Recently I did my two-day expedition for the bronze Duke of Edenborough award. I have already finished my volunteering, physical and skills sections of the award and so the final part was the expedition. Because of a friend’s inability to do this walking, our group chose to cycle for the two days; like the walking groups we had to be out for 4 hours each day, however, we had to cycle 30km each day. Being the first group to cycle in Guernsey we didn’t know what to expect so I’m going to write about my experiences doing this on a bike and some general points that may help you prepare for this experience.
1-Be Involved with Planning your Route
I was lucky enough to have a couple of very organised people in my group who ended up planning most of the route and now I regret not having a say. It was completely my fault that I wasn’t motivated enough to eat lunch quickly and come up to the class room to help. I am now realising how much it would have helped to have a look at Google maps and see where the hills were. Now, on a bike you get the satisfaction of gliding down the hills you just struggled up, but you also get the added weight of the bicycle on top of all your equipment to push up that hill. So, unless you’re keen on not being able to walk during your lunch break because your legs are so tired then have a hand in the planning.
2-Route Cards Do Help So Spend Time On Them
Imagine this, you are gliding downwards into a valley and then you see the opposite side looming over you. The first thing you do is build momentum by riding as fast as you can. The whole group is suddenly going at what seems to be 100mph and then the hill hits you. Every bike creaks and clicks accordingly as our gears change and shouts from all around ‘on your right’ and ‘wait at the top’. One by one riders fall out of formation like fighter pilots shot out of the sky; only sweaty, human planes on wheels that stop because of the sheer exhaustion. Finally, at the top, you regroup. You count your troops and consult the map for where to go next. There is a long pause. ‘Can someone else have a look at the map please?’ ‘Are you sure this is what the route card said?’
‘Yea. I mean… I wasn’t really looking at it before so it may have been the fifth right instead of the second left. But don’t blame me?! She had the map!’
You see the thing with map reading and cycling is that you can’t really do it at the same time so having two people both having accurate directions is something that would have avoided so many painful hills.
3-Choose a Good Motive
I don’t know if you’re aware but a week or two after your final expedition you have to present a short talk on your ‘motive’. Suitable topics include; teamwork, nature etc. But making a video of you doing things that the school may not have been 100% happy about you doing might not be the best idea! I do not speak from experience here, my group was very sensible and did a talk and power point on Guernsey’s nature, but I know people who just filmed them walking around and having fun-not exactly the best educational talk.
4-Be Prepared with your Packing
I was not that prepared with my packing, I did it the night before, luckily for me I managed to remember everything but it is worthwhile to be organised and pack it a day or two before so you have time to go out to the shops and buy anything you don’t have at home. Also, I’m not sure how strict your supervisors will be on this but we were told that if we didn’t have all the items on the kit list then we would be disqualified so naturally we packed everything making out bags heavy and full but no one checked! So, I cycled round this tiny island on a summer weekend with a thick fleece, gloves and a hat filling up my panniers and for no reason. Although it didn’t matter for us it would be worthwhile checking with people who have done it the year before on how strict your area is on this matter.
5-Wear Clothing that you are comfortable in
You may be panicking and asking your friends what they’re wearing for the weekend and what you should wear but don’t. When you are actually out there doing your expedition no one cares. There are no mirrors in the wild so you have no idea what you look like: how bad your hair is, how dirty your clothes are, or how bad/good your tan lines are going to be. However, things you will notice are: where your clothes are rubbing, what clothes are too tight, whether you are freezing or steaming. These are the things that’ll make your DofE unbearable so just wear what you are completely comfortable in and don’t worry about your appearance, (no one else is).
6-Take Plenty of Photos
Now, this is something I wish I had been told to do. When it came to the presentations and even the days after when the other groups were busily sharing photos and videos of moments that will stay in their mind forever we had nothing. We took photos of the area and no videos. Well, to be fair to us it was harder to film and take photos while riding through the lanes at top speed but still, I wish we had taken more photos and videos because already now I cannot remember much from our weekend and I wish I could.
7-Make Sure You Go to Sleep Early Enough
Ok, now I’m going to sound like a ‘nagging mum’ when I say this, but it is important to get your sleep. More likely than not you’ll be setting off fairly early the next morning so you can’t lie-in. Our group decided to leave at 7:20 or something ridiculous like that (another reason why point 1 is important!) but that meant that we had to wake up at 6:30. I really hope my teachers aren’t reading this because, even though I’m sure they could hear us chatting, they wouldn’t be glad to know that we stopped talking at around 12 if a maximum of 6 and a half hours sleep wasn’t bad enough, the children on the campsite next to us woke everyone up at 2 in the morning and then again at 4. I believe it’s fair to say that our sleep was very compromised and the only thing worse than the morning of Day 2 is the morning of Day 2 on 4 hours’ sleep.
8-Choose a Group You Won’t be Sick of Spending Time With
Luckily, I did, I was really happy with the group I chose but as the days went on and we all got more and more tired and even though we got a bit annoyed at each other we all stayed a team and worked it through. As is only natural people’s bossier and lazier sides came out and I’ve got to say that I’m glad that we were cycling because, even though it’s more physically tiring, you do not feel the need to talk to each other so there could be no petty arguments fuelled by fatigue. So, the moral of the story is, you are all going to be ridiculously tired and at the end of it you just need to forgive and forget and make sure you choose your group well so you can forgive and forget.
9-You Will be in Pain the Next Day
There’s no way of getting around it, you will ache. How much you hurt will depend on your stamina and levels of fitness but be prepared to be limping through school on the Monday. I don’t know what else to say about this, I guess you’ll just have to push through and hope it goes away quickly.
10-Coming in to Your Final Meeting Place is One of the Best Feelings
Despite the pain, and the exhaustion, and the irritable state you’ll be in when you walk or ride or crawl the last 100m to your final stop you will be happy. You’ll have completed a major achievement and you should be proud of yourself. I know I was. When we glided back into school and whooped as we swerved over the speed bumps there was something other than the light rain in the air. We had just finished our bronze DofE! I mean of course there are bigger things to be proud of, bigger hurdles to climb but in that moment there is nothing bigger, better or worse than what you have just completed and it feels so good.