Category Archives: News

BEG Beach Day 2014

image073

With dark clouds, strong winds and miserable showers of rain forecast on a Sunday afternoon in August, a small but intrepid group met on Coldingham Sands, at the mouth of the Buskin Burn, to hold the annual BEG beach day.

The beautiful bay, protected by the headlands was windswept but dry and with the sun shining, the group were soon tucking into sand-specked sandwiches.

The explorers decided that the North Sea looked so warm, that four of them did what explorers do best and ventured out into the surf, where they found that they had been mistaken and returned to the beach.

A treasure hunt full of challenges formed the main activity of the day and soon the group had built sandcastles with flags, made sand angels, taken part in quite a competitive long jump competition, and explored the rock pools for living creatures.

The group rewarded themselves with cake for a job well done and are looking forward to hitting the beach next year!

image075

image071

image067

image069

Malawi 2014 Thanks

image059

 

I would like to start out by saying a massive thank you to everyone who made this trip possible! For all your continued support and your generosity. Your kindness helped 41 volunteers get to Malawi to make a difference.

The expedition started in Kuti, a reservation park that’s linked with an education centre just outside Lilongwe. Various jobs were carried out here, making fire bricks from recycled materials, erecting a monkey enclosure, painting tired buildings, hoeing fire breaks to stop poachers burning down more than one section of the park, these are only a few of the jobs we did. Then we went onto Nankhwali, what a wonderful reception, children singing and dancing, so delighted to see us. We worked closely with the youth group of Nankhwali in the villages to construct new grass partitions for the old, blind and disabled people. We witnessed how poor the facilities were in the nursery and what little toys the children had to play with. The skills of the team were on point and painted the alphabet and animals on the walls to cheer the room up. Gifts of toys were left too. In the evenings we exchanged cultures with singing, dancing and playing musical instruments.

We visited Lake Malawi, (paradise) as we travelled to the next community phase in Utale with the leprosy community. Our first large gathering with the villagers was a church service. The choir sang like a chorus of angels, truly amazing! After mass we went to the Leprosy Village to meet the chief and his people. The people of the village were so welcoming and very happy to see us. The work in this village was building two new long drops (toilets) and irrigation. Team Malawi 2014 had raised money to pay for all materials and builders. Thomas the Malawian builder, project managed us and carried on the unfinished work when we left. One long drop almost finished and the majority of the second completed. Irrigation work meant we had to loosen up the solid soil that encased the roots of the vegetables, thus allowing the water to soak in much easier.

Our trip finished with a climb up Mount Mulanje, what an amazing experience, pretty awesome but hard 3 day trek!

Overall the trip to Malawi was very humbling, awe-inspiring, rewarding and exciting, highs and lows with memories that will never fade.

Thank you Malawi for allowing us to visit and do a little for you!

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.(Epictetus)
this little quote is so true of the beautiful Malawian people.

20th Anniversary Toposcope Project

BEG_Newsletter_final_Jan_-037

Over the last 2 years Borders Exploration Group has designed, commissioned and placed a stainless steel ‘toposcope’ (direction indicator) on the redundant, adopted ‘trig point’ on the summit of Ruberslaw, a prominent hill c.5 miles east of Hawick.

The toposcope, designed by Graham Anderson and machined by ‘Engraving Services’ of Dundee, identifies the hills of the Scottish Borders which are visible from Ruberslaw and indicates the direction of the 15 countries visited by BEG expeditions. The project celebrates 20 years of Borders Exploration Group during which time more than 400 16-25 year olds and more than 100 volunteer ‘adult leaders’ have visited 15 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

The toposcope was ‘unveiled’ by Sir Michael Strang-Steel, our Patron, in situ at a publicity event on Sunday 4th August in front of nearly 40 BEG members past and present, the landowner and individuals and representatives of local organisations including the James Maclean Trust and Scottish Borders Council who had contributed to the project’s cost .

Whilst it was very windy on the summit (1392’, 424 m) it was a great BEG occasion reminding folk of the importance of Ruberslaw to the early days of BEG (those wishing to join the leader team of Lesotho 93 had to provide a gourmet meal on its summit!).

The ‘trig point’ had been given a fresh coat of white paint by members of Lesotho 93 as part of their own 20th Anniversary Reunion over the weekend of 6th/7th July and when the sun is shining the column is prominent for miles around!

Thanks are due to Joe and Alan Dowler-Smith who adopted the trig point some years ago.

