‘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. Thirty students and five members of staff descended on the small village of Kritou Terra in the North West region of Cyprus on 28 October. After an orientation and preparation day, the students began their expedition in earnest on Friday 29 October. 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 which was enjoyed to the soundtrack of foaming waves crashing against rocks. 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 student’s 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 galvanising factor.
To see students supporting and encouraging one another – whether they were in the same group or not – is what 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 again by the beach, this time to the sound track of braying donkeys with whom we shared the campsite. Fittingly for Halloween night, we found ourselves amidst a rather spooky caravan park that looked like it had been abandoned in the 1970s, so it was inevitable that the staff and students engaged in some spooking and ghost story sharing. Blisters were again the main talking point, but another meal of noodles, mash potato and beef jerky, 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 2015.