Borders Exploration Group
Patron: Sir Michael Strang Steel Scottish Charity No:SC034336
India - Plans May 2000
Organisation for India 2001 is well underway. Two training weekends, one training day, numerous Leader and Cluster group meetings have been held. If you would like to know more about what is happening, then some basic information is provided on this page and the following ones.
It is the philosophy of Borders Exploration Group to involve all members of the expedition team in the planning and organisation of the actual expedition itself. The exact format of each expedition has evolved over a period of time following the formation of the participating group. It is therefore not possible to give all the information at this stage. The following general information should give some idea of the personal commitment expected from anyone who gets involved in an expedition, along with arrangements made so far.
Dates Times & Costs
- The expedition will last some 5 weeks from July 13th to Aug 18th 2001
- 22 venturers and 10 leaders are involved
- Every one of these will need to raise at least £1600 to pay for their part in the expedition
The expedition is likely to have the following elements
- COMMUNITY Taking part in a community project enabling us to contribute to the lives of the people in India.
- ADVENTURE Trekking in the Himalayan mountain range.
- CULTURAL A study of the people, their history, religion and way of life today.
Order of Events
|15-17 September 2000||First Training Weekend|
|17-19 November 2000||Second Training Weekend |
|19 - 21 January 2001||Third Training Weekend|
|March 2001||Fourth Training Weekend|
|May 2001||Fifth Training Weekend|
| 13th July 2001
|Depart for India|
India 2001 - The Leader Team
The Leader Team for India is shown below, along with individual responsibilities and the "Phase" with which they will be involved.
|Trish Stevenson||Chief Leader|
|Simon Bell|| Equipment Officer|
|Angela Cumming|| Treasurer|
|Kirsty Kilpatrick|| Environmental Phase|
|Clare Kitchener|| Community Phase|
|Donna Minto|| Catering Officer|
|Neil Minton|| Travel Co-Ordinator|
|Sam Smith|| Fund Raising / PR Officer|
|Jeremy Till||Expedition Doctor|
|Rebecca Williams||Expedition Doctor|
India 2001 - Participants
The List of Participants in the India Expedition is shown below. Venturers and Leaders are shown in their "Cluster" groups, each based on the area they live.
This, along with the convenience of getting to know other local 'BEG' members also allows them to support each other in their Fund Raising.
Hawick Area||Galashiels, Melrose |
and Selkirk Area
A bit "further afield"
India 2001 Leader Selection Weekend – A Participant's Viewpoint
Take 3 BEG members with obvious sadistic tendencies, add one expedition leader looking for a team and 12 assorted individuals eyeing each other nervously and what do you get? It could, in theory, have been a disaster I suppose - people trying to outdo each other in a bid to gain a place on the leader team, assorted soggv socks with miserable owners falling asleep over dinner. But in fact what we got was energy. enthusiasm. humour and a weekend to remember whether selected or not. The absence of the soggy sock scenario due to outstandingly good weather may have had something to do with it, but certainly at the end of the weekend the feeling was that we were lucky to have been a part of that particular group of people, with those particular selectors and Trish, of course, as the expedition leader.
We didn't know that on the Friday night of course, as we eyed the stone floors of the canoe shed and wondered just how much colder it was going to get. But I think by the time we were bowing to a saucepan and sheet-bedecked Alan, Alan and Vicky, we realised that we were in the company of like-minded souls who were mad enough to try and kiss Alan's muddy trainers as-he passed by and who put all their energy into convincing the strangely dressed three that yes, they really wanted to buy pyramids in Nepal and yes, they were going to listen to a song to convince them.
I think we all felt more confident about being on the weekend by the time we went to bed about 2am. The whistle that blew at 3.30am probably did a lot to undermine that however. Especially when it was accompanied by a shout of "The canoe shed's flooded - get all the stuff out NOW!!!" Confusion reigned as people stuffed things into survival bags, binliners, sleeping bags, old socks ... and then there was the task of trying to tell if any of us had theoretically drowned or been left behind while standing shivering under the glare of numerous head torches. So that was probably a good moment to herd us up into the attic to give us a test that was designed to see how well we performed under stress. Obviously not that well seeing as we only managed a highest score of 2 out of 10 – except Vicky – 9 out of 10 under all that stress? (She must be superwoman).
By the time Saturday came round I think we all felt more bonded as a group and that only progressed as the day went on. Every activity we undertook saw us performing better and better as a team, with all of us finding out about each other's strengths and areas of expertise. Some of us were very good at filling big barrels full of water using ripped-up survival bags for example. Or dragging pieces of string across a lake trying to reclaim stray milk bottles.
It would take too long to detail all the tasks and all the notable things that happened and every person will have different memories, but there are a few things that stand out for me personally:
Moments of achievement - getting across the river on a home made raft, without being swept to death, helping to get a very-nearly-full barrel of a water up to the top of a hill.
Moments of frustration - watching people give first aid to the victim found after our search and feeling powerless to contribute.
Moments of hilarity - watching our pancake cooked on tin foil take on the appearance of a burnt puddle, seeing the two Alans do a nifty impression of the earth's plates forming the Himalayas.
