This was a hugely successful expedition. Feedback from parents during this last week has been wholeheartedly positive and has expressed a lot of gratitude for the wonderful opportunity we gave to the pupil participants.
Maybe I should start with a few short quotes from participants:
“I have seen and experienced things that I am certain I shall never forget.”
“This trip will stay with me for the rest of my life”
“This incredible trip was a once-in a lifetime chance and I have enjoyed every moment of it”.
“This trip was the most amazing experience of my life”
I will certainly never forget the experiences, the views and the comradeship that I have enjoyed”.
The Transport went very smoothly throughout. The flights were efficient and on time. Ladakh flights are, of course, dependent on weather conditions, but we managed to get to our destination reasonably on time in both directions. Local transport had been very efficiently organised by Tundup Dorjey, who leads “Overland Escape”, the local outfit we used.
The cultural programme in Ladakh was very successful, at least partly due to an excellent guide, who could really give us insight into the Ladakhi way of life and its religious background. The Ladakhi cultural evening with songs and traditional dances on our last evening in Leh was also really appreciated.
The trek was brilliantly organised by Tundup, the guide and support team were excellent and we were really well looked after throughout.
Food was of a very high quality both in the Lotus Hotel in Leh and during the trek. As a consequence, there were only a few cases of (thankfully short-term) sickness.
Very importantly, the weather was very kind to us. After some snow on our first day in Leh, the weather cleared and for 10 days on the trek it was absolutely brilliant. As we had clear sunshine on all high days on the trek, the views and the light were absolutely stunning. When there was some rain and more cloud on the last day of the trek, it did not matter to us anymore, as we just had an easy route to complete.
Thankfully, we did not need the satellite phone during this expedition, but it provided a safety net just in case.
We knew that altitude sickness was a potentially high risk and took every precaution possible. We had built in a long acclimatisation period in Leh before starting the trek and once on the trek ascended very slowly before we reached the highest pass. A number of pupils suffered mild symptoms of altitude sickness on the first two days in Leh, but quickly recovered. Rory Gascoigne was taken to hospital to receive oxygen in order to help his acclimatisation process and subsequently managed to complete the trek without any further difficulties.
Choice of destination: Ladakh proved an extremely popular destination with all participants due to the immense opportunities it offers with regard to its culture and its mountain challenges, which are just appropriate for a group like ours. The experience of the region I brought to the expedition was also a very important safety factor and it enabled us to devise a relevant and valuable programme throughout.
It is quite amazing, in a way, that on an expedition of this magnitude there was not a single injury. This was at least partly due to the excellent discipline within the group.
The staff team worked extremely hard, supported each other well and got on very well with each other. They had prepared the group well for the EFL teaching at Druk Pema, they entertained the students positively after arriving at campsites during the trek, and formed good positive relationships with the participants.
Future expeditions: I have already made tentative plans for the next expedition in April 2009. Ladakh is an ideal destination, and the fact that we have an excellent support team there (Tundup Dorjey and Overland Escape) together with our educational connections with White Lotus School guarantee the educational value of an expedition there.