This month saw a new experience in my camping life and I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to like it. As the blurb about me says, I have signed up as a volunteer on the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme at a local school. However, unforeseen circumstances earlier in the year meant that I’d only managed to go on a practice day walk and not on any of the expeditions; until now.
It was with some trepidation that I packed up my rucksack and kit ready to embark on a two day expedition. If you have been reading my other blogs you will know by now that I really like my luxuries and always camp with electricity. But not this time.
I had packed my Pack It waterproof overtrousers just in case we had bad weather on the expedition, but as it turned out, I really should have worn them before leaving the house. Torrential rain on the way to meet the minibus saw me getting rather wet even before we had started! I was beginning to wonder what I had let myself in for.
Luckily the weather cleared up as we travelled to our drop off point and by the time we reached the first checkpoint, the sun was starting to shine. I wasn’t going to need those overtrousers after all. We walked on to the second checkpoint and stopped off for some lunch on the way. By now the weather was glorious and I was really enjoying the beautiful countryside.
Fortunately for me, by the time we got to the third checkpoint and we were sure that all of the students had arrived there safely, we were able to get onto the minibus. By now I was beginning to get a little tired as I’m not used to walking up and down the hills and although I wasn’t carrying a pack as big as those that the students were, I was glad that I could have a bit of a rest and travel to the next checkpoint by bus.
Once we were happy that all of the groups had gone through this checkpoint we carried on to the campsite. Pitching my tent for the night was a far cry from the usual hour or so of pitching and setting up that I am used to. My 2 man tent was up and ready within about 10 minutes. My bed for the night was a mat on the floor. I was convinced I would be sore and stiff the next morning and unable to sleep. Despite feeling happy to have seen some amazing scenery during the day, I found myself wondering once again why I had volunteered to put myself through this!
Once I actually climbed into my sleeping bag I was surprised to find that I was not only very warm, but also very comfortable and as I drifted off to sleep I felt pretty exhausted but very happy and was actually looking forward to the next day.
At around 5.00am it started to rain and I lay there for some time enjoying the sound of the rain hitting the tent. Then I realised it was set in for the day and this time as I got dressed I put the waterproof overtrousers on so that I stayed dry from the start. Getting dressed in a small tent was a completely new experience for me and one that I hadn’t given any thought to until that point. Putting trousers on proved to be something of a challenge in itself. It certainly wasn’t the most elegant start to the day.
By 7.00am I was not only up and dressed, but my tent was packed away and I was ready to take on the challenge of the second day of walking. The rain proved to be relentless and I was glad that I not only had my Regatta Maryam waterproof coat and Pack It trousers on, but that my Survivor II rucksack came with a waterproof cover which proved to be important and kept my spare clothes and food nice and dry.
Despite the appalling conditions, I was thoroughly enjoying the walk; in fact in some respects I enjoyed it even more than the first day because it wasn’t as hot as it was on that day. When lunchtime came around I was given the chance to get on the minibus to take us to the next checkpoint but I had enjoyed walking so much I made the decision to continue walking. I half regretted that decision when I realised that the first part of our walk after lunch was a long uphill section and I did ask my walking partner why he hadn’t kicked me when I said we’d walk! However, once we got to the top and were walking through fields shared with sheep and cows, I was actually quite glad that I’d not taken the easy way out and got in that minibus.
When we reached the end of the expedition, I took my coat and overtrousers off and found that I was nice and dry. I was also completely exhausted and had rather sore feet and aching muscles. But the overwhelming sense of satisfaction that I had completed the walk made it all worthwhile. My only regret was that we weren’t pitching up our tents for another night. I was rather glad of a nice hot, soothing bath when I got home though.
This expedition has not only given me the opportunity to learn new skills, such as navigation, but it has also given me the opportunity to try a different type of camping and although I had always been adamant that I would not enjoy camping without my luxuries, I am glad to say that I really loved it and I’m planning to find some long walks to take the family on when we go on holiday next month. Talking my husband and son into a full on hiking holiday might take a while longer.