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Following some promising attendance by the high school classes in Term 2, I really wanted to incentivise them to keep up the good work with an exciting trip to work towards. After the success of Lajamanu’s trip earlier in the year, Kununurra had caught the Kalkaringi student’s eye as somewhere new and proved to be a fantastic trip for them to strive towards.

On Thursday 12th August, the ten selected students headed off with Beej (year 7/8 teacher) and I straight after school, hitting the road to Victoria River Roadhouse. After the four-hour drive, we were treated to incredible hospitality, receiving a delicious feed and getting a good night’s sleep in their spacious grounds. Following a brekkie and a morning walk to the river on Friday morning, we eagerly headed for the border!

We were all very excited to make it across the border as this was the first time in Western Australia for a couple of the kids! Unfortunately, our excitement dwindled very quickly as we got caught behind all the holiday makers and their caravans…for FOUR hours! Thank goodness for some snacks, Telstra connection, and wonderfully patient teenagers as we all made it across to WA…eventually!

As we arrived in Kununurra, spirits were still high with everyone excited for the weekend ahead. As I hit the supermarket to stock up on delicious food for the weekend, a good run around and kick about with Beej proved to be the perfect activity after being sat in a car all afternoon. We had a (very) late lunch/early dinner of roast chook rolls, set up camp, and hit the hay ready for a weekend full of action.

An early rise on Saturday morning (5.30am sunrise due to the 1.5hour time difference!) saw us up and at it, hitting Mirima National Park first. The National Park, with its gentle walks, extraordinarily orange rocks, and warm morning sunshine were a perfect way to start the day. As we reached the highest rocky balcony, Paul and Scotty spotted Kelly’s Knob and asked if we could climb that too – as keen walkers, Beej and I said “Absolutely!! Let’s go!”. The keen bean kids sprinted for the bottom, ready to tackle the steeper incline!

Kelly’s Knob, as the highest point in Kununurra, is no easy feat but the kids took it like champions, with eight of them making it to the peak for the best 360-degree view of the township. With the mid-morning heat creeping up on us, it was time to cool down, so we made the short drive to Molly Springs. This was a special experience for us as Molly Springs is Scotty’s grandmother’s country. Scotty was very generous in sharing information about the country and his family and allowed the rest of us to have a swim. We even ventured up and around the top of the waterfall to experience the small rock pools up there! As midday approached, we made a quick stop to Scotty’s grandmothers, Molly, to reunite her with her grandson after a long time apart – this was very emotional and special for them both.

After a quick lunch back at the campsite, we made our way to Kangaroo Haven Wildlife Park, a family-owned sanctuary where they rescue, raise, rehabilitate, and release Australian wildlife. The kids loved getting to hold and feed the baby wallabies, stroke the larger red kangaroos, talk to the chatty macaw, holds snakes, and see all the birds they were raising here. A trip to Swim Beach rounded off the day nicely, before the girls (with intermittent assistance from Keithan, Reuban, and Eddie) cooked up a delicious spaghetti bolognese in the camp kitchen. We all wolfed it down whilst watching a footy game on the TV. Good work, team!

Sunday was set to be an even more exciting day than the previous as we packed up early, stopped by the shops for last minute essentials, and hit the road for the 70km drive the Lake Argyle. The kids were amazed with the views on the drive in so when we parked up and they saw the infinity pool overlooking the lake, they were all pumped for the day ahead, scheduled to be full of walks, swims, and even canoeing on the lake! As we parked up at the camp site, we decided to head straight for the irresistible water, following Jesse’s trail down to a pontoon on the lake. This was a beautiful spot, and the water was a perfect temperature for a morning dip. To all our dismay, this is where the day took an unfortunate turn…

Some of the kids and I were impressing the other tourists with our dives off the pontoon trying to convince the final few of the Kalk students to join us in the cool water. In a mission to deliver the most impressive ‘silly salmon’ into the water, I was unlucky enough to place my foot on a very slippery section of the pontoon, breaking and fracturing my toe, whilst shredding it to the bone on the metal! In a quick turn of events, we were headed back up the trail, with Scotty and Paul as my support team, patiently scaling the rocky path and keeping an eye out as the faint, dizzy feelings set it. Long story short, as I headed to Kununurra hospital, we were all devastated to no longer have the staff to student ratio to take the group canoeing on Lake Argyle, the activity that was so eagerly anticipated by us all. Beej held down the fort with the boys cooking up a BBQ for lunch, and they all had a low-key afternoon of swimming, footy, and relaxing in the beautiful surroundings – this was not quite what I had had in mind!

As I returned from the hospital thanks to the taxi service of the lovely Clare Smith (Wanta co-founder who conveniently lives in Kununurra), the group was ready for a delicious dinner at the restaurant, and the laughter and good vibes resumed. A day of adventure may have turned into a lesson in compassion and dealing with disappointment, but reflecting the weekend still proved incredibly positive.

On Monday, we made a pitstop to the Lake Argyle Dam wall, admiring the incredible volume of water and its ability to generate energy that provides electricity to the Argyle Diamond Mine and the nearby towns on Wyndham and Kununurra! We made the 8.5 hour drive home, returning all ten superstar students to their families with all limbs intact…the same could only just be said for me!

Well done to Scotty, Paul, Eddie, Alaston, Keithan, Reuban, Anika, Tianna, Richaundia, and Jezeniah who all worked hard to earn their spots on this trip, with attendance ranging from 75-100%! Their behaviour and attitude throughout the rollercoaster weekend was brilliant! A big thank you also to Brendan O’Dwyer (Beej) for his support in running this trip and for putting together the great video you can watch below!

Written by Ellie Simmons, Director Kalkaringi Sports Academy.