On July 5th – the last day of the summer term – a group of 18 Sixth Form students and three staff members (Miss van der Werff, Ms McConalogue and Mr Taylor) set off with Dave Thompson from Wilderness Expertise, on a 28-day adventure to China. The ‘Personal Development Expedition’ the group undertook is so-called because, although the destination was chosen by Miss van der Werff, the itinerary was designed by the students, who also took responsibility for booking their hotels and transport, and finding food on the trip.
The expedition presented numerous challenges, including living out of a rucksack, being with others 24 hours a day, overcoming an enormous language barrier, eating all meals with chopsticks – and doing without social media for a month! Nonetheless, the students returned safe and sound late on August 3rd, having travelled huge distances from Chengdu to Tibet, then on to the Gobi Desert on the Silk route, and back to Chengdu by train (a 34-hour journey).
During the four-week trip, the group took part in a project at the Khampa Eco Lodge, Tagong; underwent the Qizangou Trek in Songpan; and visited the Grand Buddha at Leshang, monasteries at Langmusi and Xiahe, the Mogao Caves at Duanhuang, the fort and the Great Wall at Jiayuguan, and the Giant Panda Breeding Centre at Chengdu.
It is 20 years since Miss van der Werff organised the first Blue Coat expedition – Peru, 1997 – and subsequent trips have been to exotic locations such as Nicaragua, Nepal, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan, Ecuador, Mongolia, Bolivia, Thailand, Cambodia, Central America and now south central China.