Moments of peace - the ten minute chill out at the Three Brethren where we relaxed for the first time and had the space and solitude to reflect and think about the weekend, surrounded by stunning scenery.
The highlight of the Saturday must however be the evening meal - flowers, French detective impressions and fantastic food all combined to make it an evening to remember, much to the bemused amazement of our two VIP guests. And the food really was impressive - Donna and her team all setting themselves up well for the possible role of catering supervisor. And Rod was a great compere to our evening of professional, well-rehearsed entertainment.
At the end of the evening Alan got a few suspicious glances when he assured us that yes, that really was the end of our challenges for the night. I don't think he was universally believed until we woke up for breakfast heaving a collective sigh of relief that we'd had more than 3 hours sleep.
Sunday was a much calmer day, creating a good balance to the whole weekend. We walked and talked and reflected on our experiences - something that was made more valuable and thought-provoking by the bonds and trust that we'd built up between us.
There was a break from the peace when we got our chance to show off our presentation skills, do a quick burst of circuit training in the rain and sing, "Heads, shoulders knees & toes" in Nepalese. Not to mention the two Alans' magnificent impression of the earth's plates forming the Himalayas (see moments of hilarity). I think we all felt that their coerced participation was justly deserved!
It was a sign of the success of the weekend that everyone lingered at the end. It was a strange feeling not knowing whether we would see everyone again or be part of the group and two weeks of agonised waiting were yet to come. But I know everyone was grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a fun, friendly team for the weekend and our thanks go to Alan McGee, Alan Young, Vicky, the rest of the training team and, of course, Trish for the experience and the challenge. And the sore muscles. We won't forget it.
India 2001 - Training Day – A Venturer's Viewpoint
The first time the whole group of children and adults going to India met, was
on Sunday 25th June at 8.30 in the morning!. Everyone was excited, but also
anxious to see who would be joining them on the four week adventure in India in 2001.
The day started off at about 9am by trying to learn everyone's names, not an easy task when there are 37 people !. We did this by playing a game, "we're going on a picnic...", which meant that people ended up with names like Clare Cucumber, Steven Sheep and Donna Doughnut !!
The main object of the day was, not only for everyone to meet, but also to give us all some information about the country we'd be visiting, and about what we would be doing when we got there. We also worked in groups quite a lot trying to figure out ways for each of us to raise £1600!. There were talks about how to fund raise and how to go about getting permission to carry out fund raising events and sponsored events.
Later on in
the day we did some outside activities. These included putting up tents, walking
round Selkirk Park with bin liners on our heads and making daisy chains!!! Let
the activity with the bin bags was to help us practice our compass skills, the daisy chain activity was useful in teaching us about team work and co-operation. And the tent activity was appropriate because we will be doing a lot of that during the next year.
The day was brilliant, and everyone seemed to have had a great time, even if we did have to get up at 7 o'clock in the morning!. Hopefully the future training days will be as successful as this one, and as much fun.
India - The First Training Weekend
Despite the Petrol crisis, virtually all the Leaders and Venturers attended the first Training Weekend for the India 2001 expedition. This report is from one of the participating Venturers.
Task one, to find the hall. Our directions said near Yetholm but in reality it was nowhere near bloody Yetholm. In fact it was nowhere near anywhere at all. Registration began at 1930hrs and at 2000hrs people were still trapsing in, in what we were soon to learn was a B.E.G. tradition of running late!
We began with a few short ice-breakers to remind each of our names and break the air of anticipation that was hanging in the hall. Everyone was full of life and a brilliant atmosphere, which was to last throughout the entire weekend began to develop. After the icebreakers the first lot of hard work began. We were split into three groups and three workshops were set up around the hall, each group had to visit each workshop. The three workshops were:
i.) Route cards
ii.) Reading maps
iii.) Compass work.
Everyone was getting tired and it was beginning to get quite late, many of us had travelled long distances but no one moaned everyone just got on with what we knew had to be done. Coffee was served and we had a quick debrief before we all got ready for a good nights sleep in the hall which was actually a very nice one. The hall only had one toilet for females and one for males. There was only one sink with no hot water. As there were seventeen female venturers alone, a long queue quickly developed but once again everyone was still smiling. Lights were out at 0030hrs and shortly afterwards everything was calm.
Saturday, what a day! Up, fed, washed and raring to go by 0900hrs. The morning consisted of relatively easy tasks in comparison to what we were to encounter after lunch. We were taught how to put up a variety of tents and took at their advantages and disadvantages. We also looked at the pros and cons of a wide range of outdoor stoves with a large emphasis on the safety aspects of outdoor as well as indoor cooking on campsites. We also got a talk about food, hygiene and diet. Packed lunches were on the menu for lunch. The rumour that fitness work was to follow lunch quickly began to buzz around the hall but the reality that sheer hell was to follow lunch was kept very quiet. Once again three bases and groups were set up who were to work in a rotational format. We did circuit training in the hall to get all of our muscle groups working. We did a fifteen- minute hill run. This activity also involved teamwork. Team works' importance became more and more prominent over the course of the weekend. The other part of Saturday afternoon involved a quick medical check. Everyone was exhausted but the work continued. Now, in two new groups we took part in either preparing and cooking dinner or learning about packing our rucksacks in the correct way. The meal was really tasty and a great success. For our main course we had spaghetti bolognaise and for pudding it was Swiss roll and custard. After tea we had a slightly less hectic period of time only to be followed by madness! We were put into slightly smaller groups than before, given camping equipment, sent out into the darkness and led to our first ever India 2001 campsites. By this time it was 2315 and obviously very dark, but the tents had to be put up if we wanted to go to sleep. An hour later everyone was tucked up in their tents, absolutely exhausted and proud to have got through the day successfully.
