The pinnacle of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at Truro School is the annual Gold Qualifying expedition to Slovenia. This year 30 pupils took part in the nine day exchange and expedition to the southern part of the country accompanied by Miss Davies, Mr Docherty and Mr Cucknell.
Transport and Preparation
After a very early departure on Friday morning, driving through the night, the team arrived in Ljubljana mid-afternoon. From Ljubljana we caught a bus to Skofja Loka where each participant was introduced to their host family and spent the following weekend being shown around tourist sites such as Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge. The groups also completed their final expedition preparation such as buying provisions and food for their upcoming expedition. The teams met up again early on Monday morning to catch the bus south west to the expedition starting point at the small town of Col. From here each group set off on their four day expedition that would eventually finish on the Adriatic sea.
The first day was tough with an overall altitude gain of 635m up to the stunning vantage point of Plesa. The walking was mainly on forest paths and tracks in the mountainous southern region where the terrain was difficult. That night a large electric storm and torrential rain kept most of the participants awake throughout the night and we woke up in mist which reminded us of Dartmoor. Having camped on top of Plesa all the groups descended the steep limestone karst terrain in the morning into the valley bottom.
Day two saw the groups meandering through the forested hills and valleys covering over 20km before eventually camping at an amazing church situated on top of a hill that night. Hard the views been better the hill top church would have had a 360° panorama view around the surrounding countryside and unfortunately this time the wind whipped up to this exposed area leaving the groups to shelter leeward of the chapel.
The third day was a day of two extremes; starting off relatively easy by walking down into the valley and meandering through the fields the main target of the day however was the almighty Stavnik at an altitude of 1028m. This was an epic climb and took all the determination and energy the teams could muster. At the top however the groups were rewarded by an epic view of where they had started and also the temptation of the Adriatic Sea, where they were to eventually finish. Having summited Stavnik the groups had essentially broken the back of their expedition.
On the last day the terrain changed from an alpine ruggedness to the shallower hills and farming fields of the coastal regions. The heat however increased at these lower and more southern area and the teams did exceptionally well to motivate and encourage each other to finish at Koper on the short 45km coastline of Slovenia.
Following the successful trek, Mr Cucknell, Outdoor Pursuits Co-ordinator, said:
I take my hat off to all the groups who came to Slovenia this year. The conditions and terrain were exceptionally challenging and each and every participant dug deep; through blisters, aching backs and heavy loads to complete nearly 90km in an unfamiliar environment. Each person experienced highs and lows over the four day expedition and it is a credit to each group that through team work and sheer determination they woke up each morning, shouldered their packs and headed off. I know at times many felt that they could not go on and yet they did; and through this experience I hope they have built their confidence to know that when they meet hardships in the future they just need to get up, put one foot in front of the next and eventually they will succeed.
Mr Cucknell continued:
My thanks must go out to Mr Docherty and Miss Davies who accompanied me through the expedition along with Mateja and Alenka, who are our Slovenian counterparts. Valter and Jarne, who represent the Slovenian Army, were invaluable and supplied us with logistical and vehicular support through the expedition. All the host families gave our Gold participants an excellent experience of Slovenia and I am confident that we can return the favour when the Slovenians join us in Cornwall in the first week of September.