World Challenge - India 2019

Nine of our Sixth Form students were involved in the trip of a lifetime in July as they embarked upon an expedition to Northern India.  This expedition combined community work, trekking in the Himalayan mountain ridge and visiting some of India’s great cities and landmarks.  Below is resume of the trip, with thoughts and memories from the students.

The expedition began with two days acclimatisation in the beautiful mountain town of Nainital. This small town 2000m metres above sea level at the western corner of the Himalayan ridge is set around a freshwater lake with stunning views of the mountains as its backdrop. Here students got used to life in India. They visited Naina Devi temple and were blessed by the monks following a giving of alms ceremony. The team also fully embraced Indian food and tried a multitude of the street food on offer with paper-plane Dosa’s and Momo’s being particular favourites. Several members of the team, led by Ellie, also proved themselves formidable at bartering and were more than a match for the locals. What was most striking in this town was the warmth and friendliness of the people and their genuine interest in finding out why we there.

The next phase was the community project. We made our way up to Mountain Quail lodge at 2500m. As we made our way up the mountain altitude (and leeches) began to be a factor and the trek was over difficult terrain. The team pulled together fantastically during this first trek and there was a real sense of camaraderie as they encouraged each other up the mountain. The trek was rewarded with stunning views of the Uttarakhand valley and Corbett National Park. The team set up camp at what was to be our home for the next four nights and headed off for some much-deserved chai and paneer curry.

Our community project was to be undertaken in the village of Buggad around 3km from our campsite. The project was to build incinerators at two of the houses in the village in order for rubbish to be burned, and also to build a water collection system on one of the houses. Students split up into two teams and displayed fine leadership and teamworking skills to delegate roles and responsibilities. The teams were given the plans and tools needed for the jobs and then left to complete the tasks. The team was so efficient that they finished the projects a day early and so had time to cook with locals and were put to work cementing gaps in pavement. The team found this a richly rewarding experience, Year 13 student Georgia Sutcliffe noted the positivity in “knowing you made a difference to someone’s life”. The dynamic between the team was superb throughout the project and the way in which they engaged with locals and their way of life was admirable.

During the project phase we also were given the opportunity to visit the primary school in the village. This transpired to be the undoubted highlight for many of the team. We were the first World Challenge team to visit the school, and as such on the first day were treated with a little trepidation from the children! On our return on the second day we spent the full afternoon working with the children, which was a moving experience for many of our team as one student put it “understanding how valued education is in India reveals how we maybe take our own for granted”. We helped them with their English (which was already pretty impressive), learned some Hindi and had a great afternoon playing and talking with the students.

Following the community project students began the 65km trek from Buggad to Kunjharak. The three days trekking encompassed a wide variety of terrain and scenery, ranging from stark mountain passes to lush forests and winding rivers. There was also a multitude of wildlife to see with black eagles, scorpions and monkeys in particular in abundance. Our guide Rahul informed us that there were bears, leopards and wolves in the area which we unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) did not encounter. The trek was tough with conditions ranging from monsoon rains and gale force wind on one day to 35 degree heat the next. The team pulled each other through the tough times and bonded superbly. The spectacular scenery and stops for chai helping out too.

With the trek over it was time for some rest and relaxation. We began by going in safari at the Corbett National Park in Ramnagar and following the quintessentially Indian experience of a fourteen-hour sleeper train journey to Jaipur we had two days of sightseeing and luxury hotels to look forward to after ten days of camping.

The pink city of Jaipur afforded plenty of opportunities to continue trying out Indian street food and in the evening, we took in a Bollywood film in Jaipur’s famous theatre. From here we travelled on to Agra to see the stunning Taj Mahal. Students arose at 3:30am in order to see the sun rise over the marble mausoleum and the early start was rewarded with stunning views.

This World Challenge expedition was just that, and the students were a credit to themselves and the school. The skills they acquired and the experiences they had will last them a lifetime. Our next Sixth Form adventure will be to Borneo in 2021. We hope that you will join us.

“Truly Inspiring”- Tom Cable

“An amazing Adventure”- Dan Parmley

“Overall the best experience of my life”- Georgia Sutcliffe