0630hrs everyone up! Stoves out, breakfast made. Luckily the weather was sympathetic to our situation. After breakfast the dishes had to be washed in the river and the camp had to be taken down By 0900hrs we were on our way back to the hall to drop off our tents. Remaining in the same groups we set off for the hills with our rucksacks and all! Everyone had a different route but they were roughly the same length and were to take about four hours. The weather began to look bleak as everyone returned to the hall. Everyone was still smiling and already laughing at the difficulties they had faced during their hikes. Sam gave us a talk on fund raising and each cluster group told the other cluster groups about fund raising events that they'd done or were planning to do. The amount of different ideas was extremely impressive and everyone appeared to be getting on fine. By 1600hrs all that was left to do was to tidy the hall and hand out equipment for people to clean and look after. By 1645hrs the weekend came to an end. Everyone said their goodbyes and left with the knowledge that they had learned an immeasurable amount of useful information!
Training Weekend 2
We arrived at the hall around 7.20pm just in time to lug our kits in and register for the weekend. As we soon discovered we weren't the last as others trailed in just after 7.30pm. Everyone welcomed the warm up games provided by Simon and Kirsty and they certainly did warm you up. The serious points of the evening were soon upon as tasks were to find a motto for the weekend. Most favourable of the group was "Life is like a Leech, it sucks."
This was followed by skills needed to go to India, those mentioned were "Sleep not snore." A project set up by Sam and Pat called "Selling Scotland" was where the majority of us got to practice our presentation skills in front of a large group for the first time though I don't think I would of sold Scotland! Lights out was at 1.00am and this time everyone went straight off to sleep as they learned from the last weekend, Sleep is important.!! 3.15am WHISTLE "The Police have just informed us that the river had broken it banks everyone out" We all knew it was coming yet little expected it so soon into the weekend. Venturers scrambled around the floor getting dressed and packing their kit. This however was not aided by split survival bags.3.30am that took 15 minutes too long, right back to bed. Indeed by this time 20 or so venturers fell back to sleep amidst cries of "where's my sleeping bag?" and "whose got my torch?"
Breakfast made, amid 2 late risers! Porridge was good, Well done Pat. A talk afterwards by Bertie the brick and Jim emphasised the point of safety very well and I think a lot of venturers took the same message I took of being prepared in future. The talk had a lot of humour and got the message well across to the so called "RISK JUNKIES"
A talk by the training team on Base camps gave us the knowledge required to set up our own for the night. A planing session co-ordinated by our newly appointed camp manager set up the camp on paper but we knew reality would be harder. A half hour trek around the hill led us to our campsite covered in what Angela called "Cow ssssshh" As it began to get dark; the camp was just about up when the catering crew started on dinner. A great meal it was too as was shown by the second helpings.
A gentle activity was what was forecast for the evening; it ended up being a walk up a hill to where we got lost. The original plan was to wait in the cold for an hour but they realised their cruel intentions were too cruel. I learnt a valuable lesson on the walk.
DO NOT TOUCH ELECTRIC FENCES WHEN THEY ARE ON.
Everyone returned within the allocated time and a debrief illustrated the mistakes that had been made. When had finished the training teams activities it was too for the nights entertainment in the form of a campfire although next time it is worth considering if Robert should be allowed to sing his "Rattle and Bog" song several hundred times AHHH! Everyone graciously accepted the lights out call apart from the odd tent or two.
Next morning it was literally freezing and to be greeted with a bowl of hot water was very pleasing. Once the formality of breakfast was undertaken, we settled down in 2 groups for a talk by Trish on the importance of Emergency rations and how NOT to eat them! Then Rob gave us an insight into what the gadgets in a first aid kits actually did. An environmental talk highlighted many issues within the group that had not been initially approached and the value of the talk on low impact camping was highlighted later when we struck camp. It came down a lot quicker than it went up and within the 1hour 30mins we ventured off back round the hill to where the hall awaited us with a spare change of clothes. A final debrief turned up some very positive points and some improvements that could be made. A great weekend was had by all and I look forward to the next one wherever it might be.
One final word to the training team: be kind next time please, please, please!!!
