After a final kit inspection 47 students and 5 members of staff and a nurse departed on two buses. Bus 1 drove straight on to Caoshan where we were greeted by Ling the Outdoor Camp Leader and her team who began to prepare our students for the 2 Day hike by learning about navigation, setting a map, taking bearings and planning the routes.
Seven students from Nanjing Wycombe Abbey School and two members of staff also joined us on this joint adventure. The opportunity to collaborate with our sister school was an excellent opportunity for our students.
Bus 2 travelled to Yixing where they were greeted by another team of outdoor instructors at the lake by the Yixing tourist area.
Students were briefed, given demonstrations and shown techniques on how to paddle correctly and get in and out of canoes. It was an excellent day to be out on the water with the sun shining and a soft breeze.
Our instructors set some little challenges for the students, such as paddling clockwise then anti-clockwise around the small island in the center of the lake. Students also paddled under a small bridge before getting out of the water.
This was a fun activity, and students were starting to feel hungry. After boarding the coach, we arrived at a local Chinese restaurant which we were catered for with local Chinese cuisine. The atmosphere was very calm and students ate contentedly.
After lunch each of the groups changed activities so that they had the opportunity to complete them both. This was an excellent start to Day 1 of our Bronze DofE trip.
Once dinner was completed students were then given some down time to shower and prepare for the next day. It was evident that some students were ready to sleep, as day 2 would be an early start.
The day started at 7am with a healthy breakfast before students prepared their lunches and were given a final brief by their instructors. After a quick Covid test groups were dropped off at White Dew Hills within the Caoshan forest.
Groups all started the route within 15 minutes intervals of each other. Each group nominated a map reader to help navigate each leg and to ensure the group was heading in the right direction. On route students were helping each other with group management ensuring they were walking on the correct side of the path and they also set pacing strategies to ensure they did not set off too fast. A group leader for each student group was responsible for group morale and decided when to take regular water and lunch breaks.
Lunch was eaten by the side of Mungang reservoir. This was a defined feature on the map, at the half-way stage of the route, so student leaders decided to stop there for lunch.
The weather was holding up well; a cool breeze made for perfect walking conditions. The scenery was beautiful as leaves had fallen turning the trails golden whereas underfoot dry leaves crunched as we progressed. The last 4km of the walk was through the Xiangbi Mountain reservoir. These climbs were more challenging and groups needed to tread carefully as their legs started to feel a little more tired.
Each group encountered some difficulties although everyone was determined to complete the hike. Some groups completed the hike quicker than others and were already making camp. Evening meals were prepared by nominated students who had responsibility for cooking their meals of tomatoes pasta sauce, fresh vegetables and meat into a tasty meal.
After washing up students were given some free-time to prepare for the final day before lights out at 10pm.
It was an early rise a most students were awake before 7am, chatting and singing which meant they were in high spirits. Students took the initiative to take down tents, clean the camp and go to breakfast on time; this was well received and praised by Ling our Camp leader.
After a hearty breakfast all groups were keen to get moving again. The hike was a little more challenging today with steeper climbs and plenty of steps to come down. The weather held out thankfully for us all but there were some delays for a few groups due to the nature of the hike, and some slight navigational issues. However, everyone was still in high spirits.
After our final farewells and thanking all camp staff and camp leader Ling for their help we arrived back in school after another Covid test at 6pm just in time for evening meal.
As the School DofE leader for this trip, I was very impressed with behaviour, commitment and motivation of our students. This was an excellent experience for all staff and students from both WAS Changzhou and Nanjing. Student feedback was very positive and the whole experience will be one of fond memories for all involved.