Wednesday 2nd September 2009 by C. Freeman
The recent World Challenge trip to Peru was a life-changing experience for all those who took part. The students and staff had to meet challenges along the way, like arduous treks, community projects and the day-to-day organisation of their group. Students experienced a completely different culture without the luxuries, like electricity and flushing toilets,that we take for granted in the UK. The two parties took very few possessions in order to travel as lightly as possible and they saw the famous city of Machu Picchu as well as many other unforgettable sights.
Mr Nicholls and Mrs Watts each accompanied one group. Mr Nicholls's group undertook an expedition to the Salkantay Glacier and El Misti volcano which gave them a real battle against the elements. Three students; Oliver Newton, Priyesh Parmar and Jean-Marc Roberti managed to get to the summit of El Misti having to overcome a night-time start and bitterly cold winds on the way up. Highlights of the trip also involved seeing the floating island of Amantani on Lake Titicaca, the magnificent sunsets and sampling the local speciality of roasted guinea pig. Each person returned with different memories of the trips but, in their own words, here are some of the highlights:
Oliver at Machu Picchu.
'It was fantastic all the way through, trekking as a group and doing things we'd never really done before. One of the highlights was getting to the top of the El Misti volcano. Priyesh, Jean-Marc and I were the only ones who made it to the top, it was a bit of a shame for the others because I know some of them could have made it but they weren't feeling well. It was an early start and very cold all the way up with no respite from the wind. There wasn't really anywhere to shelter and our water slowly froze as we went up as well!
'White water rafting was good fun. We split into two rafts trying to beat each other to the end. We shared a guinea pig towards the end of the trip, it was very nice. I can't really compare it to anything though it was the texture of chicken, I'd recommend it though.
'As well as the treks the community project was one of the best parts because you could see how much it meant to the community. When we had finished a mother was taking her son around one of the libraries pointing to different pictures and saying the words, so it was good to see it was already being used and the paint wasn't even dry!'
'We all tried to be supportive of each other and keep each other going. We tried to encourage each other and keep spirits up and there weren't any major arguments or issues. I certainly learned a lot about people around me and a lot about the way I deal with people in different situations. It's definitely character-building.'
Edward at the Salkantay glacier.
'After 18 months of fundraising and planning it was finally time for us to set out on our expedition of a lifetime. We left Brooke Weston not knowing what we were going to face and after two long flights, we made it to Peru and the adventure began. Even when we stepped out the airport, the views were amazing and this was only the start. We then did our two acclimatisation treks; a chance to get used to the longer treks to come. This was a great chance for some team bonding but also to meet some people from the communities along the way.
'We went on to complete a fantastic five-day trek where we camped at the bottom of glaciers and on the last day visited Machu Picchu; an old Inca ruin. The excitement didn't stop there and the day after we returned to the city of Cusco, we were off white water rafting. We then visited Puno and went out on a boat cruise to visit some floating island in Lake Titicaca. The following day we were on a boat again to an island where we completed our project; helping communities by painting libraries and teaching English. This was a truly incredible experience as we stayed with the families in their homes, experienced their culture and cuisine and even partied with them. A real eye opener to how fortunate we are. We then moved onto Arequipa where we took some time to do some sight seeing and then we did our trek up El Misti; a mountain the same height as Mount Kilimanjaro. This was the most challenging part of the expedition but the sense of achievement made it really worth it.
'Looking back over the expedition, it was truly unbelievable. The friends we made, the people we met and the sights we saw made it a super four-week trip. Camping, cooking your own meals and even coping without a flushing toilet were all part of the fun and have really made me want to travel more in the future. Without a doubt I would recommend World Challenge to any other students, it's a life-changing experience and one you should grab hold of with both hands. If I could, I would be going back tomorrow! A big thanks go to Mr Nicholls and Miss Watts for their hard work to make the trip a success.'
'It was a brilliant experience. It was very full-on and the students achieved things that I'm sure I couldn't have achieved at their age. It was their responsibility to organise everything. They had to plan all the journeys, arrange the buses and book accommodation in different cities. They had to do it all on a budget which is a skill that lots of adults would find difficult.
'My highlight was seeing the two glaciers on either side in the middle of the night. It was a bright moonlit night and you could see the ice and snow on both glaciers and it was just fantastic. The other one was seeing Macchu Picchu because it wasn't discovered until 1912. If you go around the hills in that area you come across Inca ruins that haven't been renovated yet. You just see bits of wall and bits of building that are completely overgrown.
'The whole responsibility was the students', if they didn't organise things, then they didn't happen. It's a really important thing for Brooke Weston to do. It's not an ordinary expedition, it's an expedition with risks. From the point of view of these students what they are going to be able to sit in interviews and talk about, the breadth of experience that they have gained from this will serve them very well and that's the whole point of it.'