Station camp life-changing

01:41, Dec 11 2013
Emily Peters
Emily Peters, 14, riding the rapids known as the Kiddy Grinder on the Shotover River.
Riley Todd
Planting a out a hebe suppressoides in the newly formed wetland conservation area were Luke Brinkmann-Kroemer, 15, Riley Todd, 15, and Petra Hoffman, 14.
Mika Craggs
Cooling off in Churchill Creek on their way back to base camp from a three day tramp to Lake Lochnagar were Mika Craggs, 15, Sacha Smith, 15, Sam Cameron, 14, Dan Mario Moore, 15, Will Gloag, 15, Chase Thomas, 14, and Yuta Honda 15.
Branches Station
A group of year 10 students head down the Polnoon Burn Stream which feeds into the Upper Shotover River at Wakatipu High School's annual Branches Camp.

It was 46 years ago that Wakatipu High School started a camping trip to The Branches Station at the head of the Shotover River.

It has become a rite of passage for the year 10 students and is considered by many, past and present, to be the highlight of their entire high schooling years.

This year the camp hosted 128 students along with teachers and professional guides - no parents allowed - for 12 days.

Emily Peters
Emily Peters, 14, riding the rapids known as the Kiddy Grinder on the Shotover River.

Activities included: kayaking, firearm training, abseiling, overnight survival camping, a major three-day tramp to the alpine Lake Lochnagar, overnight rafting and canyoning, and farm activities such as tailing lambs.

There is no cellphone coverage, no power and no buildings available for their use.

The students are required to dig their own latrines, set up their own tents and take it in turns to cook the meals over the four half 44-gallon metal drums in which the fires are lit.

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Wood must be gathered daily and water come from a stream for washing and a waterline from a natural spring provides the best drinking water ever.

Students learn to work as a team with the end of the day spent sitting around a big bonfire with a guitar as the only form of music; it is a life many have not experienced before.

This year, the Branches Station owners and the students have started an inaugural conservation project which will become a living legacy. It involves planting out a newly fenced wetland area with locally sourced native plants such as olearia, coprosma and hebe. It is planned that each year, the students will continue the planting programme.

● Queenstown photographer Jo Boyd was privileged to join the students and capture camp life through her lens. She is producing an audio slideshow with about 200 images from this year's camp which will be available on disc and sold as a fund raiser for The Branches Trust. Copies will be available at branchescamp.co.nz in about two weeks.

The Mirror