Pudsey Squadron Have an Epic Time in Bavaria
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By Alex Blaikie - 2387 (Pudsey) Squadron
A gruelling 5,850ft climb to a mountain peak. A nail-biting ride down Austrian white water rapids. A picturesque stroll to a fantasy castle. Just three of the activities undertaken by cadets from 2387 (Pudsey) Squadron during their week-long EPIC (European Project of International Culture) trip to Bavaria.
International correspondent – and Squadron Media Communications Officer – Alex Blaikie gives us the lowdown on seven action-packed days:
Day one – A ferry crossing from Dover to Calais and a coach journey through France to the southernmost area of Germany, was all it took for the cadets and staff of Pudsey Squadron to reach a little town called Sontofen, where their cultural adventure could begin – apart from the frantic packing; the many fundraising events; the physical preparation; the weeks and months of planning; and the little German phrasebook! Upon arriving in glorious sunshine at the foot of a towering mountain called the Grunten, Squadron Leader Steve Dunn, our expedition co-ordinator, briefed our itinerary for the week.
Day Two involved a challenging hike to the peak of the nearby Grunten Mountain which stands around 5,850ft above sea level. The younger members of the expedition took a less challenging but still demanding route around the mountain, however both teams’ routes took them down through the Klamm – a gorge creeping down the side of the mountain. Cadet Cpl Bradley Brennan said that “although it was physically demanding and a long day, it was made much easier being part of an encouraging and supportive team”.
Day Three was a cultural day during which we travelled to the City of Munich. We were given an opportunity to explore the BMW world museum and showrooms, where we had to drag Cadet Sergeant Jenna Sykes away from the motorbikes (it’s a good job she didn’t have a credit card as there definitely wasn’t space on the coach). From the BMW factory we took a tour to around the grounds and tower of the 1972 Munich Olympic park. After being the host nation for the 2012 Olympics, it was interesting to see the similarities and the differences between the two locations; structurally it was very similar, although we noted a tremendous difference in our reliance on technology. Our visit then took us to Dachau, a Second World War Concentration camp. Finding out the true history of events was a humbling experience, but the cadets were honoured to be able to pay their respects.
Day Four started with a beautiful scenic coach journey into nearby Austria, where we were suited and booted but not in the finest linens – in wetsuits, helmets and buoyancy aids! After driving to a more elevated point on the river, we met our instructors and carried boats to the river to undertake our next exciting activity – white water rafting. The scorching 34°C heat – plus wearing thick wetsuits and carrying equipment – meant we were uncomfortably hot by the time we reached the start line so and happily jumped into the icy Austrian river! We journeyed down the river for several hours learning the techniques of the boat, emergency procedures and how to get in and out the boat – both aided and unaided. Cadet Jacob Harrison said “At first it wasn’t too difficult to climb back into the boat by yourself but after you were tired from paddling and the cold water took your breath away and your strength, having your mates in the boat to help you was a great reassurance!” Cadet Megan Whittaker said that she was a bit apprehensive at first but it was her highlight of the trip and wants to go white-water rafting again.
Day Five was another cultural day but one to enjoy with each other in the brilliant weather. The morning was a chance to explore a nearby authentically Bavarian town where we drank and ate a lot of Kaffee und Kucken (coffee and cake) and was a great chance to pick up some souvenirs. We then parked up the coach in another nearby town before ascending another mountain to explore King Ludwick’s Neuschwanstein Castle (made famous in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). We managed to attract quite a lot of attention when we tried to take a group picture wearing our EPIC themed t-shirts!
Day six – another glorious day; the group was split, with one group going ahead to the mountain activity and the other started with a bike ride from the nearby town of Sontofen northwards to the big lake. The heat made the ride quite an effort but we were fortunate to have many breaks at the smaller lakes to cool off in the shade with refreshing beverages. Upon our destination at the foot of another mountain, we swapped over with the other team who rode our bikes back to the lodge and we began the activity they had just finished. It started with an amazing ski-lift ride right up the mountain face with fantastic views to a forested area on the side of the mountain. In the forest later on we undertook a gut-wrenching high-ropes course. Cadet Harry Davies said “I was really scared but with the encouragement of my friends I managed to complete the course. I know now that I can push myself to achieve things I never thought I would be able to before”. To get down the mountain would have been rather a long walk and we were physically exhausted from the bike ride and the day’s other activities but fortunately, we had planned to use the Alpseecoaster instead to return to valley base – this was an exhilarating toboggan ride down the mountain face!
Day seven – sadly our last. We made a short trip towards to Austrian border to a small village called Oberstdrof where the National German Ski Jumping teams train and practice for the Winter Olympics. Another chance to sample the cafés and do our final shopping in the markets. Before returning back to our lodge we enjoyed an afternoon in a nearby adventure pool fitted with slides, wave machines and an outdoor open pool area which had outstanding views of the beautiful mountains. It was a fantastic opportunity to just have fun and enjoy the German weather. We finished our EPIC Bavaria trip with party and all the cadets delivered a presentation about what they had experienced during the week. Cadet Will Tiffin mentioned that the trip was a great opportunity where everyone got to bond as true friends away from a Squadron environment. A lot of the cadets also touched on this with Cadet Sarah Jones saying “the trip has given me a lot of confidence. Not just to do exciting, adventurous things but as a person”. Cadet Flight Sergeant James Dunn said “I have achieved and done many things in my cadet career but this trip rates among the best; totally different to any other experience in my life, I’ll remember it forever”
Pudsey Squadron managed to pack this much into one week for their EPIC Bavarian trip and planning is already underway for EPIC 2016.