I had my Duke of Edinburgh (Silver) Expedition from Friday to yesterday (Sunday) and can I tell you that it was the definition of torture. I don’t know if you’d clicked already that I really don’t like walking- however, I was prepared to go through the Dartmoor wind and rain to make it to the end and get this award because it’ll be worth it in the end. HOWEVER. By half way through the second day I wanted to give up and just be collected by one of the teachers because I was sick and tired of everything and everyone.
The first day was perfectly fine- we finished the actual walking route in about an hour and a half, (we were only allowed to get to the camp after 3 and a half hours) so we spent the next two hours walking around country lanes, building tractors out of rocks and sticks, and just gossiping about people we don’t like.
That was all good. And then it came to the second day.
My feet are strange. I was born with a smaller, more awkward left foot than my right foot and both of my feet have high arches. I had to have an operation on my left foot when I was four months old to straighten it out, so my left leg has always been weaker than my right, causing problems when I go on long walks- so you can probably see why I’m complaining so much about this walk.
I think it takes my feet ages to recover from things like this- they still hurt today, let alone the pulled thigh muscles and the aftermath of intense shoe rubbing on my ankle- so on the second day, the minute I put my boots on I could feel it was going to be uncomfortable all day.
And then it got worse.
We only had to walk 12km, but our group, for some reason, decided to walk 15km, which was alright in the morning and it was a really nice day- we were all motivated to get this done. And then the rain started. Now remember this is Dartmoor I’m talking about, so the rain didn’t stop. And I’m not even exaggerating, it literally poured and poured and poured and got worse with each passing minute- I had my waterproof coat and the rain cover for my bag, but little did I know that my trousers were just normal walking trousers! There really isn’t anyone to blame but myself, but my group told me to put them over my shoes- they got stuck around my ankle. My group told me to just leave them and take them off, but they seemed to forget that they were stuck around my ankles so I couldn’t just take them off. So this lead to some teamwork- one person holding my arm, one person holding me, one person holding my left leg up, and the last person tugging and pulling at my trouser leg. Now remember what I was saying about shoe rubbing and my left foot? Now combine that with the pulling of the trousers and the rain still getting worse, put it in the oven for twenty minutes and out comes an angry teenager. I was not happy. And I love a good old fashioned British downpour.
This started halfway through our route, and we passed some people doing their Bronze award, who were lucky sods because they got to go home after and be dry and have a bath and sleep in their own beds- but no, we had to face another night in the wilderness of Ivybridge, after eventually finding our way back to the camp. We literally had to walk over a waterfall, through ponds taking up the whole path, slipping on mud, it was utterly ridiculous. And when we got back to the camp, there was no one there to tell us where to go (sheep had taken over the field we camped in the night before). But we did manage to find one of our teachers in a little cabin with the fire on, and she was under a blanket all cozy, reading something on her Kindle (it was probably a crime thriller of sorts, as I’m pretty sure she jumped a bit after seeing the state of us). She let us in and we waited for the rain to stop, and dried our clothes and shoes before heading out to put up the tents.
The final day really wasn’t that bad compared to the previous. The route was only 9.9km (ONLY? Hah!) But we finished it really early, so we wondered around for a little bit, taking a half hour break- probably for my benefit because I was miles behind everyone else for most of the day.
The whole weekend just made me wonder why people enjoy putting themselves through this kind of thing? Sure, it’s all weather dependent, but it’s not exactly what I’d call fun. I don’t think it’s hugely character building, but then I’m the one holding a massive grudge against my own choices. Yes, I’m glad I’ve done it but I’m more relieved that I won’t have to do anything like that for a while- if ever- so I can complain all I like. I’m just hoping that no Duke of Edinburgh assessors are reading this right now and will fail me. Please don’t, I did actually try hard even though it doesn’t sound like it! Honest!
So if there are any avid walkers reading this, please, please tell me what it is that excites you about walking and camping? I don’t get it, I really don’t. I’d rather spend my weekends catching up on old episodes of TV shows no one knows about in bed listening to the rain pounding on my roof and silently laughing at those people who have to face this weather- Not the other way round!