Last week a group of happy and sleepy Grade 6 and 7 students from Northbridge International School Cambodia returned from their expedition to Switzerland. Altogether 18 students and three teachers went to stay at our Nord Anglia Mountain Base Camp, Les Martinets, and for six days took part in a variety of activities including team building games, mountain trekking and even cooking their own meals.
Day one saw us arrive and settle into camp, enjoying some much needed down-time shooting hoops in the rain, surrounded on all sides by majestic mountains and trees on fire with the colours of autumn. It was a great opportunity to break in our winter hats and gloves ready for day two and our practice mountain hike.
Our practice trek went off without a hitch. Students hiked in two groups and took ownership over the navigation, winding their way up the valley, through the trees and eventually emerging into a stunning hanging valley surrounded on all sides by snow capped mountains.
Our students walked without a whinge or a whine in site, carrying their bags on their backs and giving words of encouragement to each other when anyone felt like giving up. We learnt about hydroelectric power, the natural spring water we could and could not drink, and the amazing array of flora and fauna that was brand new to so many of our group.
That afternoon saw us tackling team building challenges ranging from lifting our classmates through a giant spiders web, herding ‘student sheep’ into a pen whilst blindfolded and culminating with our students working in small groups of 3 or 4 to master their culinary techniques, and prepare a delicious and healthy vegetarian pasta dish - it was very tasty!
Day 3 dawned and it was time for the real trek - 26 km long, climbing to an altitude of over 2000m and 2 days to do it! We started strong and with our trusty Mountain Guides - Gary, Huw and Sam - leading the way we began our slow and steady ascent into the mountains.
The scenery was breath-taking, the students were superstars and our guides serenaded us with songs and facts about the landscape along the way. The challenge came as we neared the end and began to wind our way steeply up through a rocky outcrop. Every turn in the path revealed another steep ascent, and we all felt the fatigue set in.
The trekking groups merged to become one and whilst some of us climbed like mountain goats, others were pushed and pulled up the final stage. Our students were exemplary, and were caring and thoughtful students throughout this incredible challenge. Finally… we made it to the top and there in the distance we could see the finish line - the mountain hut.
Feet moved faster and voices were raised as we descended as one towards our home for the night. When we arrived the flag was raised to announce our arrival and our culinary expertise was once again put to the test as we cooked up a storm of Dhal Curry.
Our students chopped and diced up some delicious meals and filled their bellies with much deserved feast. We topped it off with a treat of hot chocolate before calling it a night - weary feet dragged their way up the stairs into their now toasty warm bedrooms for a much needed sleep.
Day 4 started full of optimism, waking up to the mountains being bathed in sunlight as the sun rose and with the delicious smell of Gary’s hot chocolate to send us on our way.
We began our rather damp descent back towards the base camp, stopping on the way to put on our waterproofs and then warm our hands around a delicious cup of thick and milky hot chocolate. This was the day students had been looking forward to - this was the day they got to eat their noodles!
Finally, hurrah! Hot water - check, noodles - check, forks and chopsticks - who needs them?! Let’s go! So many happy faces on day 4.
Many of our students, filled with renewed energy, inquired about the plants we saw on the way back and many even ate some of them - developing quite a taste for wild plants.
Eventually, we made it safe and sound back to base camp, and the sun came out to celebrate our return. Hot showers were a must and we all unpacked our bags and waited eagerly for dinner - climbing down the mountain may have been easier than going up, but it was still hungry work!
Day 5 was much more ‘chillaxed’ - a trip to the cheese factory where Cherry the cow was our guide through the making of cheese. We then visited the town of Gryuère where we made our own chocolate bar, and sampled chocolate from bean to bar - and all that comes between. Bellies full of cheese and chocolate and bags filled with presents and souvenirs we made our way back to camp for yet another game of Mafia.
Our final day in Switzerland was filled with activities where our students really demonstrated their IB learner skills by participating in many risk-taking activities.
We started with a visit underground through the twisting and turning tunnels of the Salt mines. Our students were excellent and calm as they spent 3 hours crawling, squeezing and exploring their way through the massive underground mines of Bex.
We emerged finally into a wide open space and took a much deserved train ride out into the sunshine where we ate a fast lunch replenishing our energy levels before arriving at our final destination - Parc d’aventure!
We were trained on the ropes and then guided towards the courses before being free to take on the challenge. Our students climbed and cheered their way through high ropes challenges before zip lining their way to the end of an excellent expedition.
This expedition was truly a challenge for everyone - students and teachers alike. Our students achieved amazing things and challenged themselves every step of the way. All site staff complimented our students on their excellent manners, their persistence in the face of difficulty and their overwhelming positivity throughout the expedition!