World Challenge - Venezuela 7th July - 6th August 2009
World Challenge is a well-established company that 'provides educational expeditions in the developing world which teach life skills and expand minds outside the classroom' - please see www.world-challenge.co.uk for more information.
Rob Wilson, the expedition leader, sent periodic updates back on the group's progress and activities, which follow below.
Many of the team are now back at school after their adventures (with the rest now enjoying their new found status as Old Salopians). It appears that the bonds forged in Venezuela are still strong, and there is a certain added maturity that the members of the expedition now carry well on their shoulders. I am currently looking into the possibility of running another trip of this nature in the Summer of 2011 for members of the current 5th and Lower Sixth form. A decision should be made around Christmas, but if parents or pupils are interested in recieving more information when available, they should feel free to contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
7th September 2009
On 7th July 18 Shrewsbury pupils departed on a World Challenge expedition to Venezuela. After a short stop in Madrid, the group finally arrived in Caracas to find that the vast majority of their bags had not. So began a waiting game that ended two days later when a man in a truck turned up at our hotel with 19 shrinkwrapped parcels.
Amazingly this only put us about 4 hours off schedule and we set off for the Henri Pittier National Park for our acclimitaisation trek. The first "day" was a 2 hour walk in darkness uphill to our first campsite (which turned out to be no more than a slightly wider section of the path). Day 2 was almost all uphill for another 5 hours, but brought us out to a fantastic campsite with views of the city of Maracay. Day 3 was by far the hardest, 25 hours through the jungle on rough terrain. The guidance notes said that it would take at least 10 hours, we did it in 10.5, a credit to the resiliance of the team that everyone made it to the end. Day 4 was mostly downhill through Cocoa plantations bringing us to the end of the trail at a town called Chauo where the team gorged themselves on coca cola and chocolate cake (made from the local beans).
A day on Chuao beach was a welcome reward after such a challenging trek, and the prevalence of insects that feast on your legs did nothing to dampen everyone´s spirits.
We are now in the city of Cuidad Bolivar ready to head to a remote Indian village where we will be painting a medical outpost and entertaining the children.
14th July 2009
We have just returned from the village of Boca de Nichare on the Rio Caura where we carried out the project phase of our expedition.
It was a bit of a mission to reach the village. We left our accommodation in Cuidad Bolivar at 5am for a 4 hour bus ride, but this was just the start. What followed was a 7 hour boat ride along the Rio Caura to reach the village - a total journey time that matched our flight from London to Caracas! I must mention the boat, it was nothing more than a hollowed out tree in which the team sat on planks. Luckily there was an engine, I don't think we would have been able to paddle the whole way. After so long speeding through jungle that all looked the same we felt the remoteness of the village that we would call home for the next 5 days.
Our task whilst in the village was to repaint their medical centre, and to teach and entertain the local children. The latter of these tasks was certainly a problem as we found out that we had arrived during the village's 'summer vacation' and there were only 2 or 3 children around. No matter, we set about painting the medical centre, but were instantly worried when we opened the paint that our Venezualan helper had selected was an interesting shade of off-white resembling sand rather than the brilliant white that we had expected. Luckily it dried as a much more pleasant shade by the time we left, and with the edges picked out in blue the medical centre looked much better than when we arrived.
Tonight is an overnight bus to Santa Elena for our trek to the top of Mount Roraima, the inspiration for Arthur Conan-Doyle's 'The Lost World'.
20th July 2009
I am pleased to report that our ascent of Mount Roraima went without major incident and that the team are all in high spirits as I write this at the prospect of a celebratory pizza this evening - although I´m not too sure about the "ant and termite" flavour that some of the team will be dining on!
Our 6 day adventure up (and down) Mount Roraima began with 2 days walking across the Gran Sabana (a large area of open grassland) towards the highest of the tepuis (Table Top mountains). On our second night we camped at base camp with the vertical edge of the mountain looming above us. No-one seemed particularly nervous about the prospect of what was to come the following day, but I´m sure there were a few butterflies. Our ascent of "the Ramp" the next day was difficult, 4 hours of constanst ascent, including passing directly under two waterfalls. When we reached the top the atmosphere of elation could be felt in the air, a real achievement for a team of mixed ability. The top of Roraima really is like nowhere else on Earth. There are frogs which crawl rather than hop, and when they get scared, blow themselves up into a ball and roll away! There are a number of caves on the summit to camp in, known on the mountain as "Hotels"! The next day was spent exploring the summit including ice cold plunge pools and looking though "The Window", a hole in the rock which allows you to see 600m staight down to the forest below - not something for the faint-hearted! The descent of the Ramp the following day filled me with fear as the rocks were slippery and hard to negotiate, but all credit to the team as they helped each other through.
Next up for us is the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Angel Falls, I for one cannot wait.
28th July 2009
We have just returned from spending 3 days visiting Angel Falls, the highest single drop waterfall in the world (I think that´s the right definition!). We are now in the town of Puerto Columbia on the Caribbean coast enjoying a couple of days of rest and relaxation. On Wednesday we will leave for Caracas for our return flight, and by Thursday evening we should be back in Shrewsbury.
3rd August 2009