At 2.30am on Sunday 10 July, fifteen students, Mrs Pratley, Mr Capel and the excellent expedition leader Jono set off for Ecuador in South America.
This was the accumulation of two and a half years of fundraising, including cake sales, e-sales, running around on the rugby pitch on sports day, tough mudder and selling products. Two students raised all £3500 without any parental payment or preparation - a very wet November weekend training in The Forest of Dean.
From now on the group was one team on an expedition with students in charge of everything including budgeting and transport.
Acclimatisation and Trekking - Phase 1
The group arrived in Quito, an exciting and lively South American city, during the afternoon. Quito is 2800m above sea level; twice as high as Ben Nevis. The first few days of the trip were spent acclimatising around Quito, climbing various volcanic peaks overlooking the city and taking great local buses or pick-up trucks to get to starting points. Students were also buying food, comparing supermarket prices with street market stalls, phoning various transport companies, booking hostels (all in Spanish) and haggling the best price for essentials, like ponchos!
On day five the group set off for the 'Challenge Phase', four days hiking with mule support in the Northern Andes (up to 4000m - the height of The Alps). The views were spectacular, with condors circling over dramatic peaks. This was a hard trek, as it was uphill for two and a half days straight. All the food consumed on this part of the trek was planned, bought and cooked by the students for themselves, their teachers and the guides.
Las Tolas Community Project - Phase 2
After sometime back in Quito which was conveniently timed with the South American Champions League Final being played in the city, tre group were driven for two hours out of the city into the cloud forest, a much warmer and more humid climate. This was the 'project phase' in the village and community of Las Tolas. Las Tolas is made up of around 400 inhabitants and is located in the Pichincha Province in the North of Ecuador.
Here the group spent the money raised prior to their trip on building materials for a new lodge. This construction work entailed building work, digging trenches, moving rocks, making cement as well as clearing paths in the rainforest. This was undertaken in hot weather, so the conditions were challenging.
Despite the language barrier, the similarities the group had with other teenagers, for example card games, football, dancing, overcame any of their differences.
Cloud Forest, Puerto Quito, Mindo - Phase 3
For the final phase the group descended into equatorial jungle. At this point in the trip the students were now able to enjoy the luxury of sleeping in beds rather than tents. They trekked through the rainforest past bamboo 30 metres tall and swam under incredible waterfalls of the same height. They were also able to pick different fruits, such as papayas, bananas and coconuts, straight from the trees.
At the end of the trek students had the opportunity to zip-wire through the canopy (and the rain) to look over the fantastic environment. The cleverly planned budget from the students even left enough for two delicious meals out with milkshakes, pizzas and piles of pancakes.
Launch information will be released in March 2017 for details of the next expedition in July 2019.