DofE Gold trip to Skye
The Lent half term marked the inaugural cycling expedition for the Duke of Edinburgh's Gold award. Eleven Lower Sixth pupils embarked upon the challenge of cycling unsupported around the Isle of Skye. The aim of this trip, and therefore the reason for selecting such a far-flung destination, was to combine the compulsory practice expedition with the qualifying expedition in one trip. This meant that the pupils effectively had the challenge of completing two expeditions in the same week.
The practice element was completed at Oban, and was the chance for pupils to learn how to cycle together safely, with paniers and bike trailers, as well as to learn where each other's strengths lay.
A long drive even further north brought the students to the start of the qualifying expedition where they set off in horizontal rain and high winds. Any cyclist will tell you that a puncture will inevitably arise at the worst possible time and, sure enough within an hour, one of the groups had their first puncture. Huddled in a storm shelter, their cold hands endeavoured to get the hole plugged and pressure back into the tyre. This was a long first day, and everyone was drenched. The weather improved over the next three days; however, showers persisted but didn't deter the groups from progressing. Both teams completed the full route, and arrived at the final checkpoint on the last day, tired, weathered and damp, but pleased that they had battled through the obstacles and weather to arrive at the finish.
The Isle of Skye was a beautiful place to spend four days cycling however gruelling the environment it provided. Our journey was certainly not without challenges, as Skye is famous for its iconic jagged landscapes with steep hills, mountains and cliffs all en-route to our campsites each night making the journey awesome as well as exhausting. It was also interesting to note that the mood of the team relied very heavily on whether we were ascending or descending. One minute we would be crawling up a zig-zagging ridge pass in the pouring rain, spirits down. Yet, when we reached the top the sun seemed to come out and our humours improved as we sped up, down the hill to the base of another ascent.
By the end every member of the team was proud to recall the obstacles they had overcome, in distance, height and in working together, to achieve an accomplishment in our time at Sevenoaks we would never forget.
Joe Jenne, Lower Sixth