From 7-14 August 2016 13 other girls and I took on one of Guiding’s hardest challenges. None of us knew what to expect. However with a box that says “An Experience of a Lifetime” on the label, who isn’t going to at least try and see how it goes?
However, our journey started way back in July with our preliminary hike. After being bullied by some unexpected bulls and taking on the most intense routes our rural locality had to offer in preparation, we had done everything we could do. There was nothing left to do but get on the bus and see where it took us.
Where this bus ended up taking us was The Ring Lyne hostel on Valentia island. When it became apparent on the journey that the Chief’s would be in Kerry, we were thinking along the lines of Dingle and Kenmare, not the beautiful but discreet Iveragh peninsula. After getting to know the other girls properly on arrival, we all at least had the comfort that, no matter how the Award went, we had made new friends and that in itself was unforgettable.
The next morning was where the real work began. In our teams, we were dropped off at our separate destinations. Aishling O Connor, Niamh Mc Sweeney and I had tried to track where we were being taken. However, no matter how hard we tried we were still surprised to be dropped off abruptly at Cillín Liath. We spent a good hour making out a plan and briefly spoke to some Canadian cyclists passing by. It was ironic as, it was only just after they left, we realised they could have assisted us with a project which involved speaking to tourists. Typical.
Starting at Cillín Liath to Waterville to Ballinaskellig to Keel and back to Valentia, it would surprise anyone that, for such a long journey, it went as quickly as it did. The week went faster than any of us could have predicted. In my mind, the high points we experienced, such as walking on the beach in Ballinaskellig to writing our song on the road to Keel outweighed any lows we encountered. In reality, we were blessed as the only lows we encountered were the mood swings that came with a long day’s walking. Luckily, these mood swings wouldn’t last long, as five minutes later we would be laughing as the adrenalin of the amazing time we were having would kick in and it would be as if nothing had happened.
By the time Day 5 (our final day) came, we had developed a clear-cut attitude to finish what we started and make ourselves and our Leaders proud. It doesn’t surprise me how we walked the last day as determined as we did. Our blood was pumping and we were so proud of ourselves and each other for getting through the week as level-headed as we did. We had realised something important throughout the week. The Chief’s wasn’t just a physical challenge but a psychological one too.
When we handed in our logs and projects at our pick-up point (at The Ring Lyne hostel where we were first taken), we really felt that we had fully taken on the challenge. Although we were back where we started, the communication and perseverance skills we had learned along the way meant, as people, we were not the same as we were leaving the hostel on that very first day.
On the day of our award ceremony, emotions were high and the question on every contender’s mind was the same: “Had we done enough?” When the time came and, team by team, received the news we were ALL successful! The atmosphere after achieving ourselves, and seeing our friends achieve, what we know they worked so hard for was indescribable; we could genuinely say we weren’t just happy for ourselves. I never knew feeling true happiness for someone else could feel as enriching as it did for us as a team. It felt just as good as us just achieving for ourselves.
I think it was receiving the kindness from strangers during the week that made us appreciate people in general more, especially each other and the friends we made, which led us to feeling this way. This is a skill I, or any of us, wouldn’t have fully developed if it wasn’t for the Chief’s.
Taking part in the Chief Commissioner’s Award wasn’t just “The Experience of a Lifetime”, it was an experience that made us better people, which will last a lifetime.
~ Emma Barry, Macroom, Co Cork