Training Weekend 3 - Samye Ling And Hermitage
I've got to say that this particular training weekend has been my favourite so far. I had no idea what to expect from this one as in the letter it said we were to be challenged spiritually, mentally and physically, which we most certainly were! We all met up at Mart Street in Hawick, and were subsequently bussed to Samye Ling where the weekend began. Wow, what can I say about Samye Ling! It really lives up to it's name, meaning unimaginable place. Such an amazing spot you could almost imagine you were actually in Nepal, and not Scotland. Firstly, we were shown to our rooms which had real beds, pillows and mattresses - a rare treat on training weekends. Shortly after we were shown to the temple which was absolutely breathtaking, as it was dark when we got there, our first view was of it all illuminated. I think I speak for everyone when I say how awe-inspiring the inside of the temple was, there were so many impressive things, you didn't know where to rest your eyes. Whilst inside the temple, we were given a talk from Clive, an expert in meditation. He told us what some of the items in the temple represented, I was particularly interested by the prayer wheel, which held over 3 mantras for every man woman and child on earth, really fascinating that they can all fit in there. He then gave us a short introduction to meditation. During our ten minute attempt, we had to sit cross legged on the floor and concentrate on precision, gentleness and letting go. The meditation was a lot harder than I had imagined it to be. For starters, I found the position quite uncomfortable, and my mind kept branching off to other thoughts, but then I'd think no- precision, and concentrate on my out breath. Though moments later I'd think be gentle, did this mean I could think about other things? And the I'd think let go - of what? Far from being relaxed and at peace, I was simply confused. Though nearing the end of the ten minutes, I was finally starting to get it. After that we had our supper and were given free time to explore. Then off to bed.
An early start to a long day, we arose at 5.30am. We began the day with prayers at the temple. Such an inspiring way to start the day. In meditation positions we sat at the back of the temple. I had imagined these prayers to be silent, so when they started chanting I was quite surprised, though they were really mesmerising. Just as I was starting to get into a rhythm with the chanting, they surprised me again by playing instruments. Drums, bells, conches... a cacophony of noises which worked together quite well. It certainly woke us up! We then had our breakfast which was made by the staff at Samye ling - very nice. Shortly after, we went to the library where Trish gave us a talk on Buddhism and we were given a chance to ask questions about this. We then went back to the temple where we were given another talk from one of the young monks, he talked to us about the symbolism of some of the things inside the temple and then showed us round the grounds. Currently at Samye Ling they are undertaking the Stupa Project. They have built one large Stupa which is presently being carved, they also have plans to build 108 smaller ones. Apparently at Samye Ling, seeing as they can't drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes, they build Stuppas instead, that's their addiction. Well, why not?
The time then came to leave Samye Ling and head off to Hermitage.
When we arrived at Hermitage village hall, we were greeted by warm pies and hot drinks. Much appreciated! The leader team then briefed us on their progress. For the community phase, it is now 98% certain what we will be doing. For about 2-3 days at the start of our expedition we will be helping to build a play park in an orphanage - Katya House, about 5km from Kathmandu. Later on in our stay, we will be renovating a school, Makendra Pratrap which Trish visited last year. There we will be plastering, concreting, building construction and making furniture. The school is a 2 hour hike from anywhere and there has been no western involvement with it so far. For the Scientific/Environmental phase, its looking like we will be helping to construct a tree nursery with Keep Nepal Green. As for the Adventure phase, nothing is definite as yet, though we will be going to the Annapurna base camp. It was suggested that to make group funds, we should hold a B.E.G Ball at the end if March(ish) and a quiz night sometime after this. We were then given a short break for lunch. For a bit of fun after that, we held a Nepal quiz, which our team, The Rupets, won. We were then given a talk on search techniques. We were told what questions to ask the last people whom the missing parties were in contact with, as well as all the different search techniques such as: token search, sweep search, close line search and box seerly technique. In a bid to test our searching abilities, the training team hid our food in 29 bags in a nearby forest. They should know that when there's food on the go we'll sniff it out. And we did, with relative success. At the hall we were briefed about the nights activities.
We were split into 4 groups, in each individual group, we had to complete some tasks. There included: building a bivvy/shelter for the group, light a campfire, prepare, cook and eat an evening meal, we also had to construct and make cutlery, a hammock, a small stool and another useful item of our choice. All of these had to be completed in three hours. Ha! In the group, my task was to help prepare the meal. And for days (or so it seemed) I peeled a bottomless bag of vegetables with a knife the size more suited to peeling grapes than potatoes. Though the end result was worth it, and there was plenty for us all to go back for thirds. For the pudding, we had barbecued bananas and buttons. Nearing my last banana, I was told that you were meant to keep them in the peel instead of skinning them. However, they were bloody good, even if I do say so myself. Running somewhat later than expected, we had to give up doing an orienteering course set up by the training team and instead, set off for a walk to Hermitage Castle. Very spooky... then back again, where we got a hot drink then off to bed. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I don't think our bivvy was quite large enough to hold everyone. I think the biggest mistake I made that weekend was not making use of our fine bathroom facilities before going to bed. Huge mistake. When I got settled inside the bivvy, found had a log/coffee table by my head, and a stump at my knees. Not the most comfortable of positions to be in I can assure you, though everyone else I'm sure was in similar circumstances. Didn't get much sleep at all that night, after a while started to need the loo. It got to the stage that all I could think about was my bladder. Thought it may have exploded and covered everyone in a shower of urine, which at least would have been warm. I couldn't get out the bivvy as I would have woken them all up. In the odd 15 minutes of blissful sleep I got that night, I dreamt of going to the bathroom, (I've got to say, I was disgusted by those gaudy faux gold taps across in Nepal, hhhhmmmm) when I arose I was always surprised that I still needed. The highlight of my weekend was definitely getting out of the bivvy and relieving myself in our 'bathroom'. Anyway, enough about my bladder, but it was a lesson I learned and will never repeat that mistake.
