Anakiwa Outward Bound Experience

Facing up to the challenge with little sight

By Mary Hadfield

Mary Hadfield

It didn’t take long to discover Outward Bound isn’t about being ultra fit, young and athletic.

It’s about challenging yourself mentally, emotionally and physically from an outdoor environment, being mind free enough to allow the best to flow from you.

For me ( as a sight-impaired person) my key was to face every physical challenge with positivity. Just do it, then reflect. No preconceived ideas of my capabilities.

Having no contact with the outside world enabled us to focus only on what was in front of us for the next hour or so. We never knew what we would be doing from day to day.

Finding the power and pride in myself when I achieved far more than I could have ever imagined.

Our unique sight-impaired group

Our group was called “Scott Watch”. We were 10 participants, all sight impaired and sponsored by the Blind Foundation (BF), plus we had two BF support staff and our own two Outward Bound instructors, extras as needed.

The mental and emotional challenge for me was equal with the physical activities.

As a team we had regular meetings to reflect about not only what we had done and experienced, but also life issues and how this experience can develop and change us going forward.

Keeping very active especially on the water!

Each morning started with our exercises, followed by a 3.2 km run, swim in the sea and fresh cold water shower to rinse off.

Some of the physically challenging activities included spending two days on the “cutter”, a replica of Ernest Shackleton’s sailing rowing vessel. Who said blind people can’t sail by themselves?!!

The first day was ideal weather, and those of you who have sailed in the Sounds will know well how the fickle wind is always changing direction. I spent some time controlling the main sail and rowing.

Man those oars are heavy!! Eight oars in total. The second day on the cutter was after our 24 hours solo in the bush. It was a very stormy day, howling wind, patchy rain and very strong currents. However we all agreed we enjoyed that day as well as or even better than the first.

With a bit of experience under our belts we had it sussed, except when we were carried too close to land and needed a tow for a short time. We were fortunate to have two or three of our team with varying degrees of nautical experience: an enormous help.

Obstacles and lack of birds

I mastered and loved the obstacle course, 30 feet up in the kahikatea trees.

I even managed to get around without falling once!

The bird life in this small area was music to my ears, but on the whole what I did notice was the lack of native bird life in our New Zealand bush.

Even on my solo, by myself, other than a visit from two weka, the bush was silent.


Mary , second from the right, with the Kapiti Joggers and Walkers on the Te Araroa trail in 2017

Quality time and the future beckoning

For me, this experience has given me the opportunity to spend quality time with other sight-impaired people and to learn from them how to move forward with my new life.

What lies behind us

and what lies before us

are tiny matters

compared to what lies

within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


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