Part 2: DofE Bronze Canoeing Practice and Training Weekend

Bronze practice DofE expedition.

Before the expedition had even begun, the team had the (what proved to be very) challenging task of actually getting to the campsite by ourselves. It was a smooth journey to paddington station and we arrived with plenty of time to visit Starbucks and McDonald’s.

We found out the train would be departing from platform 13 and made our way over. To our confusion platform 13 turned out to be non existent, the train was not there and did not appear for another five minutes or so.

To our horror we saw that the train we were meant to be on was at a different platform but we were only alerted to this when we saw the other DofE team frantically calling us to come over. The train had already been there for at least 8 minutes so we raced down the platform with our heavy rucksacks and persuaded the people working there to let us back through the gates. Meanwhile, an orchestra in the middle of the station were passionately playing there piece as loudly as they possibly could. With chips and frapuchinos flying from our hands we made it on to the train just in time.

We arrived to the next station to change, only one train ride away till we were there! Half of my team made their way to the next platform whilst the other half ran about the platform only to realise they had left a tent somewhere! There was a short moment of silence, where we all looked at eachother. One of those moments where no one knew quite the right thing to do. In the end we decided that half of us would go to the campsite and set up the tents and start cooking dinner while the other half would wait to retrieve the tent and get on the next train.

Needless to say not everyone was happy with my decision, but it worked out for the best in the end.

After a short walk, a couple of smashed bolognaise jars and a bit of tension between the teams we arrived at the campsite. We set up the tents and began to cook the meal. One team member had forgotten to check all his tent poles and even left a food bag in his fridge at home. But we made do with what we had. The other half of the team arrived not too long after. We had made it… just about… and the expedition hadn’t even started.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing by our campfire till about 1am. It was really nice way to end a stressful day. We got up the next morning, made breakfast and prepared lunch. It grew more and more apparent that 80% of my team did not grasp the concept of a clean, well functioning campsite nor were any of them domestic goddesses. Some barking of orders and frantic tidying later and we were ready with our paddles to get into our canoes.

We learnt and improved many skills that day with our canoeing instructor from knots to learning to steer the canoe. Everyone had their share of strengths and weaknesses but we all pulled together and worked well as a team on water. It was really fun learning to paddle well in the canoe and I think everyone really enjoyed it despite the odd capsize.

I’ve decided not to talk about the chicken Gouijon incident. Lets just say it was a very low point and we wish to discuss it no further.

It was time. The moment we had all been dreading. Wet drills. Josie and I found ourselves plunged into the icey cold water and set with the task of rescuing ourselves and the canoe. As the current pulled us in the wrong direction we summoned all our strengths to drag the canoe to shore. As our whole lives flashed before us we eventually managed to get the canoe ashore (with a little help from Ollie) as our instructor Neville cackled with glee.

Bodies numb and hearts pounding we made our way to the showers grateful for the clean floor and warm water.

Whilst the other Bronze team tucked themselves in for an early night, our night was still young. After a night of socialising with members of KXESU (and a little bit of flirting) we finally snuggled into our sleeping bags, dreaming of traumas yet to come.

We woke up to see the other team sat ready by the river to get into their canoes whilst I was still struggling to herd my DofE team out of their tents using the friendly scent of bacon. Emotions were running high as we drove to the start of our journey that day. The arguments eventually settled down by the time we ate lunch and had got our canoes ready.

My stress levels were already at there peak when a pair of piercing dark eyes dug into me accompanied by a booming voice. “Get off your fat arses and help with the boats” even though the boats had already been set out and we had been told to go and eat lunch. As I gazed into Magnus’ eyes I realised they held a deep eternal darkness, but of course, this did not stop me from protecting my team. Nobody, yes nobody, talks to my helpless but sweet hearted DofE team like that except for me and sometimes Marlon.

The voyage on our canoes was overall a pleasant experience as my team were vey confident with the canoes by this point. Across the water we could here the distant bickering of the other DofE team and we didn’t feel so bad. I must add the trip was made more difficult when my canoe partner thought it would be fun to lie back and close her eyes as we approached a strong, powerful current. But lets not go into that.

Once we made it back to the campsite we packed up, ready to leave. But we still had one more challenge… Magnus! In the end Marlon distracted him for long enough for us to struggle away with our bags.

I personally learnt a lot from my DofE experience . Not only how to steer a canoe but I think that I improved my skills in leadership, getting on with things and making decisions. I feel our independence, maturity and sensitivity towards others were all developed through this camp. We discovered all we were capable of, especially working as a team. We defiantly know our areas of improvement for next time.

Lucy Laverty, Bronze DofE Team B Leader.