Duke of Edinburgh Expedition

The past couple of days have been a roller coaster of emotions for some Year 10s and Year 12s because of our exciting journey to the Sierra de Gredos. Throughout the school year, these students have completed three types of activities: a skill, a voluntary service and some kind of physical recreation. Last Wednesday, twenty-one students left school to complete their adventurous journey in Sierra de Gredos. In groups of either 4 or 6, we managed to cook a full meal by ourselves, sleep outside in tents and walk long distances using a compass. Wednesday night was our first night there and, after eating a delicious dinner provided by the centre, we went into our tents. Although it was very cold and no one really slept, it was the source of many laughs and entertainment for the next day.  On Thursday, we planned our route with professionals at the Gredos Centre, who taught us all the skills required to, in a way, survive in the wild. After preparing lunch, we departed with huge rucksacks for an eight-kilometer walk. Some groups arrived successfully, while others got really lost but still enjoyed their time together as a team. Despite the fact it was a tiring journey, we laughed and sang along our route. We met our DofE coordinators (Mr Alexander, Miss Cowgill and Mr Cattermole) half way through the journey, at the so-called checkpoints, to refill our water bottles and snack on a piece of fruit. When we arrived back at the campsite, we set up our tents and cooked a three course dinnerconsisting mostly of pasta! We went to bed as soon as we could as the next day we had to wake up ridiculously early, since our departure time was eight o’clock and we had to repack our tents, rucksacks and cook breakfast before that. Thursday night’s sleep was much more enjoyable for everyone!  Friday’s journey was longer and around 12 kilometers. We walked through an incredible landscape: we all enjoyed the forests and broad meadows which were scattered with many horses and cows. We also came across a few small vipers (which we won’t be forgetting any time soon). Parents were sent updates along the way (especially pictures of our tired faces and crazy morning hair…) and some even suggested we should stay a couple more days! The journey was tough and we could make a list of all the things we missed, like a warm bed or a nice cup of coffee. Although we had trouble getting used to the circumstances, we grew to enjoy  each kilometer of our walks. Throughout the journey, we learned countless lessons and made tons of memories. From learning logical skills and map interpretation to friendship and leadership skills, the Duke of Edinburgh experience was like no other. Each group was as unique as the people who were in it, and our four teams were able to create special bonds with each other. Amongst all of our duties, each team had to complete an aim. We had the choice between several options such as collecting litter found along the way or documenting our travels by contrasting pictures from our walks and pictures from the urban  city of Madrid. The groups had to complete those aims throughout their journeys. This was a way to learn discipline and order as on top of our routines we had to stick to a particular goal that we had chosen. We strongly encourage other year groups to join in the future. Throughout the year, the Duke of Edinburgh program encouraged us to practise sports which we had never contemplated, become more creative through a variety of skills such as knitting, gardening or dancing and spend hours helping less fortunate people or animals. We also looked forward to the final expeditions throughout the entire year and were very pleased at how much fun it was. It is an opportunity to become closer to your classmates as a team; learn basic mountaineering skills that can be very useful further on; take a few days off your phones and the internet and, last but not least, immerse yourself and enjoy the beautiful Spanish landscape. It is a memorable experience!

Cisla (Y12), Maia (Y10) report on their first DoE’s expedition.