2011 Outward Bound course

 

Nigel Roberts writes about his experience as part of the 2011 Outward Bound course.

 
In mid December I received the letter inviting me to enrol on the UPBEAT Outward Bound Course to be held in April. I was in two minds about going. Did I really want to give up a week going on a course? I was busy and had other things to do, however I hadn’t considered my wife’s response. “You should go. Take the opportunity. You might not get another chance. You will enjoy it. It will be something different.” So I completed the form and sent off the enrolment fee and put the dates on the calendar.
 
Early March saw the preparation start in earnest. Digging out the walking boots and doing extra walking, even finding myself running up the paddocks to prepare for the physical challenge. The kit list seemed endless. Would I really need all that stuff? We were only going for six days. A quick look at the map to find Picton and the travel arrangements were made. No turning back now.
 
To say I did not feel some apprehension would be telling a lie. Would I be able to meet the physical and mental challenges of the course?
 
So on Sunday 10th April I boarded the Interislander ferry from Wellington. It was easy playing ‘spot the Parkinsonian’ and it wasn’t long before a small group of UPBEAT members had formed and we completed our voyage to Picton and into the unknown.
 
When Outward Bound said that the course starts at Picton they are not joking and soon we were on a boat with about one hundred young adults who were going to OB as well. They were all young and fit. How were we going to measure up? But soon everyone was singing in preparation for our arrival at Anakiwa.
 
The staff at Outward Bound put on a powhiri, we sung our songs in response and introductions were made.
 
We were split off into our UPBEAT team and the McKenzie watch was formed. Fourteen people, ten Parkinsonians, two carers/partners and two Parkinson’s field officers.
 
Sunday afternoon, a lot of travel, surely this called for a cup of tea and perhaps an afternoon nap? No such plans. PT kit on and we were away. Before long we were walking, jogging, rolling in the mud and splashing in the sea. Outward Bound was full on. Over the 6 next days we were to do team building, climb trees, sail, canoe, walk and get wet a lot. All challenging our perceived boundaries and limitations, although the morning PT, run and plunge into the sea never became a highlight of the day, but was seen as ‘character building’ in some strange way.
 
Our instructors, Pip and Heydon encouraged and cajoled us to explore our limits all within the well-structured and safe environment of Outward Bound. We became a team, giving moral and physical support without brooding on our common enemy.
 
Friday 15th of April loomed up very fast and bags were packed for the return journey home. We’d had a great experience, we had met the challenges and set new goals and hopefully encouraged others to follow.
 
What of the young people who were there? I had to admire them. They were on a twenty-one day course. All motivated and enjoying their experience and facing new challenges.
 
I had wondered if it was worth giving up a week of my life to go. It was worth it. I gave a week to get my life back and face the future with a new awareness and goals, including an ongoing fitness regime.
 
Many thanks to our instructors and all the staff at Outward Bound and a special thank you to Kay and Eileen, our Parkinson’s Field Officers, who help so much to create that safe environment. Hopefully they have gained from the experience of living with Parkinson’s twenty-four hours a day. And not forgetting the other members (now friends) who made up ‘McKenzie watch’, their help and support was second to none.
 
To all other UPBEAT members who get the chance to attend this course, I say take it and go, and have a great time.
 
Ach aye McKenzie watch.