St John Plessington Catholic College

India 2017

2nd July 2017 - 16th July 2017

India South - World Challenge 2017  Review               

A report from the eyes of one of our challengers.

India was incredible. Not only was it incredible, it was fantastic, exiting, terrifyingly splendid and an all-round terrific trip. There are many adjectives to describe the time I had in India but there are too many to list how absolutely brilliant it was.

The first time I heard the words "World Challenge" I knew that I wanted to be a part of something wonderful. I wanted to go even before I knew which country it was that we would be traveling to. I watched others packing rucksacks filled with clothes, first aid bags, raincoats and boots and setting off into the unknown with tales of adventure following them behind. I wanted be a part of something that I could write about for years. So when the time came I was going to apply.

Finally when the first assembly came around, I devoured each syllable of each word that Mr Nunnery spoke making sure that when I went home, I could tell it just right so that I could ask my parents if I could go to India. After many days of "maybe" they said yes. I was going to go on a real expedition to another real country. Now the real hard work began.

Nearly a year and a half later, after trial and error, major exams, cupcake cases, walked dogs and a new job. The date arrived. Sunday 2nd July 2017. That date had seemed so far away for so long. But I had worked so hard that it almost crept up on me. I was packed and kitted out and ready to meet the team at the airport. We all waved goodbye and we were off!   Goodbye England, Namaskaram India!

Two planes later we had arrived in Cochin. Already feeling like we had been away a week we headed to our first hotel in Cochin "Santa Cruz". We stayed here for two nights and a day and a half were we travelled around in tuk tuks and got to grips with how things worked and how life was going to be for the next two weeks.

Before we knew it we left early in the morning on Wednesday 5th July 2017 to head off to our four day trek that would take place in Munnar along the Western Gats. Upon arrival the sense of true India was gifted to us all. The scenery was like a painting on the walls of a museum with each detail flourishing with greens and oranges which was nothing like any mountain at home. We set off after lunch time for our first camp. We still all hardly knew each other so walking side by side were something of a team building exercise. New conversations about each other’s journey to India were different to the next persons and yet we were comfortable in one another’s company. We were all different but we all shared a similar trait, we all loved adventure and we all loved a challenge.

Day by day each trek went by. The night times were filled with fun and games, riddles and curry. The fire was lit each night and burned memories into our minds. Some nights were better than others as unfortunately we are only human after all. No journey ever goes smoothly but that's what makes it a journey. You can't escape the possible sickness that comes with travelling to the other side of the world as me and Miss Pritchard, Abbie and Matthew discovered one eventful night.

Day three came and then day four and soon the trek was over. It was good fun and challenging to say the least. We packed our bags as best we could for another early leave in the morning of Sunday 9th July 2017. Already a week had gone by and there was still so much to look forward to. We travelled to our project phase in a town called Haripad. We arrived and then said goodbye to our trek guides Roger and Rattan or who was best known to our team as "Rattan the Man". We called him this as not even our school D of E leaders could run up Moel Famau in walking boots let alone the Western Gats which Rattan seemed to do with ease even wearing flip flops which put us all to shame.

The next day we made way for the school which we were assigned to work on. The school was called Zion School located a couple of miles away from our Hotel. We were met with laughter and grinning faces and a wonderful welcome dance. I can't forget to mention the roses we were gifted to by to the children themselves who seemed to have nothing but gave us everything. Everyone was given a role on site from removing plaster to teaching English to playing stuck in the mud. Everyone got stuck in and before we knew it the day was over with. The small hands of the children who had been clenching HB pencils in the classrooms now waved us goodbye.

The following day we woke up early to head to morning mass at the local Catholic Church. Service started at seven and lasted until eight which is very different to the normal ten o'clock start back home! We then got tuk tuks down to the school again although we had to hop skip and jump onto a makeshift path as the yard had flooded with rainwater. However, instead of wet break, the break was wet and the children were not fazed that their playground was beneath the water and instead made us our own path while they stood ankle deep in water showing us kindness when again they had nothing. I took this personally and was overwhelmed by their high morals for strangers who they made feel like family in the hours they had known us. Another day done and the school was on its way to looking great. The other team had joined us at this point so the job was fast upon completion. Even playing was exhausting! We headed back to the hotel via tuk tuks again and that was the end of the day.

The final day of project phase was the hottest of all the days we had already had in India. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work determined to complete what we had set out to do. The children were comfortable with us by now and even took it upon themselves to take us away from work to play hide and seek which was brilliant fun and seemed harder than the actual work! The day ended with a celebration were the children danced, sang and performed for us and we were gifted the goddess of dance as a parting gift. We said our goodbyes, dished out the sweets and headed back for our final night in Haripad.

The next morning was another early start to our day as we left for Alleppey for our rest and relaxation phase. The trip was nearly over and something I didn't want to happen so soon. We left on Thursday 13th July 2017 by tuk tuks to the train station and then took the train to Alleppey. After successfully taking our first train journey we then took more tuk tuks to our hotel "Wind n Waves" which was on the corner of a small street but led directly to the beach and the beach led to the vast blue Indian Ocean. We then set off once more for a six hour trip on a houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala which is on the top 100 things to do before you die. And it was a stunning adventure. Time seemed to stop and we could finally relax and take it all in without having to make sure we were home by dark in time for tea. Although we were shaded we all somehow managed to get burnt by the end of our journey. We said goodbye to the other team and headed back to the hotel in search of a restaurant for dinner. Some of us took and evening stroll along the beach where we witnessed crabs scuttling in and out of the ocean and then burying themselves in the sand. Soon the day was over and we headed back to the hotel after dinner which took place in a restaurant in the middle of a construction site. It was an ironic way to end the peaceful day we'd had.

The following morning we headed out to KFC before kayaking along the backwaters we had drifted down the day before. The people who worked  in KFC were so pleased to see us all that by the end of our meals we all took pictures together.  It was like we were some sort of local celebrities and we thought it was great. We headed down to kayaking and we were briefed on the dangers we may or may not encounter and that meant snakes in the water! We got into our kayaks two by two and headed out into the river and paddled through the shimmering water beneath us. Our experience took us four hours and our pit stop was held at a small island were fishermen sailed past in either bewilderment or awe for our laughing and moaning. We then put all our effort into paddling back to base. But before we were to make it back, at least one person had to fall in right? And of course that person had to be a teacher. Poor Miss Pritchard fell into the murky river, meters from being back at base. We had enough energy to giggle though! We made it back and got tuk tuks back to the hotel when a few of us decided to make the most of our wet clothes and go for a swim in the Indian Ocean. When the other team claimed to be staying at a hotel with an infinity pool, we all rejoiced at the idea that our pool was in fact infinite and led to all the corners of the world. A perfect end to a perfect last day.

And so our final day Saturday 15th July 2017 was spent at the markets in the morning after packing our things together to buy gifts for our loved ones back home. Before leaving we spent the last few hours on the beach catching that last few rays of the Indian summer sun before heading to the airport to go home. Upon arriving at the airport the monsoon that we were promised all two weeks finally showed it upon leaving for good. Two planes later we were back at Manchester airport greeting our families with open arms and sunburnt faces carrying with us our last few hours in India.

India- The land of curiosity and kindness.

World challenge has given me a new outlook on life. I can achieve many things in my life and have fun doing it. Get out there. Share and expand your life. The greatest opportunities await you but nothing comes easy without a challenge. Be prepared to go around the world for something great! World challenge is the change you need to prove how pushing yourself that bit further gives you the advantage on everything that you do. Be the change you want to see in yourself first and you can achieve anything.

Thank you for reading!