After breakfast, which the leaders kindly prepared for us, we had a look around the other groups bivvies, then set to work taking down our own. We then made our way back to the hall where we were put into groups and given a route to follow. This took us high among the hills. I found this walk quite hard going in places, and it made me realise that I will need to do a bit more training before going to Nepal, I'm a bit of a slow walker, so might need to work on my pace a bit. It was worth it though, and I did enjoy it. When we stopped for our lunch, the weather was getting quite bad, so we changed our route a bit and went down hill instead of up. We passed a frozen waterfall on our way down which looked particularly beautiful. Once at the hall, we had a hot drink then debriefed on the weekend. After cleaning up we headed home towards a welcome hot bath and comfy bed.
Great weekend though, can't wait until the next one!
By Cheryl Buchanan
Training Weekend 3 - An Alternative View
At 6.15 we congregated Though some car loads were a bit belated After all the happy new year hugs We loaded onto the mini-bus Which took us to our first port of call – Samye Ling with the monks and all After inspecting our rooms of luxury We had a tour of the monastery The tour was led by a guy called Clive Who talked of reincarnation and our many lives He showed us the prayer wheels and the water bowls As we gaped in awe at all the gold Then we got down to the nitty gritty My legs went numb – what a pity! He called this torture meditation I think I could have done with a quick sedation Despite the pain I found the trial An experience which was really worthwhile Then after supper it was time for bed But sleep wasn't an option with Sarah over-head Tossing and turning and coughing all night And the bed was creaking with all its might I thought it was planning to collapse on me But I was safe eventually – 5.15 the very next day Up got Sarah in order to say Everybody up – prayers are at 6 So up we got – quick as sticks For an hour of chanting whilst we kneeled A peaceful experience though very surreal. The morning was quite an educational one Starting with Trish's low-down on Buddhism A tour of the grounds was then on the cards After which we moved onwards To our next stop but I don't know where Back onto the bus, which was quite a scare The roads weren't great but the driving was worse (Sorry Vicky, I'm not making a fuss). When we arrived, all in one piece It was time for a veritable feast Of pies and biscuits, tea and coffee – Fit for a king, treated like royalty But it wasn't all fun and games as we soon found out There were plans to be made for our big night out We planned our camp and scavenged for food, Packed our bags and set off for the wood. Where we built our shelters and a fire too It was easier said than done mind you! The wood was damp so the fire wouldn't light I started to think I wouldn't get a bite The forest echoed with the rumble of stomachs The last thing on our minds was the making of hammocks Hours later our meal was ready and we were fed We'd had our fill so it was time for bed A night under the stars, just nature and us Then along comes Jim with his cameras So we all snuggled together under our bivvies To avoid any photos where we may look like divvies Up bright and early for the long day ahead But whilst we slept, the leaders made breakfast instead A gesture for which we were truly grateful So everyone made sure they had a good plateful Then it was time for a site inspection And the competition of our cutlery collection I'm sorry to say our attempt was pretty poor But our cooking stand made up for it and more. Then we cleared up and it was time to go But that wasn't the fun over, oh no! Into our walking gear and onto the hillies For a gentle stroll although it was rather chilly The wind was high and the blizzards grew Perfect weather for some sledging too But just as I reached the bottom of my slide I turned round to see Trish and Sarah collide Sarah's face was a picture and a half, But all Trish could do was smile and laugh After this calamity it was time for lunch And we were off again after a quick munch After arriving back to meet everyone We cleared up and de-briefed and then went home So that's it all over for a little while But Nepal's getting closer and I can't help but smile!
Training Weekend 4
At the godforsaken hour of 9am Saturday 31st, 35-ish sleepy yet happy campers arrived at the hall in Gattonside. Each was laden with a huge 2 ton rucksack, a fear of the unknown, and what's known as the 'training weekend smile' which says 'whatever you make us do we WILL enjoy ourselves!' But no time was spared to admire the five- star accommodation which was to be our home for the next day and a half, and after a few quick hellos and good mornings; we dived straight into an intensive first aid course. This was divided into four digestible sections.
The first our group looked at was lifting and carrying a casualty. Trish, being the smallest member out of the six of us, was volunteered as casualty, and during the next hour and a half found herself hoisted up two metres off the ground in various positions including a fireman's lift, tied to a chair, in a rucksack and many others. She was returned to the ground some time later looking rather flushed and suffering severe altitude sickness, and we moved on to our next session. This was about injuries and all things gory. Robs bloodthirsty descriptions really brought to life some of the situations we hope we wont find ourselves in, as well as nearly making us pass out on the floor. We dressed each other's thankfully imaginary wounds, and learnt how to recognise and treat shock.
