How my shoelaces saved the day on Duke of Edinburgh!

2018 12 10 dofe new zealend blog 01Between the 8th-22nd December 2018, I went to New Zealand with a team of eight other students and four teachers to complete our Adventurous Journeys for our Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. I had been working towards this trip since I started the program in Year 9. In 2015 I completed my Bronze Award and in 2016 I completed my Silver Level.

The requirements for the Gold DOE Award involved completing 12 months of community service, learning a skill and physical activity. For the community component, I served as worship leader at school, volunteered in the school café and on coffee at my church. For my skill section, I learnt and improved my ability to play the guitar and for physical activity, I played soccer, futsal, and did running.

I also had to complete a residential project for a minimum of five days and four nights, whilst undertaking purposeful activity that provides opportunities for the broadening of interests and experience. I went to Moldova with a mission team for two weeks in May 2017, where we built infrastructure and prepped for children’s camps on a mission base called CMI Aid.

The last component involved going on ‘Adventurous Journeys’ where we spent a total of eight days hiking over two weeks in NZ. Our team completed the Routeburn Track, which was 32kilometres, as well as the 60kilometre long Kepler track.

This trip challenged me both physically and mentally as well and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I loved how the team bonded together as we began to appreciate and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we were able to provide support for each other during those difficult times. The team of students were challenged to be independent in our time management, administering first aid, decision making, navigation, and solving any problems along the way.

I will never forget the morning of Day Three on the Kepler track. The Qualifying Journey id designed for the students to be in charge of all decisions and so the teachers breakfasted and left early to encourage the students to be independent in waking up, getting ready and leaving of our own accord. It was about 8am when we started to pack up our belongings, put our boots on and prepare to start the track. So far, we were making good time. I collected my boots from where they were hanging up on hooks as advised by the hut ranger the night before. This was to protect any possessions from the Keas overnight. The Kea is the New Zealand native alpine parrot with a cheeky personality known to take hikers belongings...and sometimes never give them back.

It was at this point that Nathan realised his boots were not on the hooks. We started thinking that maybe one of the other hikers took his boots mistakenly as there were four pairs of the same boots but all different sizes. After looking around in the rain, some of the boys spotted Nathan’s boots under the hut guarded by a Kea. They swept his boots out from underneath and brought them out of the rain to inspect the damage. Both of the soles had been taken out and chewed up, the laces broken and the shoe was full of holes.

I quickly ruffled through my bag to look for my spare pair of laces that my dad had forced me to pack in case of an emergency. Comments were made such as “Who would have thought to bring spare laces?” to which I replied “Who wouldn’t think to bring spare laces!”. After looking for the lace holes, I realised that they were all broken. Then an idea came to mind. I had brought a hunting knife with a gut hook (but I won’t go into details what that’s used for). I started to cut the sides of Nathan’s boots with the tip of my knife and then poked through the gut hook to create new lace holes.

After about twenty minutes of ‘redesigning’ these boots, they were complete and would serve their purpose for another two days. Nathan put the boots on but it was still going to be tough hiking in boots that were soaked in water and mud, full of holes and with no soles. Then I remembered that I had a pair of new waterproof socks that were designed to keep your feet warm and dry. I gave Nathan these socks in the hope that they would work, since I hadn’t been in a situation where I had needed them, yet.

Our team had finally started the track after a dramatic morning only delayed by thirty minutes. Surprisingly, the boots lasted the rest of the trip and according to Nathan, didn’t feel too bad!

This situation challenged me to think practically and to work inventively with what we had to fix the problem. For those preparing to complete their upcoming Adventurous Journeys, my advice to you is to expect the unexpected!

Postscript: Tahlia has now completed all the requirements for the awarding of her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. She has in practical ways developed her character and shown traits like resilience, mental toughness, determination, curiosity, creativity and of course, problem solving. It has been a joy to watch her grow through the program.


2018 12 10 dofe new zealend blog 01Routeburn Track Tahlia is in the centre
Nathan is second from the left

2018 12 10 dofe new zealend blog 02Tahlia with Augusta

2018 12 10 dofe new zealend blog 03Silhouette of a Kea at Luxmore Hut

2018 12 10 dofe new zealend blog 04Kea at Luxmore Hut

2018 12 10 dofe new zealend blog 05Kea at Forest Burn Shelter

2018 12 10 dofe new zealend blog 06Caden Wickham-Hill, Nathan and Tahlia on the Luge chairlift