10th November 2012
It was my first experience being in the great wild outdoors without my parents or any family members around. My friends and I had been talking about it for months… at school, at home and on the bus to school and back. We tried to imagine what it would be like. Would there be tents, camps, bunk beds? Would it be like an Enid Blyton adventure? Could we stay up all night having feasts and telling jokes? Would we get to play tricks or scare each other with spooky ghost stories? Would I be okay? What if I didn’t like it? Would I miss home too much? Would home actually miss me…?
On the morning of the trip my mum and I piled into a friend’s car and drove in the pitch dark early morning to school. My friend and I sat in the back of the car talking about what we had forgotten to pack… had I packed a notebook? Some pencils? Extra socks? Mosquito repellent? It was all too exciting and the journey to school had never felt this thrilling before.
We got there and found small clumps of sleepy looking parents hefting big bags for excited bouncy children all rushing around looking for their friends. It was a bit of a madhouse with teachers trying to round up children and hand out ID cards and parents saying a million last-minute reminders and goodbyes. The crowd was all abuzz with chatter and laughter and I really didn’t have the time to get nervous, but it seemed to take an awfully long time to get everyone organised, accounted for and on the huge waiting buses. And then of course we all had to get out again and go for a last minute loo break. We finally got back on to the buses, found our places, and pressed our faces against the bus windows looking for our parents to wave goodbye to. But all too soon the buses were moving and it felt like even a hundred hugs and kisses from my mum would still not be enough.
The bus journey was very long and very soon we ran out of energy and activities to do. Finally we reached Coorg and stopped at the edge of a little village where we saw some jeeps waiting for us. We gratefully jumped into the jeeps but then had the bumpiest ride in all of history. A battered, tired group of grade 4 campers finally made it to our destination.
The camp was called Honey Valley and was surrounded by a forest; it really was beautiful. But then it started to rain and we had to be shown to our rooms. The rooms were simple and just had a double-bed, a bed side table and a small mirror, yet they felt quite homely and comfortable. There were four of us girls sharing the room.
That first night at a strange new camp, I didn’t sleep very well at all. I missed my mum and I was scared that a spider might crawl into my sleeping bag and I kept waking up, sweaty and scared. I’d feel around my sleeping bag, flash my torch around the room… just checking for stray creepy crawlies trying to share my space and then exhaustedly slump into bed, only to wake again shortly.
The next morning we had to wake up at 6:00am, get dressed and go and drink some warm milk which I did quite happily. It was nice to be out of my sleeping bag but oh! How cold it was. I was just beginning to settle in when a piercing shriek brought everyone to my classmate Divya’s side. “There’s a leech on my foot” she screamed repeatedly, thrashing her legs about. We all watched in horror as the enormity of the situation hit us… there were LEECHES! Here! Oh no!!! We all panicked and wondered who would be the dreaded creature’s next victim.
We didn’t have time to dwell on it as we were all summoned for ‘Jugguja’, a quick exercise and warm-up routine. This was great fun, it was like playing ‘Simon says’ in front of a mirror. We then had breakfast, and were divided into our groups to go and do different activities. We followed this same morning routine every day we were there, with a different set of activities to look forward to each day. The main activities were bouldering, back packing, a long trek and rappelling.
Bouldering, my all-time favourite activity, is climbing boulders (rocks under 12 feet) using the grips and holds in the rocks. This was brilliant, especially since my group got to do it on the only sunny day we had on our entire stay at Coorg.
Backpacking, another of the activities was a short walk around the forest, which was literally leech- galore. They were everywhere! I was lucky not to get any leech bites even though some people got about eleven! I can’t decide which was more irritating – the endless rain or the gazillions of leeches!
On the third day we went on a really long trek to the top of the second highest peak in Coorg and we had a fairy-tale view from up there. It was misty and rainy but we managed it on our hands and knees, helping each other scramble over slippery rocks.
On the last day, as we made our way back home, we stopped to go rappelling in Ramanagaram. Rappelling is basically stepping off and walking down a cliff backwards… and it is really as cool as it sounds. A great end to a great adventure.
But it wasn’t all hard work and no play. In the afternoons, I had fun playing with the skipping ropes, the diablos, the hoops and the balls. We even had bonfires on the non-rainy evenings. They were cosy and warm and very enjoyable. Many of my friends insisted on singing some rather ‘un-campfire’ songs like “Rolling in the Deep” instead of songs like “She’ll be coming round the mountain”…but I guess that was my Enid Blyton idea of a campfire.
We still had a great time but by the end of it I was quite happy to leave. I felt terribly homesick and I was a bit worried that I couldn’t even remember what my sister’s squeaky little voice sounded like anymore. I neatly packed my backpack and gratefully climbed into the bus home… it had been a long and tiring four days… never had a mere four days felt this long or packed with activity. I was exhausted but I was definitely glad to have gone on the trip!