If you don’t know what ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ is (well yes, it’s a person but it’s also a thing), then I’ll happily explain. ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ is an award that foolish kids like me can attempt to complete. I’m doing the silver DofE award (I’m shortening to DofE from hereon-in) for which we must do 6 months of volunteering (I am helping out at the running club at my sister’s school). Then I must complete 12 months of practising a skill (I have chosen to do cooking) and 3 months of doing a physical activity (for that I have taken up badminton). To top all that fun stuff off, you also must go on a 3 day/2 night walking expedition. Last week we competed our practise expedition.
Friday 15th April 2016-
After waking up at 5am, stuffing my face with porridge and pop tarts and dragging my 15kg rucksack to the car, we headed to my school. Once there we loaded on our bags before bording the minibus.
After about two and a half hours of driving, we arrived at our first campsite. We set up our tents (one of which was a two man but was so small the two sleeping mats overlapped) and studied our map for the day’s expedition. Because the weather wasn’t meant to be good, we were assigned teachers to walk with.
Setting out at around 10, we encountered many obstacle along the way, such as a dead sheep which could possibly be the worst smell I have ever encountered in my entire life (I could almost taste it). Then we were met with a staggering amount of stiles (particularly hard to get over with a massive bag on your back) and teachers trying to take photos of you for the big screen in the school reception. Like, are you trying to get me bullied?! After navigating our way through multiple fields of (alive) sheep, we began to climb our first mountain. Once at the top we stopped for lunch and pictures of the view.
We then trekked around the mountain and down the other side. On the way we had to complete the ‘scenario’ section of the walk. For this, one of the members of my group had to pretend to have injured their ankle. Then we climbed into a big orange storm-shelter-parachute-blanket-thing and planned out what we would do in this event. After this, we carried on down the mountain and back to camp. We ended up getting back at 4ish.
In the evening we cooked our tea which was ‘like a Master Chef meal’ according to our supervisor. Even in the wild, I have my culinary standards. We made a Mexican rice dish which was meant to server 3-4 but my friend and I ended up eating it all… Once we had cleaned up, we sat around a bench with another group who were camping opposite us and played card games. A lovely end to the first day.
Saturday 16th April 2016-
On the second day we woke up at 7, shivering cold and unable to venture out of our sleeping bags. The previous night I had slept with thermals, my clothes from the day before, a hat, gloves, two pairs of socks and a blanket wrapped around my face. But still, we had to take down the icy tent and eat our numerous breakfast bars. We re-packed our bags and got ready for the longest day of walking of the weekend. The route we had planned was estimated to take us 6 and a half hours to complete.
It was one of those mountains you climb where you think you are near the top, but once you get there, another long stretch of mountain is revealed. And once you almost get to the top of that one, you see there are about 3 more to go. But once we had reached the summit, the views were amazing.
Once we had reached the top, it wasn’t long before we had to set off again. We walked a little way round the top of the mountain then had to make our way to ‘Tabletop Mountain’. We sang Disney songs, laughed, fell over, laughed at ourselves falling over, all the way to the final checkpoint. Once there, we were thankfully on the homeward stretch (well, to the next campsite).
When we arrived, we set up our tents once again and cooked our final meal. This time we cooked pasta carbonara with tuna, which was surprisingly nice! Because there were no benches at this campsite, we ended up sitting on the floor to eat and playing our card games with the other group. We managed to somehow toast marshmallows on a gas stove, so I was satisfied.
We wrapped up warm for our final night, and went to sleep.
Sunday 17th April 2016-
Once again, we woke up freezing cold. It had been even colder overnight, to the point that the zip of our tent had actually frozen shut. We ate, took down the tent, packed our bags and headed off for our final day of walking. This one had been estimated to take 4 and a half hours, so our shortest walk of the weekend. Hoorah!
We trekked up many hills to get to the mountain we wanted to climb – ‘Sugarloaf’. ‘Sugarloaf’ was so high and such a pain to climb, but the view from the top was the best of the weekend.
Eventually, we stumbled down the other side, walked through lots of forested area and finally reached the minibus waiting for us in the carpark. We were the first group back and I’m not sure if I have ever in my life been so happy to see a minibus before… When I got home my mother ran me a bath, in which I put every bubble bath owned. I studied the enormous bruise on my leg and thought ‘mmmm, I earned that’.