Selected pupils from Bohunt School in Liphook were picked to participate in the school's Big Expedition to Mongolia, which took place in July 2017. Katie - one of the students chosen for the trip - had contacted us in 2016 to ask if we'd sponsor one of the races at a Race Night she was holding in May 2016 to raise funds for the trip. The event itself raised £2,600 and Katie also raised more by selling secondhand goods, babysitting, cake sales and odd jobs. All these fundraising activities helped Katie to better understand the value of money - something she's now very grateful for. In addition, she made great relationships, formed important connections and continues to babysit regularly.
After returning from the expedition, Katie kindly wrote to update us on the trip.
The pupils had been told the trip would cost £3,500 but in reality it was far more! The specialised kit, alongside the vaccinations and horse riding training they were required to have, made the total rise to £4,500!
In preparation for the trip, the pupils had two training weekends. The first was a tough camping and trekking weekend in the Lake District on a freezing weekend in November and the second, closer to home, where they learnt how to pack their kit, use their equipment and plan itineraries. They also had regular team get-togethers and a final information evening for parents, where they prepared a short presentation on various aspects of Mongolian life, culture, history etc.
When the day finally arrived, the pupils arrived at school with their backpacks and said goodbye to weeping mums, then had a full day discussing plans and doing last minute checks to make sure the kit was appropriate and that they weren't taking too much (or too little)! The team of 15 flew with Air China from Heathrow to Ulaanbaatar via Beijing.
For the first few days Katie and the team stayed in a hostel whilst they acclimatised, and shopped for the food needed for the next 3 weeks (a big challenge)! Next they ventured off on a bumpy 16 hour coach ride into Outer Mongolia, where the real expedition would begin.
A 4 day (130km) canoe trip down the River Eg was absolutely stunning but Katie was anxious, having not had much experience with canoeing. However, she was delighted to find she loved it! They saw some amazing wildlife and were regularly accompanied by Yaks and Naks (the females)!
The next phase was teaching English, which Katie was looking forward to, as she loves working with children and would like to train to be a teacher. Katie was with the youngest group (4-10 years) and was slightly shocked to find that they knew not a word of English between them, as she'd been told otherwise! Despite the setback they had an amazing time teaching, and Katie learnt a great deal from the children, as well as picking up a few phrases herself. They used methods such as memory games, pictures and speech repetition, which really worked.
The third and final phase was horse riding - also something which Katie hadn't had much experience with, though all but one member of the team were confident on horseback. As soon as Katie got on her horse all her fears faded, when she discovered it's not actually that difficult and it was absolutely amazing. Katie had the best time during this phase of the trip and surprisingly it was her favourite part. The team spent four days on their horses (some horses more lovely than others) and each day lasted roughly 6 hours with breaks.
Accommodation for the pupils during the trip was in a combination of Ger camps (similar to yurts), their own tents and hostels. They had to cook for themselves each night, take responsibility for their kit and manage budgets. It was hard work and Katie doesn't miss the toilet facilities!
When the time came to return home, Katie was sad to leave but equally excited to see her family and friends again and to get back to some home comforts. Adjusting to life back at home was more than just dealing with the jet lag as she missed the team and the buzz of doing something exciting and worthwhile each day, and found life in Liphook a little dull!
This whole experience from start to finish has taught Katie such a lot and she feels she's grown up considerably during the process. It has inspired a love of travel, an appreciation that you need to work hard to achieve your goals, taught her about teamwork, and the value of money.
Katie says she's extremely grateful that we took the time to respond so favourably to the letter she wrote to us in 2016, and added that we helped her on such an amazing journey and provided so many life long memories.
What a proud achievement for Katie and the Bohunt Mongolian Expedition team. Many congratulations from us all at Coomers!