The expedition is another important part of the IA and challenges students to be independent and fend for themselves whilst hiking, navigating and camping.
Thirty Year 11 studentsÂ left school on Thursday afternoon and headed for Ninghai. The luxury of a hotel room awaited them there, where they were served a nice hot meal for the last time before the actual hike started; the next three days they would have to do the cooking themselves. But cooking wasn’t the only thing they became responsible for.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast an extra lesson of compass reading was planned. Armed with a good compass, a map and a big dose of positive energy and good will, five groups of six students set off into the beautiful mountains of the area, navigating and finding the way for themselves. The aim was to reach the first camp site before dark at approximately 400 meters altitude. For some groups the distance covered that day was a little longer than others, having taken a wrong turn or two along the way, even though the good weather made it fairly easy to find one’s way.
Making camp and cooking that first night were done with great enthusiasm and skill, resulting in a professional looking camp site and some very tasty meals. Apart from the people who lived in a nearby little village, there was absolutely no one around, which made it a very special experience. Very satisfied and a little tired, looking forward to the next day with a bright outlook, most of us fell asleep at nine thirty that night.
Unfortunately, that night the weather changed gradually but drastically; we woke up to a very grey sky, unable to see more than 50 metres ahead. While we were taking down our tents it started pouring, soaking our inner and outer tents. The students were absolutely not put off by this and showed great courage and perseverance without a single complaint. By midday their packs became almost twice as heavy because of the thick mist and rain. Sometimes their sight was less than 10 metres, making it even harder to navigate and find the right route.
Although that day, day two of the three day hike, was planned to be the longest day, we decided not to camp at the designated camp site that night, but to march on to the next village to look for lodging. Putting up wet tents in the rain and losing our last dry set of clothes just didn’t seem like the best idea. We were warmly welcomed by people from the village who offered us one of their temples to sleep in. It took us an extra two hours through very heavy rain and wind to reach the village, but again we didn’t hear any one complain. When we arrived at the very authentic village square, surrounded by temples and very old Chinese houses, we all knew we couldn’t haven’t been more lucky and each of us realised it had been worth the exhausting journey.
The students coped brilliantly with the situation, completing the hike planned for day three on top of day two’s hiking! Therefore no hiking was done on day three, but instead the students took part in an improvised exploration programme of the village. The tasks set for that day gave the adventurous journey a historical flavour on top of all the other challenging activities of the expedition. Due to the participants’ very hard work and tireless efforts, this episode of the silver award trip became a great success and we are very proud of them all.