Last year of High School

In my last year at school, the final year camp was located at a place called Wilpena Pound.
It is a natural amphitheatre of mountains located 429 kilometres north of Adelaide, South Australia.
The Pound is a very popular area for bush-walking, and therefore a good place to have a school camp.
The Pound traverses some of the most beautiful country in the Flinders Ranges.
The peaks are very rugged, and thick scrub and timber inside the Pound can make navigation difficult.
In 1959, a 12-year-old boy became lost while walking inside the Pound, and despite search efforts, his skeletal remains were not located until 18 months later.
A pass on the upper slopes of St Mary Peak is named after him.
His brother John Bannon, later became the Premier of South Australia.
Just outside the Pound is a motel and camping ground.

At the beginning of the school camp.
We were dropped off by bus and set up our tents for an overnight stay, before setting off in the morning to walk across the Pound, there were about 100 students.

My friend’s parents happened to be staying in the motel and they invited both of us to dinner in the restaurant.
We didn’t tell the teachers, but someone did.
As we were in the middle of our meal… in came the teacher in charge of the camp.
He rudely pulled me out of the restaurant and I was sent back to my tent.
He didn’t want me in the restaurant while the other students were eating basic food at the camp grounds.
My friend could stay in the restaurant because he was with his parents.
This teacher always gave me a hard time.
The next morning the students were separated into groups of six and a leader was put in charge of each group.
We were sent off at different intervals to cross the Pound and then everyone was going to come together at the end of the walk to camp on the other side of the surrounding hills.
There were not any facilities for camping where we were going and also we would be out of contact with the motel and everyone else because the two-way radios would not work as the terrain blocked the signal.
It was about a six-hour hike.

The group I was leading got to our destination in the afternoon, but no-one was there, we had not seen any other students for hours.
Then we understood why we had not seen any other students on our hike.
We were lost!!
The Pound was a dangerous place to get lost in, the weather was hot and we did not have much water.
We climbed to the highest peak and tried to get our bearings, but all we could see were the hills in the distance that marked where we began our journey in the morning.
We knew how to get back to safety so we almost ran for the next few hours and arrived at the motel and camping ground at around 7.00 pm.
A summer storm was brewing and it was getting dark by the time we tiredly walked into the motel and told the staff what had happened to us.
My friend’s parents were still there and they organised for us to stay at the motel, they also made sure we were fed… as we were very hungry.
Now the tables were turned, the night before I had been ingloriously dragged out of the restaurant and one night later, I am sitting in the same restaurant having a lovely meal, surrounded by well-wishers.
Meanwhile the teacher that gave me a hard time was now having his own hard time.
He did not know we were safe.
He spent the night looking for us in the rain.
Boy, did it feel good sleeping in the motel and waking up to a cooked breakfast.

The big problem was.
The teacher and the students who spent the whole night looking for us, never believed our story about getting lost.
They always believed we went back to the motel on purpose.
But the truth is…we really were lost.
Isn’t it tough when you tell the truth and no-one believes you.

Tony Egar.

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