Most cricketers are outdoors types. We spend most of the summer standing round outside, soaking up the rays, enjoying the long evenings, playing sport like most kiwis only difference is, we are at work.
There are no such things as weekends, or overtime, or leave, or Friday night work drinks, or time in lieu. We are at work every day until December 23rd and start again December 27th. We don't get paid extra for training on New Years day. We don't head to the beach on weekends and we definitely don't go camping.
So when we heard the Northern Knights were going bush for three days as a team building exercise and players needed to bring everything right down to their toilet paper there were a few raised eyebrows and concerned faces.
An email from the manager gave some insight into what lay ahead, with the team being split into tribes or iwi.
'It is your responsibility to liaise with your iwi members to ensure that you all have the required items needed for the camp.'
So jobs were delegated, checklists completed and it was with great anticipation that we all met at Cobham Oval in Whangarei early on the Sunday morning looking forward to a few days of outdoor activities. Elliot Bay, our final destination, was a beach up north, privately owned but available for camping. The drive north was a windy one, snaking our way up the east coast of the far north until finally we arrived, the bay opening up to our right as we came over the crest of another ridge of rolling farmland.
As we approached the old shearing shed, our nearest source of fresh water, electricity and closest thing to civilization, it became clear we weren't the only ones camping on the beach. The first paddock we entered had half a dozen massive Angus bulls in it that were not daunted by human company, approaching the cars and nudging the trailer of kayaks as if it were a scratching post.
After a period of standing, looking, pointing and generally trying to make it look like we knew what we were doing, the decision was finally made, we would head round the point and set up camp on a bank at the top of the beach.
The van was unloaded and the race began to get the best site and get each iwi's camp established. I knew we had a secret weapon in that my tent was one of those one's that you just threw into the air and it popped up. While other groups struggled in a tangle of guy ropes and instruction manuals, we were already gathering driftwood off the beach and setting up a campfire.
The iwi up behind us seemed to be struggling with their 4-person tent and their inexperience proved to be their downfall the next night when their tent began filling with water at the first sign of rain. After several hours of rain they had two inches of water across the floor and ended up sleeping in the car on the last night, much to everyone's amusement. The signs were there on the first morning when they spent 20 minutes trying to put up their tent before someone pointed out it was the fly sheet they were using and that the tent was the thing still in the bag with mesh for windows and a door on the front.
Once camp was setup it was time to check out the surrounding areas so before we knew it we were hiking through native bush and along ridgelines towards an abandoned whaling station nestled in a secluded bay not far from our haven. It was a gorgeous spot with the only sign of civlisation being the three large yachts anchored offshore.
After 20 minutes skimming stones the boys were getting restless so it was back to camp and preparations began for our first fishing excursions. With about six rods between us and about a dozen keen fishermen in the group it was going to be a case of first in-first served. Bait was cut up, hooks were tied on and rods were thrown over the shoulder and off we went.
The scramble across the rocks and impending darkness proved enough of a deterrent to mean I ended up with a rod and after some near misses and a few handfuls of seaweed, finally the tip of the rod bent down and I had one on.
After a short battle the big Snapper got close to the shore and as I lifted it up out of the water the line snapped.
Chaos ensued and one of the lads scrambled down to the shoreline where the fish was sliding round on the rocks. It was the quickest I had seen him move all day and it wasn't long before we had our first one in the bag.
Returning to camp by torchlight was a little treacherous but all returned safe and sound with their own rendition of the battle to land the big one.
With torchlight and campfire the only sources of light it was an early night. Comments were made in jest about the nearby ocean possibly being too loud and keeping the city slickers in the team awake, but the long day in the sun, and miles of hiking, proved an adequate sedative, allowing all a full nights sleep.
The silence was broken early at 645am by a wake up call and golden sunrise. All we knew was a run lay ahead and it was going to be long. We filed out of camp hungry, cold and half asleep and returned an hour and a half later hungrier, colder and in need of more sleep.
Before breakfast we had covered, thanks to our trainer's GPS, 15km on gravel roads, up and down rolling hills. Most of the lads just ran, or crawled, straight into the ocean to freshen up on our return.
Over breakfast we worked out why we were there. The camping was a test of will, stamina and tolerance. Several guys were out of their comfort zone, and it was a test of patience on several fronts.
Cricketers early in the season need all these traits to be successful.
Maybe that was the point all along, sure we're all outdoors types, but camping... it's just not cricket.
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Camp from Above
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Peter McGlashan will be regularly contributing blog pieces for Cricket Web readers to enjoy on topics ranging from his time with the Black Caps and Northern Districts along with various happenings in the cricket world.