The second gashuku to be held in the rugged and spectacular Stirling Range commenced on the 29 April, with the usual long drive south. The trip itself was uneventful as there was little traffic on the road, no speeding tickets were issued, no breakdowns occurred and nobody got lost (unless you count Jed and his passengers who we thought had got lost but, as it turned out, had been unable to resist taking an alternative route!)
The long car trip was an important part of gashuku in its own right. It provided everybody the opportunity to psyche themselves up and to build up the feeling of 'getting away from it all' (certainly it would never feel the same if the gashuku site was 5 minutes from home!)
Upon arrival at the Stirling Range Retreat the camp was set up with unprecedented speed and efficiency no doubt in part due to the fine weather but also due to the large proportion of gashuku 'veterans' in the group.
Once camp was finally set up we were able to enjoy not only the first of many excellent meals courtesy of Chief Cook Sempai Natalie but the excellent facilities on offer at the Stirling Range Retreat; hot showers and flushing toilets, a public phone, camp kitchen/hall, coin operated laundry and even a swimming pool (that no-one used!).
The next day dawned with another fine day and the training kicked off with a 5.30am start, warm-ups and Tai-chi followed by a pleasant jog up Bluff Knoll Road. Back at the camp after a pause to catch our breath and a drink we did 1000 mae geri (front kicks) before a well deserved breakfast.
There was the usual informal discussion while we digested our food and then it was back to training; starting with some hojo undo (strength training) with bodyweight exercises and chi-shi followed by sanchin kata training and finishing with 1000 punches.
After lunch and a restful afternoon break the rest of the day was spent on kata and bunkai (applications), weapons training and finally a Yoga session.
The evening break was enjoyed by all especially the evening meal which was both eagerly anticipated and understandably satisfying as we had worked up a healthy appetite.
The second day started off again with warm-ups and Tai-chi after which we all squeezed into Tim's and Derek's 4WD's for the short drive to the base of Mt. Toolbrunup which at 1052m is the third highest peak after Bluff Knoll. The guide book describes Mt Toolbrunup as:
"a singular mountain of great height and distinction, that towers above the other western peaks like an undisputed champion. Unlike the other giants it stands alone, supported only by its own tenuous ridges and slender spires. Its summit, a pointed rocky steeple surround by steep tumbling crags, offers uninterrupted view in all directions."
The total distance from the car park to the summit was only about 2 kilometres but involved an ascent of about 630m. Upon emerging from the woods leading up from the car park we were faced with a sign warning us to turn back unless we were all of the following:
Fit and Agile!
Prepared to climb steep rock sections!
Wearing sturdy footwear! and;
Prepared to encounter loose and slippery rock!
As we were all of the above - we proceeded to climb up and into a cloud bank that we emerged out of just as we reached the summit. The clouds limited our photo opportunities but accentuated the feeling of being on top of the world!
Returning to the campsite some 4 hours after we departed we had an early lunch and then got in quite a bit of training before winding up with a well needed yoga and stretching session.
The 3rd day followed a similar schedule to the first and saw us add another 1000 free kicks before breakfast plus at least another 500 on strike shields later along with a variety of hand strikes. Despite the volume and intensity of the training nobody admitted to suffering any unduly sole muscles or joints due, no doubt, partly to the carefully structured training programme that avoided repetitive strain and partly due to the comprehensive stretching exercises at the end of each day.
The 4th and 5th days were reserved for the infamous east ridge 'walk' between Ellen Peak (1015m) and Mirlpunda (the 'Arrows'). For this we divided into two groups approaching from opposite directions and in radio contact with each other. To describe this adventure in detail would require too much space but suffice it to say that we were successful, the weather was good, no-one got lost and the bivouac in the cave at 'Third Arrow' was a great experience for all. It's amazing how good 'Deb' and canned stew tastes when you're hungry!
As the weather was fine and conditions good everybody managed to climb the major peaks and made an entry in the Ellen Peak visitor's book for posterity. In fact, even allowing for the fine weather, the trip was a little easier than expected for those that had attempted it the previous year. This was due to the fire that swept through the Stirling range at the end of 2000 which thinned the otherwise almost impenetrable Australian scrub.
We arrived back at camp at lunchtime on the 5th day and were able to get in an afternoon's worth of training before settling down to be fed and entertained. After a hearty hot meal the groups enthusiastically performed skits that were actually above the usual dubious standard!
Next morning (Saturday 5 April) after pancakes we broke camp and returned to Perth invigorated and enriched. Well done to all 2001 gashuku participants. Everyone's good nature and enthusiasm ensured the success of this gashuku.Click here for photos from Gashuku 2001