And next lunch and a chance to relax, chat about fundraising and appreciate the joys of eating a pack lunch made the same day. Then on to a lovely chat about dehydration, diseases of an exotic nature and diarrhoea with Rebecca. We realised how important it will be to do anything possible not to get any tummy upsets: prevention is better than cure. Health is such a big issue we will have to think very carefully about when we're out there.
After a quick coffee break (although we were already running the customary half an hour late), we moved on to CPR. We all got a chance to practice first on an adult sized dummy, and then on a baby, which was quite scary. After successfully giving our two dumb- struck rubber friends the kiss of life, we had completed our basic first aid training. There was a very serious and useful side to these sessions, and we were piled with information and new phrases. We can now all safely say we know our arterial from our veinous bleeding, our hairline fractures from our dislocations and our crepitus from our unconsciousness.
But the day was far from over, as we were about to find out. Take one training team with a warped sense of humour, a sprinkle of venturers up for a challenge, a pinch of enthusiasm and a handful of Nepalese royals. Add a bit of a deadline to spice things up and leave to panic and simmer for only one and a half hours and what do you get? Well, two humungous pots of spaghetti bolognaise, a load of laughs and mountains of washing up! We were given the task of preparing a three-course meal, a variety of entertainment, which included a cross dressing fashion show, subtle lighting, and a relaxed yet friendly ambiance: the list goes on! The boys took surprisingly well to their new feminine roles, and were off faster than you could shout 'hot pants ahoy!' to get their glam rags on and compare handbags. In the unofficial cross dressing awards Robert would certainly win 'best legs', (us girls would kill for a pair like those!), and the way Steven elegantly shimmied down that catwalk was something to behold! Dimuthu, as I'm sure he wont mind me saying has absolutely nothing going for him as a woman! For the rest of the weekend all you could hear was the faint chipping sound and sighs of despair, in the boys best attempts to chisel off their flashy pink nail varnish! It was a night I'm sure none of us will let them forget!
And to bed, a good nights sleep was almost had by all, although mine was slightly interrupted by the faint rumble of snoring- those responsible know who you are! I don't know who's bright idea it was that half an hours aerobics first thing on a Sunday morning would go down well, but surprisingly it did. By some fluke of nature we all found ourselves dancing around enthusiastically and stomach crunching under Nicolas strict instruction to Will Smith at 7:30am.
Feeling totally energised, we began our last activity. In groups we had to make up short presentations about various aspects of life in the Borders, like sport, farming or history. We picked up on various skills and ways in which we can tell people about Scotland which will be useful when we're in Nepal, for example by drawing pictures. It's really exciting talking about what it's going to be like when we're out there, and we were left with a sense that it's really going to happen.
Time to go, a few farewell hugs, and we were on our way home, unusually clean and sweet smelling for the end of a training weekend. We can only live in fear as to what the next one will bring, but hear this training Team: you ain't got us yet- bring it on!!
by Jenny Hall
Training Weekend 5
Training Weekend numero 5 was fantastical and has confirmed my suspicions that everyone going on this expedition definitely has a crazy streak in them. There were lots of chuckles and fun and of course plenty of challenges and activities for us all. On reflection the best moment was stepping into the bath afterwards, but there were other times spent which nearly almost matched it!
Friday: Due to our terrible misbehaviour on TW4 nobody had been given a key for St Aiden's centre. Unfazed, we trekked all the way to the field in front of the house and began to set up camp under the able direction of Clare. It was skilfully planned so that whatever way tent you ended up in, you had a wonderful view of the Himalayas (i.e. the Eildons). The smokers were sent to a far corner of the field, struggles with the new tents were sorted out, and in a flash the campsite was ready. Our toilet tents quickly became unisex, as the queues for the ladies were blatantly unfair. (For future notice, a message to everyone: use head-torches less around the toilet area!) Back at the centre Kirsty entertained us all with an army marching song about the environment, and the best bit was that she even had a tape to sing along to. The environmental motto was "leave only footprints, take only memories". Oh, and she handed out bog roll for some completely random reason. We discussed how to minimise our impact when we're in Nepal, then were "buddied up" and sent to bed. Once Sam's giggles had eventually subsided we settled into an interrupted and draughty sleep (which turned out to be a non-sleep for some cold people).
