Silver Duke of Edinburgh 2019

Last weekend, the Silver Duke of Edinburgh group went on an assessed expedition to Mangrovery.

Day 1

The first day of our expedition was long and hard and somewhat miserable. But this gave us the chance of improvement for the next few days…

The expedition started off bitterly. We struggled to navigate our way out of the town. The weather was decent though. Along the way, we chatted and sang, just like we were on a field trip. However, the pivoting point of the day arrived very early when we reached the first check point. “You are an hour behind your schedule!” That was the first and only thing that we were told.

After that, the harshness of the expedition kicked in. We rushed through the navigations, walking as fast as we could, attempting to catch up with the time. At one leg, we had even doubled our route going uphill. We were told off by the assessor due to poor skills of navigation and not treating this assessment seriously enough. All day long, we were under the fear of being failed from the expedition. Unlike the previous expeditions, we are all so exhausted that we barely talked to each other…

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we tried, we still didn’t make it to the camp site before the night got dark. To be honest, night walking was the most provoking part of the day. Our torch was the only light source, and everything seemed quiet. The navigation was made more challenging – this was an experience that we had never had before. Ultimately, the minibus back to the campsite picked us up on route. We quickly set up our tents and had a simple dinner. The first day passed in chaos. It was surprising that we weren’t failed on the first day and marveled at the kindness of our assessor. Assessor, if you are reading this, we thank you.

Day 2

When I told my teammate that I was going to write about the second day, I could see the disappointment in her eyes. The second day was by far the best and most consistent day. We expected it to be the hardest; we had the longest distance to walk and were under extreme pressure to perform.

On the first day we demonstrated horrible teamwork skills and what can only be described as beginners’ navigation skills, but we were unbelievably determined to gain our silver award.

The day started off well. Despite the discouragements of the previous day, we set off in good spirits. The weather was amazing, quite warm and sunny and I suppose that was our main source of motivation. These happy feelings were soon replaced by annoyance when we reached our first obstacle. An obscured path by overgrown bushes and tufts of grass greeted us, after we had climbed the abrupt hill. I must admit that the plants were quite interesting and, now that I think about it, I have never seen such a combination before. There were different zones of different types of plants, each giving us problems. I personally hated an area in which ‘spiky bushes’ dominated the path. They almost tore through my trousers and the inevitable pain didn’t really motivate me, either. The (very useful) advice that I was given by Jennifer was: “Just suffer for a while”. However, the torture wasn’t over, and a vast plane of troublesome bushes followed. If I would describe the struggle that we went through in that area, this text would be much longer, and I think I’ll spare you the details. In a nutshell, it was one of the most frustrating activities on the whole expedition.

When we finally completed this trial, we turned to the one solution we had for everything in this trip. Cookies. This soon re-lifted our spirits and we went further. We were faced with our next difficulty when we reached the fields. The farmers had taken out some of the public footpath gates and replaced them with barbed wire. Trying to cross a stream, a team member took a rather relaxing mud bath (I heard it’s good for your skin, too). The highlight of the day was when we had just arrived at the end of mass in a small, local church. A kind lady came out of the church and gave us biscuits and told us about the history of the hill we had previously climbed (yes, the one with the spiky bushes). Although it seemed like a normal hill, it had been a volcano a long time ago. No forts had been built on it due to its importance and how sacred it was. At the church, we met many nice people and we had some lovely conversations. This was so important to us because, although small, these encounters encouraged us to keep going.

The end of the day was the hardest. We were tired and it looked as though we would never get to camp on time. However, we arrived while there was still light and an hour earlier than the boys (a great improvement from Saturday). We had improved immensely from the first day and showed our true navigation skills, as well as picking up our pace.

Day 3

The third day of our expedition was very good. We got up at 6.10 am and cooked breakfast in the dark and were able to leave the campsite at 8.00. We knew from the start that this day was going to be the most challenging as we were going to encounter many hills. But our navigation was immaculate, (except for one hiccup) and we were going as fast as we could. We speeded through the checkpoints until at 3.35, finally, we arrived at the end. However, we had to wait another 2.5 hours for the boys’ group. By then, we were getting cold and running out of emergency rations to eat. We had improved so much from the first day and were now navigating and travelling at the skill and pace of a good silver group.

To conclude, although it was tough, this was the best expedition so far and we have learnt so much in terms of navigation, speed, motivation and teamwork.

Ecaterina, Maggie, Anna and Jennifer – F5