Straight after the end of term two teams left Cranleigh School for Heathrow and headed for Chengdu in the Sichuan region of China. For over a year they had been planning their trip, working on itineraries, budgets and risk assessments and were now ready to head off as fully fledged independent travellers. The teams had roughly similar itineraries, though different priorities and timings meant that they only met up a couple of times during the month away.
After a short visit to the Pandas and the Giant Budha in Leshan, as well as a taste of the notoriously spicy Sichuan food, they headed to Kangding and then Tagong in the Tibetan plateau to work on a solar project with a local family. After successfully completing the mounting and installation of the systems there was a little time left to visit a nomadic family of yak herders and participate in a local horse festival, which was still going ahead despite a large and ominous military presence in the area. After a long stay in Tagong it was time to move on. A crazy six-taxi day took the groups on to Rilong and the hospitality of Dragon Expeditions, who led us up the Champing Valley, and then a successful 5 days on Dafeng (5,033m) and (for one of the teams) Erfeng (5,276m) summits, serious alpine style peaks in the Four Sisters National Park, necessitating gradual acclimatisation and the acquisition of new skills.
Returning to Rilong and then Chengdu, the teams found themselves at Emei Shan for sunset and sunrise amongst the temples and had a random (and more than slightly hilarious) night sleeping on a restaurant floor prior to returning to Chengdu for a highly sociable night train to X’ian.
Here they stayed in a luxurious hostel, took a tandem ride around the city wall, visited the stunning and rightly famous Terracotta army and Banpo Neolithic site, finally eating in the amazing Muslim quarter, before a second night train took them to Beijing where they had amazing hospitality and visits to the unmissable Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Great Wall at Badaling.
A more experienced and travelled group met loved ones on their return to Heathrow. Older wiser and in most cases slimmer!
Many thanks to the Leader teams from Outlook and Dragon Expeditions as well as Miss Warner and Mr and Mrs Griffiths. Thanks also go to the families for supporting the students, but perhaps most importantly to the participants themselves for being such good company and being able to step up to the mark of leading and organising themselves in such an alien environment.
Dr SAH Young
Head of Outdoor Education