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International Award Bronze Trip to Modra

06 October 2016

Arriving at Modra the students quickly disembarked with their assorted backpacks, tents, sleeping bags and cooking equipment. There was a general sense of excitement about their impending expedition.

  • IA Bronze
  • IA Bronze
  • IA Bronze
  • IA Bronze
  • IA Bronze
  • IA Bronze
  • IA Bronze

Right off the bat two teams, including my own, set out in the wrong direction but it didn't take them too long to realise their mistake. Once I was confident my team was on the right track I wished them good luck and arranged to meet them at their first check point around lunch time. Without the encumbrance of a heavy pack I was soon able to out distance the group. At the beginning of the route there were a number of other walkers, including another group of school children, but before very long I was alone with myself in the quiet of the forest. Finding a strategic point just off the trail to wait I enjoyed an apple, a sandwich and a carton of juice. "Where were those boys!?" I hoped they hadn't taken a wrong turn again. I heard them before I saw them, a little behind schedule, but still on the right path and so I headed off again to meet them for lunch at the designated check point. We ate lunch together with another group, all girls, supervised by Miss Bea. They had had a successful morning and were in high spirits.

The afternoon proceeded much as the morning had. Since both our teams were meeting at the same checkpoint, Miss Bea and I had the opportunity to walk together along this stretch of the route. There was a good deal of uphill and we wondered how our wards might fare with their heavy backpacks. Once again both teams arrived at the checkpoint in good spirits, indeed the girls group arrived singing and dancing along to a contraband Bluetooth speaker paired to their emergency phone. They said that it was for "motivational purposes". Miss Bea said she would look after it for them and that they would have to find some "inner motivation" for the remainder of the trip but it didn't dampen their good mood.

By 5 o'clock all the teams had checked in to the campsite and had begun putting up their tents, finding water, using the ablutions, and cooking their evening meal. Very quickly the campsite began to look like a corner of Glastonbury festival, with clothes, backpacks, pots and pans, food and empty food containers distributed randomly all around the campsite. The campsite dog had a wonderful time, teaching them the folly of their ways, stealing their food, urinating on their left out backpacks, and running off with their precious camping equipment. By sundown some of the students had tried a cold shower, others had sat around with their friends chatting and eating their supper and still others were chasing the campsite dog around trying to retrieve their belongings. Whilst the other staff and I waited for our dinner, I amused myself collecting firewood and lighting a campfire to keep us warm as the nighttime drew in. We, the staff, ate around 8 o'clock, we were very hungry. I had a double helping of cabbage goulash and dumplings before returning to the campfire to requests for a song from the students. I had seen an old guitar hung up in the dining room but fortunately it only had four strings so instead we banked up the fire and regaled each other with fireside stories before retiring to bed.

Saturday was an early start, it had rained a little in the night and the tents had to be put away wet adding extra weight to the student's already heavy backpacks. With two groups to supervise, I discussed with them their checkpoint ETAs before setting out myself to find the first checkpoint. The route was clearly marked, steadily climbing through the forest, with some breathtaking views across the valley. The sky was clear blue and it was unseasonably warm for an October morning. Both groups arrived at their checkpoint together and early. There had been a couple of tumbles on the way and one of the girls had skinned her knee but otherwise they were in good spirits and pleased to be ahead of schedule. As they sat down to take water and rest for a few minutes I bid them farewell and set out to find the final checkpoint. Almost at the check point at a particularly steep downhill section of the trail I stumbled and fell due to the loose gravel. I was in two minds whether to continue or to wait for the teams and warn them of the risk. As I was looking around deciding what to do I came across some fresh boar droppings and moments later I heard grunting coming from the shrubs surrounding the trail. That made up my mind and I sat down to wait, just in case. By the time the two teams arrived at my location, the boar had moved on down the hillside. We safely navigated the steep incline and continued the short way to the checkpoint together where the teams broke for lunch and I left them to finish the final leg of the journey along the old mining roads that lead down to the village of Pernek. I made good time, and was able to go home quickly to get a cup of tea before returning to the exit point to wait for the students to arrive. By two thirty both teams had arrived tired but triumphant at the end of a successful expedition.

Damian Eastwood