This summer, two teams of our plucky Explorers will be taking on the Explorer Belt Award, hiking for 10 days through Germany. In order to prep themselves for the oncoming challenge, one team decided to take on the dangerous fields of the Isle of Wight. Armed with only their rucksacks and a Nights Away Passport, team ‘Ellie & the Twirl Bites’ boarded an 8:30am train from Waterloo, and left civilisation behind…As the ferry docked we felt giddy with excitement at the thought of being more than two hours away from our legal guardians. That was quickly brushed aside as the true enormity of our plan hit us. Our trek started with a scenic walk along the pebbly beaches of Yarmouth, heading west towards the Needles. Soon enough the cerulean blue of the Solent was left behind as we headed through a forest. After a brief flirt with a wooden statue we carried on our treacherous route until we reached the wreckage of a path, where erosional processes had led to the untimely demise of a section of path that we desperately needed. Luckily this had been in 2012, so a new path had since been created. We came to the realisation that we were navigating by a pier that existed on the map, but not in real life, meaning that in fact we were further than we had thought! Turning left, we headed up the winding road to eventually meet our campsite. Once arrived we checked in, receiving the locals’ now familiar questioning of our sanity for undertaking this journey. Within minutes we had our tent pitched and were heading back to a shop we had seen earlier to gather supplies. After much debate, and a demand for protein and vegetables, our dinner menu was sorted: pasta and tomato sauce with tuna and tinned carrots (not as weird as it sounds, actually). Ice cream was, of course, a necessity, as was hot chocolate. Rations for the next day were bought and we left the shop with a dry bag full of food and the ice creams already in our hands, ready to be gobbled down by ravenous mouths. Once we returned to our campsite, we were exhausted after our hard day of hiking, and so had a nap in the sun – not unlike a cat might. However, for Zuza this nap resulted in some interesting tan lines from her hiking socks!
By the time 5 o’clock rolled around, it was the general consensus that it was time for dinner, and so, with stoves put expertly together, our massive bag of pasta was cooked, before being mixed with the tomato sauce, tuna and carrots. Once the vast amount of food had been consumed, we washed up and put everything away, then decided to head down the long and winding road to the Needles, where we would watch the sunset and take aesthetic photos. It turned out that we severely overestimated the distance we had to walk, and it only took us half an hour. By the time we got to the geographical beauty that is the Isle of Wight’s Alum Bay, the associated tourist areas were a deserted wasteland, full of nothing but the pounding sun and the blasting wind. After realising we were three hours early for the magnificent sunset we anticipated, we decided to head off down the path towards the westernmost tip of the island, where the Needles themselves were located. If you weren’t aware of some of the geographical wonders of the coasts of the Isle of Wight, let me enlighten you. The sheer chalk cliffs allow for the formation of what are known as stacks and stumps. These are formed through many complex processes, but if we’re going back to the basics they are just bits of rock that are sticking out of the ocean (which are pretty cool if you’re a geography student!).The path that led down to the Needles was an estimated 20 minute walk, as we learnt from the nice National Trust sign at the beginning of the path. These 20 minutes were spent enjoying the geology of the local landscape – well, that’s what happened for me and Carina, Zuza just called us geography nerds and looked disappointed. When we reached the Needles we took many photos and panoramas of the stunning view, before walking back incredibly slowly to the viewpoint at Alum Bay, which would be the best place from which to see the sunset. Two hours passed, in which we danced, sang and froze in the howling wind. Time lapses were attempted and failed, before we got to 9:06pm, which (according to multiple weather apps) was when the sun was supposed to set. Instead of descending in a glorious array of colours, however, the sun went behind a cloud. We decided to head back to camp with high spirits ready for the next day.At 7am a whole chorus of alarms went off, jerking us out of our slumber and on to the day ahead. We started with packing everything back into our rucksacks, before enjoying a breakfast of numerous chocolate brioches and hot chocolate. After packing the tent down we went off on our way, saying cheery goodbyes to our fellow campers and the owners of the campsite. It was with joy in our hearts that we set off that sunny morning, heading up the first hill of the day. At the top of this treacherous hill sat Tennyson’s Monument, with stunning panoramic views of the whole of the Isle of Wight. Once much water had been drunk, we set off again in the scorching heat heading downhill to Freshwater Bay. Here Carina and I nerded out some more about the geography (stacks and stumps!) before the trio carried on, going north this time, and experiencing some of the majestic fields of the island. Soon signs pointing toward the final destination of Yarmouth appeared, with gradually decreasing distances, which lead to the realisation that we were moving quicker than expected (yes, again). This meant that we soon rounded a corner only to find that we had reached the road we started at the day before, completing our planned circular route.
It was quickly agreed that lunch was a good idea, and we enjoyed a feast of salami wraps and twirl bites, sitting on the edge of the water with hiking boots and socks removed – always a great feeling!. This, of course, escalated to a small amount of paddling in the cool sea, before lazing around on the promenade waiting for the ferry for which we were 5 hours too early (better early than late, right?).
As Carina neared the end of her book that had so far survived the journey, we thought the time was right for a lovely cream tea in the sun, so we once again hoisted our rucksacks onto our backs, winced as we did up the waist straps and headed back into Yarmouth in search of a cream tea near the sea. It didn’t take long to find, and we managed to negotiate the tearoom without causing any serious injuries with our massive bags, quickly getting down to enjoying our scones. Once these were finished, we completed our expedition with the short walk back to the ferry terminal where it all began.