DOE: the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Commonly called 'a fun-filled time of camping and hiking', but, when spoken of by an honest person, called 'Now-I-truly-know-what-hell-is time'.
This is a true story. Down to every last gnat and tick.
"Come on Chantal, you've got DOE today." Mum throws open the curtains. Eyes sear with pain at the flash of sunlight. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep…slide out of bed. Proceed to shower, brush teeth and put in contact lenses in a zombie-like fashion. Next, pull on my DOE camping clothes. These consist of a fleece that will later almost kill me with heatstroke, expensive walking boots that actually make no difference when walking, 'specially made for camping' socks that are as thick as four pairs of socks and fail to prevent blisters (wince) and regular everyday garments that will be drenched in sweat later on. Once prepared for my traumatic journey, I put my gigantic DOE rucksack on. Big mistake. Yay, back pains even before I start!
Stupid team mates, making me carry the heaviest part of the tent….mutters darkly
Breakfast a poor affair of microwave porridge. I tip half a jar of sugar into it, yet this still fails to enliven me.
Still, at least my parents allowed me to bring two giant chocolate bars (yum yum) and HARIBO. Mmmmm…Haribo…
Dropped off at Sophie's house. She appears less glum, perhaps even optimistic. Stupid happy mood. Makes me feel worse.
We are joined by two more of our party, Suki and Laura, before we set off in the car. The last car I will be in before we begin the weekend of hell. These other team members are also optimistic. Am I the only manically depressed person here?!
Pile into car, which I'm surprised even starts after the tons of food packets, camping stoves, tent equipment, compasses, maps, clothes, water, emergency rations, glucose tablets and blister plasters.
Hey, we got lost even before we started! I'm glad my friend's dad isn't on our team. We can read maps at least….well, one of us can. As long as Laura doesn't faint, fall down a hill, fall off a cliff, get trampled by sheep, drown in cow pats, get assailed by ticks and flies, get blisters or food poisoning, we should be fine.
Apparently Laura can't read maps.
Ah well, it's only 15 miles over rugged, steep, cowpat infested hills. (Note the attempt to be optimistic).
We finally arrive, and squeeze out of the car. I spend a year readjusting the straps of my rucksack.
We are joined by the rest of our party (Emma and Anna).
Our exasperated DOE teacher is shoving the first year 11 group forward (we are year 10, but we're better than them). They start first. Off they go, gaily laughing and singing, almost skipping, smiles spread on their faces…I give it ten minutes.
Off we march into the bowels of the wilderness, heartlessly abandoned to our fate. I begin munching on chocolate. I seriously doubt that two bars can last me-I mean, us, since everyone else is begging for a piece-the whole weekend.
Our party has encountered several formidable looking hills, and defeated them at the cost of our hope, our faith and our energy. The sky is cloudy and gloomy, yet I feel like I'm in a desert. Look, a camel…oh, wait, I'm hallucinating…maybe I can scrounge a Lucozade energy tablet off Sophie before I begin on mine…must preserve them for as long as possible.
You know, these energy tablets don't make me feel any different. Except a little hyper, mentally speaking. Physically speaking, I'm drained.
But the energy tablets still taste good. Fizzy orange…yum…
We just crossed the M25 (a motorway, for non-English people). As we were traversing the bridge, I wondered how stupid we looked to passing cars and lorries. Mega stupid, I bet.
After crossing the M25 we stop for a snack. I eat an apple flavoured Fruit Winder. It is very tasty, but very sticky.
Good Lord. You should see the size of the hill we're looking at. Mount Everest, you have a rival.
At least Mount Everest isn't a cowpat-minefield…EEK! Cowpats are disgusting! It's impossible not to step in them. I told Suki not to wear her expensive DKNY trainers…hehe…
Still slugging up the hill.
STILL slugging up the hill.
I won't bother writing what you already know I was going to write.
WE MADE IT!
We're having a big rest now…well, that's one more year I can add to the therapy I will need in future life.
We made it to a checkpoint. A calm DOE supervisor was waiting for us there. They look cheerful. They haven't just done 6 miles of torture.
Wait…6 miles?! Is that all?!
Hehe…something to cheer me up at least. Apparently, the year 11 group that went before us came back 1 hour later to the starting point…they went in the wrong direction! They must be even more tired than us…as impossible as it might seem…
Wow. Houses. I haven't seen those for a long time. But who would want a house in the middle of nowhere? Ah well, some people are strange.
We made it to another checkpoint. Seriously, what is with the DOE supervisors being all cheerful and bright? Have they never been on a DOE expedition?!
Just got nearly run over. But what my team mates didn't know when they pulled me back to safety was that I WANTED TO DIE.
Yay, a big pollen-filled field! Perfect for my hay fever!
YES! WE ARE FINALLY STOPPING FOR LUNCH!
Sophie, Emma and I are sensible. We made sandwiches and therefore can wolf them down quickly and get on with the walking. Suki, Anna and Laura, however, are not. They are having Pot Noodles. This means an extra half hour wasted on boiling the water with our crappy stove.
I snack on Haribo and chocolate and watch the cute little spiders crawling over the ground while my team mates eat their food.
"Suki, please eat with your mouth closed."
Oh joy, another cowpat-minefield hill.
We have just discovered, to my delight and Suki's utter hysteria, that there are a bunch of irritable looking cows bivouacking on the other side of the field.
"Suki, they are cows. Stop crying, shut up, and follow the rest of us."
Great. We are now officially lost. Hurray. I looked at the map-all I can see are dots and squiggles.
We come upon a motorbiker on a footpath. Random, I know, but at least he shows us on our map where to go. I feel a little sprinkle of hope, though this saps away when I put my rucksack back on.
How long is this uphill road? And why are all the gnats attacking me?
We catch sight of a silver jeep, but wait a few more moments before allowing ourselves to think that glorious thought: CHECKPOINT.
I begin to run ahead, arms outstretched, screaming "CIVILISATION!"
I think I may be delirious.
There is more, I will be updating. I cut it short because otherwise it would be too long and then no one would read it.
I hope you found it amusing, otherwise I will be some sad person laughing at my own jokes.