‘Blisters, Blisters and Blisters!’
‘Blisters, blisters and blisters!’ was the response given when I asked a student to describe the Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Expedition in three words. Although the blisters might be one of the more painful memories of the trip, the visit to Cyprus will last long in the memory for so many other reasons. 68 students and 10 members of staff descended on the small village of Kritou Terra in the North West region of Cyprus. After 2 training days covering navigation, route planning and risk assessment days, the students began their expedition. The groups plotted their own route through the mountains and forests, culminating in a spectacular hillside trek along the coast, taking in some breathtaking views at high altitude. The students spent their first night camping on a rocky beach. The groups arrived at the camp throughout the mid-afternoon, tired and weary, but were soon rejuvenated by a stunning sunset. After cooking their own evening meals, consisting mainly of noodles, mash potato and beef Jerky, there was time for some laughs and songs around the camp fire, as the sunset quickly transformed the beach into a pitch-black nothingness. The following day’s trek was a real examination of the students’ endurance, stamina and strength of character. Blisters, exhaustion and a whole range of muscular aches and pains now became a serious barrier to progress and it was at this point that motivation, determination and team work became a galvanizing factor. To see students supporting and encouraging one another, whether they were in the same group or not, is what the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is all about, and the Year 11s certainly showed they were more than ready to help one another rise to the challenge. The second night’s camp was further inland within the Akamas Forest, the stunning surroundings and improved facilities seemed to restore the groups’ spirits. By the third and final day, a steely determination had swept through the camp and no one was going to be beaten so close to the end, despite the chronic fatigue. It was an emotional moment watching the students cross the finish line on their return back to base camp. For many students, this was a serious and very real test of their physical capabilities. It was incredible to watch students grow right before our eyes over the course of the adventure and, despite the blisters and aching bones, this growth and bonding will be the lasting legacy of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Expedition 2017.