Saturday: We started the day distinctly un-bright-and-breezy, but by doing some bendy salutations to the sun and deep breathing with Yogi Shona and Yogi Donald our bright-and-breezy-ness was much increased. After treating ourselves to a large breakfast we were raring to go - kinda - and ready for a beast of a day. Ron had an environmental survey of St. Aiden's planned for us. The computer whizzes were installed with their computers at "base" as the collation team, while research teams went out to get our hands dirty (and generally our knees and face and backside too). We were investigating land use, mapping the area, sketching plants, and all sorts. Alison's group sneaked off for tea and scones in the "Big House" under the pretence of researching the history. Others worked hard though, and you would be impressed by how much Katie actually knows about soil and by Sarah's arty sketches (despite the Spice Girls sketchpad). The most intelligent contribution was of course the worm coaxing survey and an in-depth study of St. Aiden's sexiest bugs. The info was gathered up and a professional-looking pamphlet was produced... and it was almost finished to deadline! (With a little help from our friends...) Next up were bundles o' chuckles! The leader team had been creative and ended up with four activities. Manky water went up noses and down fronts in primary-school-sports-day type races. We "electrocuted" ourselves many, many times during some weird and wonderful attempts to cross Simon and Neil's giant spider's web. Led only by a voice, a rope and some water balloons we made our way round/into trees. And by all accounts, in the final shepherding activity, Dims as a sheepdog was a classic. A safety talk from Rob and a yummy stir-fry later, we prepared for the river crossing which turned out to involve only an imaginary indoor river. We heard about Jim Shepherd's traumatic near-crying experience, watched and tried some tricks with cuddles and ropes, and ultimately learned that we definitely did not want to have to cross a river. (To be commended on their river crossing techniques are Angela "Broom-Twirler", Neil "Bum-Wiggler", and Gregor "Ballet Dancer".) Two 15-year-old boys were bribed into wearing lots of white make-up, fake blood and gory plastic injuries, and convinced that it would be fun to lie under bushes in Baltic conditions. How? I couldn't tell you, but the result was two hours of entertainment for us first aid trainees. They were searched for, found, reassured, made comfortable and taken to wait for an ambulance, not all entirely without problems. Cheryl admitted that her patient's situation was "touch and go", and we were cheerfully informed that our patient's arm would have fallen off if the injury was real and we'd done what we'd done! Over a much needed late night hot drink with biccies we discussed the "Golden Rules" to be put into practice in Nepal. Much was talked about and nothing final was reached, but the task was abandoned 'cause yawns became more and more frequent...
Sunday: We thoroughly deserved our beds on Saturday night and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the training team members who defended our right to sleep. To those who wanted to wake us at 3am to soak us and freeze us: be glad you didn't as you would have been sorely hated and possibly executed. I woke to the surprising sound of Jenny and Christine singing in harmony. It was more than quite bizarre. Bacon rolls (mmmmmmmm) for breakfast and plenty porridge for our tums. De-camp was a success, and enjoyable for those of us who steered clear of the toilets, rubbish, and scummy-slops bucket. Vicki had planned routes, so four were chosen, groups were made and we set off on our wee adventures, looking incredibly chunky in all our layers. Our group felt honoured as we had the chief leader, depute leader, only training team member, and only doctor. They must have thought we needed looking after! We partly walked, partly bounced, partly shuffled along our route and I'm sure we managed to look insane to passing cars as we ate our picnics and tried some yoga in the rain. Probably not as insane as the group who set up a Trangia outside Dryburgh House Hotel with Sunday-lunching onlookers. Despite mega-sore feet and mega-huge blisters, there were still some happy, smiley faces five hours later, and we all felt mega-proud of ourselves. So we had a bit blether and the time came for us to part. There were no tearful farewells however: we were all too desperate to get home for a bath!
by Claire Horne
Arrangements made before departure
A Community project has been organised, adding a Classroom to a Primary School in the village of Burua which is just North of Manali, which itself is North of Delhi
An Adventure Phase is almost finalised, two options are available, trekking in Spitti or Ladak, we simply need to choose which.
An Environmental Project still has to be organised, but already there are options available and this will be one of the jobs for the Advance Party.
The Advance Party of Sam, Angela, Neil and Clare leave this weekend to sort out various details.
Clare & Neil will be based in Manali sorting out the trekking and Community Projects.
Angela & Sam will be based in Delhi arranging an Environmental Project as well as various Logistical arrangements.
Departure for everyone else is from the Argus Centre; Selkirk at Midnight Thursday 12th July for a 5:30am Flight from Edinburgh on Friday 13th July.
Return will be to the same Venue at Midnight 15th August.
First Report 17th July
Hi! We are in Manali and the whole group is together at last. The flight accross was long but we had a game on one of the planes - a touch screen entertainment sort of thing which kept us all amused - good films etc. and nice food as well although we were all really stuffed.
We arrived in Delhi met by the lovely Sam and Angela - what a relief!! They had a great coach for us and the guide gave us beautiful garlands each to wear. We were taken to our hotel 'Sunshine', -very nice by the way - we shared rooms and slept for the rest of the day. At night we had yet another meal, we are not balloons yet but give us time, no-one has had Delhi belly yet but the entire advanced party have had quite a different experience.
The next day we went sight seeing round Delhi which was amazing, particularly because we were in an air conditioned bus. We saw The Red Fort, the biggest Muslim Mosque in India, the India gate, Parliament, The Lotus Temple and the old shanty areas as well as the colonial area. Had a lovely lunch, yet again! At night we went out by tuk-tuk to our favourite restaurant for yet another meal, but this time we were sitting on the roof top - we also went shopping along the main street, it was a tiny narrow street filled with cows, food stalls, rickshaws, cars, motorbikes, shady people(!), and smells, some of which were amazing.
