I am a CSIA VI Form student in Year 13 and have studied French, Spanish, and History and I am currently studying English and Biology. I accepted my offer to study Biology at Warwick University in October 2016.
Thanks to the generosity of the VI Form, I was lucky enough to participate in this life-changing challenge. The scholarship helped me to fun a five-day trek in the Andes, more famously known as the Lares trail, to Machu Picchu in Peru, South America with a company called Charity Challenge. I was among seven others who endured the trek and who were all fundraising for individual charities; I myself was fundraising for the British Heart Foundation. Even though I was the youngest participant, we all came together as a team and pulled each other through this tough challenge.
After a gruelling 17 hours of flying from London Heathrow to Bogota in Columbia, then onto Lima in Peru, we finally reached our destination of Cusco in Peru sitting just under 3350m above sea level. As we were unused to the high altitude, we spent the next two days acclimatizing which involved a four-hour walk to adjust to the lack of oxygen. We met a local woman who weaves items such as cushions and clothes from Llama wool. Some of her tapestries had taken her one year to weave. It was here that I began to realise and appreciate the work ethic of Peruvian people, which was rooted in their culture and their past.
Once the team had acclimatized, we drive four hours through the Sacred Valley and passed our first high point of 4461m at Abra de Lares. It was on this day that I witnessed the truly random nature of Peruvian weather; the afternoon varied from 35-degree sunshine to a 5-degree torrential downpours. We hiked some 500m on this first day of the Lares trek and reached our camp at Cuncani (3800m) after six hours.
An early start awaited us the next morning as we trekked to Huacahuasi, our next camp site. Along the way, we were greeted by local Peruvian people, such as a six-year-old boy named Alberto and his mother who owned a Llama farm. Upon arrival, local children had gathered for us to donate gifts such as pens and pencils to them. I was truly humbled by this remote community and their appreciation of our gifts overwhelmed me.
After such a rewarding evening we began our nine-hour hike from Huacahuasi to Ollantaytambo. The weather was fortunately very pleasant for us on this day, thankfully, and we reached our highest point of 4600m.
Today was the day that we would see Machu Picchu. The excitement drove me to persevere through this very challenging day. Over the course of the day we climbed 3000 steps through the Peruvian Rainforest in 35-degree heat, however, it was wholly worth it as each step was closer to Machu Picchu itself. We passed many Incan settlements such as Winaywayna, where we stopped for lunch. On our final few hours, we passed a snake which was a little too close for comfort and many large beetles; the extent of the wildlife was astounding.
The last stretch comprised of 50 steps known as the 'stairs of death' as they are near vertical and must be climbed with caution. I knew that the Sun Gate awaited me at the top with views of Machu Picchu, so I climbed rapidly. After such endurance and perseverance, I reached the Sun Gate on Thursday 14 April and ticked off my first item from my bucket list, and my second Wonder of the World.
This was truly an emotional experience and I can whole-heartedly say that I would not recount one moment of this challenge.
But it wasn't over yet! Two days later I flew to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Rainforest for the next part of my adventure. It was here that I witnessed some truly amazing wildlife, such as bullet ants, tarantulas, macaws, and a jaguar off the reserve; it was a remarkable experience. The next day we visited a Shaman (witch doctor) in the Amazon Rainforest. It was here that I was lucky enough to learn about the natural medicinal properties of many of the local flora.
I volunteered for the Shaman to work his medicinal magic on me and apply a paste to my face which could repel mosquitoes and also aid victims of the harsh Dengue fever. He then put a red flower on my nose to symbolise a parrot beak, which he later told me was a traditional part of ceremonies once his patients were back to full health. This part of the excursion aided my biological knowledge of the medicinal qualities of plants and made me aware of modern conservation techniques and the need for such biodiversity in the Rainforest. In the evening, we climbed 50m to the canopy of the Rainforest on a very high canopy tower. The views were spectacular and I was able to fully appreciate the extent of the Rainforest and the wildlife that inhabits it.
I am truly thankful to the VI Form and Mr. Kenworthy for allowing me to partake in this once in a lifetime experience. It has bettered my biological knowledge, readying me for my exams and also for my University course as well. Having to connect with seven other team members has helped me to prepare for staying in University accommodation when I will establish relationships with six to eight strangers. As an avid traveller, I am always looking to improve my cultural awareness; however this trip did more than that as it has opened my eyes to the wonders of the world and taught me to persevere even when faced with tough challenges, as I will apply to my exam revision.
I would encourage students to apply for a scholarship as they are exceedingly beneficial to the individual and their academic life and I personally feel that this scholarship has enabled me to become a more rounded and appreciative person.