Year 4 Convict Camp
Thursday 13 September was the beginning of Year 4’s two-day convict camp. Our first stop would be The Rocks, where we were to take a guided tour, dressed up as convicts or governors. This would be followed by sailing around Sydney Harbour to Cockatoo Island, where we would be accommodated overnight in tents. On the second day of our trip, we would be transported to Elizabeth Farm in a ferry and our last stop was to be St John's Cemetery. I woke up with a jolt at the crack of dawn on Thursday, feeling effervescent and ecstatic about the two days ahead of me!
Arriving at school bright and early, I was greeted to the scene of Year 4 girls dressed in self-created convict costumes, milling around, bubbling like fizzy drinks with colourful backpacks fitted on their shoulders. Our bus ride to The Rocks was filled with excitement, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, we reached our destination and began our tour of The Rocks. I learned an abundance of interesting facts. At one stage, we stood at the highest point of The Rocks, where all those years ago people could see the ships of the First Fleet arriving. I was in the character of a convict called John Hudson, the youngest convict boy on the First Fleet. After the activity-packed tour, I was famished. Luckily, I kept my day pack with me to seize the opportunity to eat.
After our tour of The Rocks, we boarded the colossal tall ship, Soren Larsen. I loved hearing stories from Tom, the ship's host. He used to be one of the zookeepers at Taronga Zoo, which I agreed was a marvellous place. He told us an amusing story of an elephant that picked up a little boy and shook him with her trunk. We sang '(We're Bound For) Botany Bay' and had opportunities to go down below deck, where it was quite dim, and it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the new surroundings. The highlight though was when we all watched Mr G and Mr Keating climbing up to the crow's nest! It was hilarious!
The journey was smooth and the rocking of the ship was subtle, therefore no one was seasick. We piled off the ship at Cockatoo Island, eager to find out who our tent buddies were. My tent buddy and I hit it off straight away, chatting and laughing as we ate our afternoon tea. She was helpful and kind and we shared lots of jokes along the way. We did a tour of the island, and I glimpsed three eggs in a seagull's nest! I also learnt that two prisoners, Fred Ward and his wife Mary Bugg, escaped from Cockatoo Island.
Dinner and dessert were scrumptious, and we finished the night by the campfire, which warmed me like a hot bath. I was already feeling drowsy as we walked back to our tents. My head hit the pillow that night with a rush of relief. It had been an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable day.
I didn’t get a very good sleep because the seagulls were squawking all night, but I was perfectly fine to continue our journey the next morning. After devouring a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, hash browns and orange juice, we sailed to Elizabeth Farm. There we experienced what life was like as real convicts. Putting on blue aprons and white frilly bonnets, we pretended to work as servants for John and Elizabeth Macarthur. We worked in the kitchen, ground spices, and even washed some clothes outside. It was all immensely intriguing.
After our Elizabeth Farm visit, we rode a few blocks to St John's Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Australia. Our tour guide's explanations were exceedingly interesting and included the story of a woman who died of a broken heart! Her eight kids had extremely ruthless diseases that killed them all. Tragically, one child was only a few months old when he died.
Even though I almost felt reluctant to leave as we were nearing the end of our convict journey, I was content to be back in the comfort of my sweet home. I thought back to what an awe-inspiring time we had away. I learnt so much more about the First Fleet and the Eora people and loved making new friends.