and safety briefing?.. Will she even go tramping again? Did her imagination run to what might have happened? So far no nightmares, but I have a new interest in helicopters….

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