My Duke Of Edinburgh Experience
Lauren Beesting, Features Writer
I was around 13/14 years old when I was drawn to the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award. Not only would it look good on my CV but it meant a fun trip out with my friends. Let's just say I was easily influenced by the persuasive words from the teachers.
Following this talk my friends and I made an agreement that we would sign up. We were so excited, already planning who would be sleeping with who in a tent. We even went as far as thinking about what food we were going to take. We planned it right down to the clothing we would wear.
Time passed and it was time to hand in our authorisation slip. Me being the eager organised person I am handed mine in first out of our group. Having spoken with my friends it became apparent that they had yet to do so but reassured me that it was only due to just getting their parents signatures.
The deadline date for handing in the authorisation slips arrived. Upon asking them if they had handed theirs in my so called 'friends' informed me that they decided not to do it at all! I was frustrated that they had not had the courtesy to let me know but also gutted that the conversations we had regarding planning the event would not become a reality. The first question on my mind was whose team I was going to be on now which did cause me to feel a little anxious.
Luckily one of my other close friends had signed up with her friend and they said I could tag along with them. We attended all the meetings which helped us learn all the ins and outs of hiking. We made a group chat so we can discuss plans of who would bring what and ensure we had the essentials covered.
Several weeks of preparation went by and we were ready; or so I thought!
It was time for the practice run and our enthusiasm was at an all-time high. We were so excited to start our adventure that we even allowed ourselves to lose our inhibitions and started singing 'loudly' as we began our walk.
Hiking sounds so easy when you are just talking about it but it's a lot harder which I quickly realised. At around 15 minutes into the hike and after struggling with the map we had lost all that enthusiasm. We were sweating like water fountains. We couldn't even muster up the effort to speak to each other. What a difference 15 minutes can make.
It was at this moment reality hit and we realised we should have taken the advice presented to us at the meetings and started going on long walks to prepare ourselves.
Let's just say that after that practice run, I came home looking completely dishevelled, tired, emotional and hungry. Hungry enough that I devoured a subway sandwich which I don't think touched the sides. When I got home I had a long hot bath and fell asleep almost immediately. It's safe to say I was exhausted.
When the real hike came around I was a little anxious and apprehensive as I now had experience of what it would be like. However, the practice had helped me be slightly more prepared. I remained in high spirits as I had learnt from the previous hike and practised map reading which improved my ability to read a map. I had also learnt to pack my bag more constructively, proportioning the weight better so it didn't feel as heavy.
Our group set off walking, running down some of the hills because we were all so full of energy. The group had been assigned a leader who was in charge of map reading and their responsibility was to ensure we arrived at camp safe, sound and in one piece.
I took it upon myself to take the role of just keeping up morale as best I could. We were half way through the day when it started to go wrong. Yes, our illustrious map leader must have guided us off course and we ended up lost in a field. We were all a little tired and some members of the group became emotionally unstable.
We tried to work out where we had made the mistake in the hope to try to rectify and get back on course but as emotions and fatigue were high this was proving difficult. In the end, we had to call the teachers for guidance.
We provided her with information as to our location and after what seemed like forever she eventually found us and pointed us in the right direction.
We had walked so much further than we should have due to getting lost all the time. When we finally got to the camp all the other group was already there and were almost finished setting up their tents.
They stopped what they were doing and gave us a big round of applause as we emerged from the trees. This brightened up a somewhat stressful trip and made me smile. My positive thought was thank the lord we had made it in one piece.
Dropping our bags and falling in a heap on the floor was our exaggerative way of demonstrating to everyone just how exhausted we were. Nevertheless, we rose to our feet and started the arduous task of erecting our accommodation for the evening which all in all was the easier of all the tasks we had endured so far.
Then it was time to relax and enjoy the social side of the evening with the others joining us on the quest for this prestigious award.
The evening at the campsite was great. Everyone got together after eating and we were all playing rounders, bull dogs charge, squat 123 to name a few of the simple games we engaged with.
It was great to hear everyone laughing and having a good time despite the exhaustion that clung to all of us. We were happy and adamant we didn't want to go to sleep early but the teachers had other ideas and with some force they managed to get us into our tents at a reasonable hour.
Did we go straight to sleep? Absolutely not we were teenagers at a large sleepover. I felt like a child in a sweet shop. Hyped up on sugar and unable to sleep. We laid in the tent laughing and chatting for at least another hour before our bodies and minds just shut down.
We woke next morning to the sound of birds chirping. Our group decided, due to our debacle yesterday, we wanted to be the first to set off.
We quickly packed our stuff, ate our food and then took to the hills.
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It was my turn to be leader of reading the map which made me feel better about this journey. We reach each checkpoint in great time. Having made a quick pit stop for food at checkpoint three the teacher decided that I had been leader of reading the map too long and I had to hand over the baton to another member of the group. That's where things started to go downhill rapidly.
Yes, you guessed it, we got lost again trying to locate the next three checkpoints. Frustration levels with each other began to rise.
It didn't help that we were also sleep deprived and feeling sheer physical exhaustion now. We had had enough of each other and emotions began to surface.
I was texting my mum, regularly, telling her that I was ready for her to come pick me up. She continually encouraged me not to give up and to remind me how far I had come on my journey and to push through the last leg of my experience.
Hours later we got to the last checkpoint and the utter relief that we had finally made the journey was evident on all our faces. I was physically and emotionally drained and without really saying goodbye to anyone I got in the car and went to subway (my new-found love) ordered what now was becoming the regular sandwich of choice for me.
I proceeded to eat it as if I hadn't eaten for days and felt very satisfied afterwards. Upon arrival home, my mum told me we were going to a family BBQ, something I definitely was not in the mood for.
I took a deep breath, got a shower and changed into some respectable ensemble that was appropriate for the event and made my way to the BBQ putting on the most sociable face I could muster.
However, fatigue, heightened emotions and mental exhaustion eventually got the better of me, as the evening went on, and I could not hold my tears back any longer. I just wanted the solitude of my own comfortable warm bed and uninterrupted sleep.
Worst experience of my life
Initially after finishing the Duke of Edinburgh Award I declared it one of the worst experiences of my life because I was blinded by the physical, mental and emotion feelings I had experienced which were stuck in my memory.
It is all I could think of when I heard the words 'Duke of Edinburgh'. However, as the months past I started to reflect on the whole experience which made me realise that even though I struggled many different emotions I must not forget that I had achieved something special.
Something that many others have not done. After applying positive thoughts to my whole experience, I started to realise that for the most part I had fun.
Laughing and joking with my friends as we walked, reminiscing about the memories I have made from this adventure.
Smiling to myself about my ultimate favourite memory when my friend almost got charged by a sheep. The whole experience has helped me build skills, work together with others collaboratively as a team and my ultimate achievement to understand the true meaning of perseverance.
Would I do it again? Let's just say one time is enough.
This article was written by Lauren Beesting
My Duke Of Edinburgh Experience, 7th August 2017, 9:04 AM