When my sister Margreet emailed me her Outward Bound journal, I found it so inspiring that I asked her if I could share some excerpts with GrownUps.
My brother-in-law Neil has early Parkinson's. Although it can be a debilitating disease with an uncertain future, Neil and Margreet are staying positive, making the most of what Neil can do now and living life to the max.
This year they were accepted for the Upbeat Outward Bound course, an annual event for people with early Parkinson's. Participants can either go independently or with a partner/carer. The course involves a wide range of challenging activities in a safe and supportive environment.
Unfortunately, Neil took ill shortly before the course began and was unable to go, but he persuaded Margreet to go on her own – his turn will come next year.
Nine "parkies", three carers, and one Parkinson's field officer (ranging in age from 45–67) met at the Picton Ferry terminal. The boat trip to Anikiwa took 40 minutes. On arrival the group were greeted with a pōwhiri.
After settling in, instructors Ben, Dave, and Chee took the group for a gentle jog around the grounds. Then it was some PT ("physical torture") by the water and full immersion in the bay (fully clothed and holding hands). Many wondered what they had let themselves in for!
This was the day of the high ropes course. Margreet knew this would be her biggest challenge. Would she be up to it? For those who had to cope with Parkinson's symptoms, it would be even harder.
"It was so scary going into the High Ropes area and seeing what we needed to do 10 metres above the ground: a climbing wall, a balance beam, climbing over moving tyres, jumping between two platforms. The best part was the flying fox at the end."
The instructors showed endless patience but insisted that everyone go around the course. Everybody did it and all were very proud of what they had achieved.
Margreet is a trained massage therapist and was able to help relieve some sore necks and tired muscles at the end of the day.
Out in the Sailing Cutter for an overnight stay in Torea Bay. A few of the participants opted to sleep out under a fly on the bank above the beach. Although it was warm and cozy, Margreet began to ache from head to toe from the uncomfortable sleeping mats and ventured back to the bunk house. She was disappointed but it was the only challenge she did not complete.
A full day on a boat. The wind meant that everyone could have a go at taking the helm. They learnt to jibe (with the wind) and tack (against the wind) and goose wing the sails.
"It was amazing to see dolphins swimming alongside us, also seals, shearwaters and gannets."
Once back at Anikiwa, they cleaned the boat, anchored the cutter to a buoy, and swam back!
Hot showers and then another great dinner: stew, rice, and stir-fried veg, followed by spiced apple shortcake and goody-goody-gumdrop ice cream.
That evening the team prepared a dance performance based on their boating experience and put on a show for their instructors.
Time for some time alone to reflect on what had been gained from the Outward Bound experience and to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the setting.
In the afternoon, kayaking and a three-hour hike on the Queen Charlotte track.
"It was great to see Pied Shags, Grey Shags and Spotted Shags and yes by the time we got the boats safely cleaned up and away we were all shagged!!!"
A light breakfast was followed by a 5.5 km run and a jump off the wharf into the ocean.
After clean up, the group planted a tree together. Certificates and badges were handed out and then it was a 40-minute trip back to Anikawa by truck to say final farewells.
"All in all it was a wonderful experience. What a gutsy group of people our Parkinson's participants were. Despite dealing with specific symptoms and needs relating to their condition, they were all without exception up to taking up all the challenges laid down for them. With gentle encouragement and support from our three amazing instructors we all came away with a sense of empowerment and achievement. We all realized how important it is to keep stretching to the future. Having things to reach for keeps you in life."
Margreet's diary concludes with a quote from Mark Twain:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover."
To find out more about this adventure and how to apply, click here