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Walking with camels; plugging students into nature.
We interviewed Katy Egger our Class 8 Guardian and Angela, a Class 8 student, when they were having a rest day on their camel trek in August. We caught up with them near Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, south of Alice Springs in Central Australia.
Right now, we're at the base camp near Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve. This camel trek goes for five nights and six days, and I'm sitting here looking at one of my students feeding the camels wildflowers and another student asking the cameleer, how to make these camels sit. What a sight!
So, why do we do this? Why do we do camps?
We do camps from Class 1 at the Steiner School. The first camp is just an overnight at school. The second camp in Class 2 is one day out on the country and one night. As they go up into Class 3, we take them to the date farm. Farming is a big topic in the Class 3 curriculum. In Class 4, we take them further into country and by Class 5 they're walking parts of the Larapinta Trail out here, near Alice Springs. We've taken Class 6 to Uluru and Kata Tjuta for the last, I think, ten years. Class 7 walk from their classroom along the East Macdonnell Ranges. There isn't a path, so they must find their way to the gap where they camp. Class 7 also recently went on sailing trip to Darwin. We've also had camps with the Class 8 canoeing in Nitmiluk National Park.
This camel trek is the most recent camp that we've come up with for the students. We really felt it was something this cohort of students would get a lot out of. We're particularly thinking of the large camel, this animal that is here to help to us and we have a responsibility to care for, this is a very important thing to learn for the students during this time. For the students, they can become a little self-obsessed, very inward at this age, but on this camp they must take on the responsibility and the care of this large animal, which is very beautiful. This can be very empowering for them.
We've had eight students come on this trek. Some of them have really struggled with homesickness and some with the physicality of walking. The first day was 14 kilometres, the next day 12 kilometres. They know they're going to walk back. They really had to overcome some reluctance and difficulty with it, but the support that they've given one another to do it has been inspiring. They have had to camp in the riverbed, we have no power, no electricity so no screens, and they're starting to leave some of those things behind. Talking about movies or their connections on social media has become less and less important. And on this day, their rest day, they've taken on more duties with cooking because they want to do it, I’m not having to say anything, and I can see they're relaxing.
I think being out in nature, is very important thing that we hold high, as something that students should experience. Now some students will have families that give them those experiences, and some don't. As a school, when we are doing that, we are trying really to connect with our roles as humans on the planet and how to understand and care for country, be in connection with the world and have a sense of custodianship without, with responsibility, with a feeling, a deep feeling of responsibility and care and capacity. So, I'm hoping that that is what they will take from this.
Many of the students really have surprised themselves with what they can do. It is a good thing to be challenged and then to find that you can rise to the challenge. And that is what has been happening. It's certainly been a most wonderful experience for me as well. I feel a great privilege to be part of this experience with the students.
Hello, I am Angela, I'm in Class 8 and I'm 13 years old. We are walking with four camels, they stink and some of them are a bit bony. Their names are Sparky, Bull, Chrissy and Hallie. We have walked from camel farm the last few days and now we have stopped here in the middle and camped for two nights.
During the night, Simone and John (the cameleers) said they saw a group of wild camels and they started coming near us so they had to stay up late. If the wild camels got too close, John would have had to pull out his rifle. Yeah, if those wild camels get too close it can become dangerous because they fight, especially in mating season.
I’ve learned that in the wild, the herd kick the males out. Like, I believe the oldest one, or sometimes the youngest ones kick out the other males during mating season. Because they'll fight to the death. Yeah, over the cows. So, camels are called bulls, cows and calves, like cattle.
And what have you learnt about the camels?
I’ve learnt that they regurgitate their food so they can eat food for like hours, the same food. They eat it, swallow it and then regurgitate it back up and then eat it again and then swallow it and so on. Simone and John said that all they heard last night, was the camels regurgitation their food, going up and down their throats.
We haven't seen them drink anything so far, but they eat anything, and their favourites are spiky foods, spiky plants, and all that. If they eat a plant that has some kind of water in it, they'll just use that as their water source for a bit. Camels live up to like 35 years, 35, 40. Some of the walking camels might live to 50 years old. And yes, I’d like to do something like this again. It’s the furthest I’ve ever walked, and I like the stops. Looking at country full of wildflowers. It’s been great.