We journeyed to Manali the next day through the mountains and the scenery was breath taking to say the least, we stopped to take photos and for some food but it was a long haul - we were in the bus for 20 hours.
We are now in Manali and we are spending 2 days preparing for the community project and the trek. We are based at the Monalisa Hotel but we don't have a telephone number. The bridge to the village where the school is is down and we therefore can not get to it. As an alternative we are carrying out a project in a nearby Tibetan village, doing general renovation work: painting the village hall; helping with sanitation etc. We hope to get to the school if the bridge is repaired but we are unsure. We leave on Thursday morning, the 19th and will be there until Friday the 27th of July. There will be no communication from the village whilst we do the project. A small group will return to Manali on the 25th July to store spare kit and buy food for the trek, and will e-mail you then with details.
We think that just about covers it! Everyone is well and happy and acclimatising to the altitude of 6000 ft.
Lots of Love from
Nicola, Fiona, Cheryl, Steven and Sam
Second Report 25th July
Everyone is okay. We have been doing our community project which Claire set up through Tanzin in Manali. The Community Project has taken place in a small village of 15 Tibetan nomad families which is situated in the foothills of the himalayas 2600m above sea level. We arrived there almost a week ago, and although the trek up there was strenuous we all really enjoyed it. We set up our camp about 30 mins trek from there and spent about a day just getting organised. From then on we started our project.
We renovated their village hall, painting the roof; path building; building walls; drainage; litter clearing; digging toilet and rubbish pits. We worked very hard and have enjoyed every minute of it. We were invited to join in one of their Buddhist festivals yesterday which was wonderful. We performed some of our Scottish country dances and violin performances for them which they loved and they gave us good luck gifts of food. They also cooked us delicious Chapatis and fillings which we all enjoyed. We are coming to the end of our project now, our days have been quite hectic as we have worked basically a 9-5 day. Our rest day is Thursday and we will be preparing for our trek which commences on Friday.
The weather has been variable, when it rains it pours and when it is nice the weather is very hot.
We are all in good spirits and keeping well. We are enjoying our food and a six of us are back in Manali today(Wednesday), to organise food for our trek.
Our trek commences on the 27th July for 6 days. We arrive at Chandratal Lake on the 1st of August, our rest day is on the 2nd, and if on the 3rd we are fit enough we will climb to Kumzum Pass, others can go by jeep if they want. After that the whole group will be transported by jeep to Losar in the Spiti Valley for 2 nights. We will return to Manali on the 5th August and contact you on the 6th.
I think that is all for now. We are having a fantastic time, please tell my mum and dad that I am really well and loving every minute of it. I think the same goes for everyone.
Kindest regards from
Nicola, Rebecca, Donna, Rachel, Paul and Katie
Third Report 6th August
All is well apart from the usual Delhi Belly outbreak!
We returned from our mamoth 18 night stint living in tents and digging pits etc. yesterday. The trek was wonderful - delighted to report that everyone made it to Chandra Tal Lake 4200m! We then spent a blissful rest day in baking sunshine by the lake - some brave souls also went for a swim in the icy water. The following day 19 of us trekked up to Kumzum Pass (15000ft) while the others were transported by jeep. We then spent two nights camping near Lossar in the Spiti valley. Everyone agrees that the scenery has been absolutely spectacular - can't wait to show you are photos - everything from lush green forests, glaziers and snow to rocky mountains, desert and real live bandit country!!!
Now back in Manali for the next two nights - most people shopping today and tomorrow we are going to visit the local secondary school to deliver some of the stuff we brought a small group will also go to local primary school.
here's our itinerary from now on:
8th August : Travel by bus from Manali to Shimla - overnight there.
9th : Train from Shimla to Delhi - arrive in Delhi late and spent night there.
10th : Bus to Agra (Taj Mahal etc.) overnight there.
11th : Bus to Jaipur and overnight there.
12th/13th : Pushka - a lovely town by a lake about 11km. from desert - we hope for a camel ride!
14th : Bus back to Delhi and spent time in hotel there until we leave for the airport around 5 am.
Once we leave Manali we will be with our "tour operator" Mr Sharma in Delhi - he will pick us up from the train station and we will have the same bus then until we leave for home.
All being well you should not expect to hear from us again until we land at Heathrow. Will phone to let you know if flights are altered in any way.
Hope all is well with everyone at home. See you soon.
After a long and tiring journey, a high spirited group of Venturers and Leaders returned home to meet parents, family and friends at the Argus Centre in Selkirk.
The end of a succesful expedition was a very emotional time for all concerned, no doubt there will be the inevitable reunions, probably starting tonight. Reports will appear on the Web Site, when members of the group have recovered enough to think of such mundane tasks. For just now, all they will want to do is to tell everyone what a magic time they had in India.
Congratulations to all involved for the success of the Expedition, we look forward to hearing the stories.
Footnote : In one of these curious twists of fate that do seem to happen so often, Thea Panter (a Venturer on the Mongolia Expedition) has just left for India to teach "English as a foreign language" in Manali of all places.