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Derby High's Silk Route expedition

Derby High School students took on the Silk Route in a World Challenge expedition to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | October 15, 2014 | International

Joanne Skinner, Alicia Fothergill and Helena Cochrane were among 16 girls from Derby High School who took part in the World Challenge expedition.

They completed two treks and stayed in a mountain village, helping to plaster and paint a newly built community centre.

All the students were responsible for planning the accommodation, travel and finances during the month-long trip.

On arrival in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, the students had to book accommodation and buy supplies.

Joanne, 17, said: “We all had a couple of wobbles when we first arrived just because we were in a strange place and we had to plan the whole trip. The language barrier was difficult because not many people spoke English and a lot of the time we had to try to draw pictures to communicate which was difficult. We were OK after a few days though, once we got used to our surroundings.”

The girls then took part in a six-day acclimatisation trek in Son Kul, Kyrgyzstan, before the main trekin the Terskey Alatau area of the Tien Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan.

Alicia, 17, said: “I think the acclimatisation trek was harder than the main trek because we were getting used to trekking at altitude and it was so hot; we did feel more confident by the time we had finished it.”

Helena, 17, commented: “We had hydration packs and we would drink the water from them using a tube and feel exhausted. Trekking at altitude was very difficult because none of us had experienced that before. We would walk just a short distance and feel tired; climbing was particularly hard.”

The main trek saw the girls walking for six to eight hours a day over seven days.

Helena added: “It started snowing at one point and the guide said it was the first time he had to use a harness to get some of us down the mountain. It was quite scary but the views made it all worth it, they were amazing.”

The girls then travelled to Uzbekistan where they took part in a community project in the mountain village of Nuratau.

Alicia said: “We were using our hands and brushes to plaster the walls of a community centre with mud and water. I think it had just been built because it was in a bit of a state, there was really thick dust on the floor. Then we gave it three coats of whitewash and cleaned the place up. The villagers kept trying to help us because they said they weren’t sure that girls should be doing heavy lifting but we were quite happy and just got on with it. It looked so much better when we’d finished and there was a special thank you ceremony held for us. The people who lived there said the work we had done changed their view of what girls could do.”

Carole Riley, Head of Key Stage 4 and Chemistry at the school, in Hillsway, Littleover, led the trip with the school’s Head of Art, Sarah Martin-Smith and Lucy Baker, Year 5 teacher in the Primary Department at Derby High School.

Miss Riley said: “Breathtaking scenery, stunning architecture and welcoming locals perhaps made this one of our best destinations yet for a World Challenge expedition. Both treks were incredibly challenging and we did wonder whether we would all manage to get over the high pass on the main trek. The girls really had to dig deep to complete it, which delighted our expedition leader, Dave Ascough, who had tried and failed with another team last year. It is fantastic to see the girls grow in confidence over the month and to develop new skills; one parent has already commented on how their daughter now seems more independent.”

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