Great Wall of China, the Silk Route, Ala Archa National Park… As our students head off on New Zealand’s first-ever World Challenge expedition to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, we find out more from teacher Katherine Greenley about what the trip holds.
What are the key events on the itinerary?
World Challenge expeditions are arranged into different phases. We begin by travelling to Tashkent, Uzbekistan via Beijing, China which will include a quick stop at the Great Wall of China. The first phase will be the Community Engagement phase where the team will spend four days in the Nuratau Mountain village homestay. They will have an opportunity to get involved in local village life which could include fetching water, helping make butter and milking goats, for example. The team will also help build and stock a library for the small local school and spend time with the local school children.
The next phase will be a visit to the Silk Route cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. The team will then be transiting through Kazakhstan by train to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – the final phase. The Challenge will be spent in the Ala Archa National Park where the team will spend five days on the Kyrgyz Range Trek. This trek is at altitude with the highest point around 4,500m. The landscape of rugged granite mountains with plenty of snow and glaciers.
How are students feeling about the trip?
The students are very, very excited as well as a few nerves. They have spent the last 18 months building up to this and for many, it will feel unreal until we board the plane.
What preparation has the group done?
The team has done a lot of individual fundraising, many working to save up the funds. This has included working in cafes and removing stickers off large trucks.
A quiz night was organised to raise funds for the Community Engagement phase, which will enable the team to contribute to the community they are visiting in Uzbekistan. There has been some group training, which included a nine-hour hike on Pirongia Mountain last month.
You have done other world challenge trips. What are you most looking forward to about this one?
Each location I have been to has its own unique appeal. With this trip I am particularly looking forward to the Community phase – it will be a rewarding experience as we will be immersed in local culture. This is one area of the world I have not visited and will have its challenges, especially communication. I am also looking forward to the rich history in the Silk Route cities.
What do you hope students gain from this experience?
I hope they widen their knowledge of the world around them and discover what it has to offer. I would like them to experience different cultures and views to broaden their understanding of what is around them and appreciate where they are at. Students always grow in confidence and maturity on these trips. Many push beyond their perceived limits and discover what they are capable of. I would hope that they would become confident travellers.
Teacher Shane Laing is also accompanying students on the trip.