BEG_Newsletter_final_Jan_-039 BEG_Newsletter_final_Jan_-057 BEG_Newsletter_final_Jan_-041 BEG_Newsletter_final_Jan_-040

Travels Beyond BEG

image018

Being involved with BEG certainly gives most a taste for travel. What further exciting places have former Leaders and Venturers visited? Thank you to Ruth Longmuir for this account of one of her big adventures.

“When I auditioned for the SFO back in 2007 I never imagined that on New Year’s Eve 2012 I’d be playing a concert in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. But here I was, 2 concerts into a 2 week tour, sat on a stage with 63 other people including my friend and co-chief leader of last summer’s Cuba expedition, Christine Anderson. We’ve both played the fiddle since primary school and it has brought us many opportunities over the years but none as great as this.

We visited 10 cities, played 9 concerts, took 4 internal flights, 1 high speed train and travelled a total of 16,145 miles in 17 days. We saw the spectacular Great Wall, went to the top of China’s tallest building, saw the famous Pudong skyline at night from the Bund in Shanghai, visited the epic Forbidden City in Beijing, drank cocktails 80 floors up and took the Maglev train to Shanghai airport – top speed 430km/hour. We became expert chopstick users and grew accustomed to the chicken heads and strange seafood that featured at meal times. We looked forward to seeing what exciting food there would be to try next and were disappointed when Chinese Pizza Hut was ordered for everyone “as a treat”!

Before we went, I feared our lack of Chinese language skills would cause us problems despite the very attentive translators that travelled with us but I needn’t have worried. The stall holders in markets had all learned basic haggling English: “Too low – you break my heart! Best price?!”. Our ranks of adoring fans all knew the word “photo” and grinning, grabbed your arm, while their friends snapped away. Taxi drivers, on the whole, knew very little English and on a number of occasions we found ourselves in groups of 3 or 4 clambering into taxis clutching a small piece of paper with a string of characters on it that we were assured was the name of a bar. We’d set off at a great rate of knots, dodging buses, cars and scooters with no lights until the taxi stopped somewhere and the driver indicated we should get out. Then we’d wait until the others appeared and we’d swap stories of near misses on the road. On the whole this system worked surprisingly well, however, on one occasion it didn’t go so smoothly. One taxi didn’t arrive so we decided to wait inside the building labelled “Club” that we had been dropped off outside. Let’s just say that it wasn’t the type of club we were expecting and the row of beautiful women who were lined up at the door giggled and quickly ushered us out when we acted out our desire to have a drink and find somewhere to dance!

We also discovered that many taxi drivers can’t see particularly well, certainly in Shanghai. Having handed the driver the room key with the address on it and naively nodded when he pointed down the street, we ended up attempting to hail another taxi 10 minutes later when the driver admitted he couldn’t see the address and had hoped we knew where we were going. Our second attempt looked doomed to fail too when the driver took the key card to the headlight to see the address but with increased determination on both sides, we made it to our hotel.

Hand gestures, facial expressions and general hilarity when neither side had a clue, got us through most language difficulties. And who’d have thought that an orchestra member dressed in a chicken suit and kilt, doing “Gangnam style” across the front of the stage during the tune “The Hen’s Mairch Ower the Midden” would have bridged the language gap better than any translator?

In an effort to make the concerts easily accessible to the Chinese, the conductor started a piece by counting, “Yi, Er, San” (1, 2, 3) and he encouraged the audience to participate by clapping along and joining in ceilidh dancing with orchestra members. The Chinese loved it. Traditionally known for being reserved, they were queuing up to dance, clapping and cheering by the end and afterwards they were keen to buy CDs, get autographs and have photos taken with the orchestra.

Touring was exhausting but a great way to see a country. We were often in a city for less than 24 hours and slept when we could – sometimes at the expense of seeing a place. Despite that, we still came away with a feeling for a city and often had experiences that the average traveller wouldn’t. As anyone that has been on a BEG expedition will know, travelling in a large group can be limiting at times but the fun, the jokes and the new friendships that are made are definite benefits.

China is a rapidly changing country and one that is definitely worth visiting. The level of construction of high rise buildings and roads is like nothing I’ve ever seen. With its rapidly expanding economy it will be interesting to see how it evolves over the coming years. The people we met were friendly and interested in us. Being stared at and pestered for photographs is the norm, just for being white, after all this is a country where you can buy skin whitening products in the pharmacy. No need for fake tan here! Shanghai is a modern, bustling city that grows skyscrapers at an incredible rate – a fascinating place to visit. And in Beijing you could spend weeks seeing all the historical sites it has to offer. Liuzhou and Nanning, the cities we visited in the south, had a less developed, more Chinese, feel to them and were surrounded by some beautiful landscapes. I’d like to return some day.”