Leeches in the Knuckles

Orienteering lessons on saturday. Photo taken by me

Duke of Edinburgh

Duke of Edinburgh is a youth program founded by Prince Charles and spread over 144 countries. It awards the development of self skills, and encourages an appreciation for the great outdoors. I have personally spent many hours playing badminton, practicing MUN and  servicing young women, to achieve this award. Additionally, I have undergone lengthy (8 HOURS) workshops in orienteering and first aid, even gaining qualifications to become an official  ‘First Aider’.

This trip, along with all these skills, are in preparation for a qualifying journey, where we travel to Meemure, a small hidden village in the valleys of Sri Lanka.

Only after all this, can I achieve a bronze award for Duke of Edinburgh.

I think that DofE is becoming increasingly important as children become more glued to phones and technology. It is more and more relevant in todays society, obsessed with screens.

The preparation journey

After several hours sitting idle in a bus, we arrived at the Knuckle mountain range. It derives its name from a series of recumbent folds and peaks, resembling the knuckles of clenched fist.

The campsite was strategically hidden in a small crevice, forcing us to retire from the comfort of the coach, and into the treacherous hands of nature. Baring 10 pound baggage on our backs, we commenced on our first hike. It was a difficult start to an increasingly difficult few days.

As we arrived on location, we filled our stomachs, before partaking on another hike. It was already late afternoon as we started trekking, and we returned to base by night. Watching out for creepy crawlys in the dark was quite an endeavour.

We braced ourselves for the ice cold showers before falling into deep slumber in our two-manned tents.

My group for DofE, with whom I walked many hours. Photo taken by Mr Lockwood

An early rise and a wholesome breakfast prepared us for our third hike. This was the real deal. We were obliged to take bearings, count steps, scout and map read in our groups, putting all that orienteering study into practice.

The 4 hour hike led us to a spectacular viewpoint, famous for its perfect vantage point of the rolling hills. However, all we could see was mist. Amused ,but also disappointed, we turned around and head back to the campsite.

The plethora of wildlife, including the eucalcyptus tree (imported from Australia), the sloping palm trees (adapted to grow on the side of a mountain, scientifically known as Oncosperma fasciculatum) and the Rain trees (from Brazil) was no longer of interest to us, or even Mr Lockwood. And then, the worst of the worst occurred.

Rain. Storm.

Tropical torrential rain can not be taken lightly. Scrambling for any materials to use for protection, the fear and desperation was evident in everyone. We could not distinguish between tears and rainwater trickling down our faces.  But still, this is one of my most treasured memories- splashing around and negative visibility.

The freezing showers were no consolation, but the bonfire was. It was the perfect opportunity to dry all our wet clothes, to be reworn the following day.

Refreshing dip in the waterfall. Picture taken by Mr Lockwood.

After another night of deep sleep, we began our final (optional) hike. It was coined a ‘Bronze Higher Level’ hike for its strenuous nature. The hike led us to a waterfall where we all took a spontaneous dip, becoming victims of the leeches- Leeches in the knuckles.

Returning to the comfort of warm showers, comfortable beds, and home food was an overly joyous reunion. However, I yearned for the outdoors- the excitement of cold showers, surprise rain storms, and crowded tents. I cant wait for the next journey.

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