A group of Year 10 students took part in the Bronze category expedition for the Duke of Edinburgh programme this November. The area chosen for the expedition was the Garbí in Estivella, visiting the Monte Picayo and Gilet on the way.
As told to us first hand by Pilar G, from Year 10D, it was a really enriching experience for all concerned, and not helped to develop their orienteering skills, but also improved their ability to work as a team.

In our practicing expedition before the qualifying one, as Duke of Edinburgh members, we walked from Caxton College Puçol, through Monte Picayo, Gillet and Estivella. The next day the route could be said to be much shorter, from the camping in Estivella to Segart, and from there to a near parking where we were meant to be picked up.

At first it seemed easy: we started going through a path where we had already been through in Monte Picayo and which allowed us to concentrate
less on the map, and more on our excitement of the trip. It was about an hour and a half later when we reached the first stop. Mr Nugent’s car parked on the road at the end of the path could only indicate that we had been walking on the right path. And that was so relieving.
We stopped for a snack and kept walking along the road. At that moment it was all about listening to music, singing, and going at reasonably at a fast pace. At least until we encountered the path again.

This time we went downhill, through a much steeper path, full of loose stones, which meant you could easily fall by taking the wrong step. I clearly remember a young fit boy running downhill without even thinking where he was stepping. We were all surprised. I even remember one of us saying “Well, he doesn’t have a 15 kilo bag on his back!”. Right after we met with a group in front. They had stopped and where resting and eating. I guess that, because of exhaustion and hunger, we just stopped with them without really thinking where the actual lunch meeting point was. Later on we realised it was actually a little further, in Gillet central square, where we were meant to eat. However we got to rest again given that the groups behind where much far away. The walk continued by a railway line and then we met the road again, in a roundabout where we got distracted. The backpacks started to weigh and the motivation started to run away. But hey, all paths lead to Rome, so we kept going and reached Estivella! The reaction of the group as we saw the big block with the letters of the village carved on it was priceless, we even got the sufficient energy to run to it! Reaching this village meant we were near the camping.

We kept walking and not long after, we reencountered the first group. They were just some meters behind us, clearly visible to our eyesight. We kept walking and went through a tunnel below the motorway. Every now and again we orientated the map and checked we were taking the right way. Shortly after some discussions between both groups on what path to take, we reached the campsite. The sun was still up, it must have been 6:30pm when we arrived.

Once there, we took advantage of the light that would surely fade away during the next hour, especially at this season of the year. We put up the tents, rested and prepared everything for the next day. In terms of dinner everything went as planned, we all ate a bowl of cheese macaroni and some sausages. We went to sleep reasonably early given that we were all pretty exhausted. I have to admit sleeping wasn’t that easy due to the banging of the wind and water drops into the tent.
Waking up was also not easy at all. Opening your eyes and realising you’re not in your bed but in a tent where it’s extremely cold is not pleasant and is not the best way of starting the day. But getting out of the tent and staring at the amazing pink, blue and purple sky in the morning may be the right way. And Nutella wraps and some snacks also helped! I guess it was thanks to that that we got the energy to keep walking.

I was half asleep during the first walking section, at least until we encountered a giant puddle created by the soft raining of the night and the previous days. The puddle occupied the whole path and there was no way of avoiding it. Walking with wet socks wasn’t pleasant, but luckily they dried soon. The next section was uphill. Every now and then we orientated the map and checked we were taking the right way. We got a bit lost, but reached a natural viewpoint that was really worth watching. It was not long until we reached Segart. There we ate and rested. Everything had been good during the day, we were not the fastest but we still walked at a reasonable speed. At that town, we were told that we were only an hour away from our final destination. An hour! Time goes by so quickly when you are with your friends.

We took our backpacks and kept walking. And just then, it all came into a disaster! We took the wrong direction, joined another group and pointlessly kept walking. After more than an hour, we were not even close to the town. We reorientated the map and realised we were certainly going in the wrong direction. We went back and called Mr Nugent. Both teachers, Mr Kemball and Mr Nugent, came to our rescue, reorientated us and showed us a path none of us had ever seen or considered taking. Teachers luckily decided no more walking for us and parents picked us up there.

This was not an ideal way of ending the expedition, but it was definitely a lesson learned. No more taking things for guaranteed until we actually arrive to our destination. And until then, we should saty fully focused on the map and the compass. We will surely do much better on the qualifying expedition. Or so I hope!

Pilar G. (Year 10D)