Vietnam 2005

Venturer List


Leaders List

Vicki Moyes Chief Leader
Stuart Ruffell Deputy Leader
Equipment Officer; Safety Officer
Elizabeth Harvey Assistant Treasurer
Donald Knox Treasurer
Social & Cultural Co-ordinator
Avril Nairn Fund Raising Co-ordinator;
Report Co-ordinator
Heather McCloone Catering Officer
Gayle Tomlinson Community Liaison Co-ordinator
Emergency Response Group Co-ordinator
Angela Cumming Community Phase Co-ordinator
Chris Hull Adventure Phase Co-ordinator
Karen Wood Doctor

Training Weekend 1

Friday 3rd - Sunday 5th September


Well, after weeks of having to wait for our first training weekend, the time had finally come. We had packed our bags with the required equipment that would last us for the weekend and off we went. Soon after turning up at the Argus Centre in Selkirk for 7pm we then set off along the way to Cappercleuch Village Hall where we would spend our first night. After doing various activities and a light snack and hot drink we were all ready to go to sleep, after all it was about midnight!

Being woke up at 7am on a Saturday morning was a new experience, certainly for most of us. Not knowing what we'd have to endure for the rest of the day we were ready and eager. We were pulled outside for a short stretch and run which was infact quite invigorating! After we had breakfast and tidied up we were put into groups. There were 4 different stations to which we would all go to and each was a representation of what we were going to endure this weekend and in Vietnam for example keeping fit and healthy. Lunch was a must after this!

Knowing that the main idea for the weekend was mental and physical fitness we were probably ready for anything.We left the hall at various times in our groups round about 3ish and embarked on our hike to the north side of St Mary's Loch about 2 hours walk away. It was draining, especially as in one of our stations at the hall we had to do a 12 minute run! Arriving in time for tea we set about doing so - ourselves. Yes in the trangias! It took a while but the food was very welcomed.

As it gets dark earlier in the evenings now we had to prepare our shelter a.s.a.p. We managed to do this before dark but as soon as it set in we knew we weren't going to get off as lightly as going to bed at a normal hour. After all this is the B.E.G! So what did we do..... Gorge Walking! In the water, on the stones for what felt like miles but if we all admit it thoroughly enjoyable.

Walking up again in the morning at 7am to get our breakfast and cleared up after gorge walking until 1.30am for some groups was not easy trust me. After breakfast we set off back to the hall for lunch time.

Once at the hall we again done various activities which included relaxing yoga and writing ourselves a letter. We left tired but after having a great weekend back to Selkirk in time for tea and this time our mums made it for us!!

Just like to thank the training team and all the other helpers too for the weekend!


Training Weekend 2

Friday 8th - Sunday 10th October

Riddell Estate

We arrived at Riddle feeling as bright eyed and bushy-tailed as is physically possible on a Friday evening, and dumped our bags in the hall. We were each issued with an Identity Card (with immensely cringey photos) and had a wee while to catch up on the gossip and inspect the weird and wonderful contraptions around the hall. Our first task was to arrange ourselves in order of Birthdays without speaking, which proved to be a slight challenge for some! Having done that we were split into groups, and discussed various ways to minimise any negative impact we might have on Vietnam, or indeed any areas we visit whilst training. A quick stop for coffee (not as simple as it sounds - it involved stumbling down to the barn avoiding obstacles of puddles and mud pits!) and then back into our groups to design the ideal base camp. Ron Sutherland then gave us a talk on base camps and pointed out what changes we should consider making for an effective camp set-up (he also assured us there would be no dragons or killer rabbits in the site after all!). A quick re-arranging of furniture, a fond cheerio to the poorly Immogen and Avril, and into our sleeping bags for a squished night's sleep!

There were a few stunned and slightly resentful faces when we realised it was morning already, but the mood improved when we heard the good news that we not only had to get up but do some exercise! While the breakfast crew got the porridge going in the barn, we jogged up the hill, did some stretching and had a hilarious game of hospital tig. By which point we were more than ready for the fantastic meal put on by Heather and the crew! Cornflakes, porridge (nice stirring Ryan!), hot hard boiled eggs, bread & jam, hot drinks and fruit were just what was needed, and we were soon full-up and ready for action. Immogen returned in time to see Ryan being presented with a birthday card, and a select few went to inspect our campsite for the evening. Meanwhile others cleared up, congregated in the hall & were serenaded by Donald on guitar. George also had the delightful task of emptying the chemical toilet. Light entertainment was provided by Jim and Chris C who demonstrated the workings of various traps we had just slept next to, and the damage they could do to a stick! The camp-inspection group returned and Camp Managers, Angela and Heather showed us how we were to lay out our camp. With the aid of the newly appointed Safety Officers Stuart and Graham, we loaded up the trailer and headed off with our packs. A short walk later, we had located the campsite and set about putting up our accommodation tents. That complete, we each had the task of helping erect something else, whether it be the Catering Tent, the main 'Marquee', the washing areas, first aid & store tents or the toilet or food pits. These proved to be surprisingly challenging tasks but with some elbow grease and a lot of teamwork we had finally erected all tents and had three pits suitable to catch some extremely large heffalumps! We had a walk around the site and noted what changes or improvements were needed, but as it was starting to rain it was decided that now would be a good time to stop for lunch.

We made a few alterations and additions to the camp, such as adding a male toilet area, before embarking on the afternoon's activities in four groups. These were based on magic and mystery due to the beautiful (yet slightly spooky) surroundings of the Riddle Estate. PJ had concocted a number of fantastic tasks including a sort of water-based assault course of potion mixing, a 'Crystal-maze' style pagoda building with one half of the team locked in the pitch black tower, and the other half instructing them how to build an exact replica of their structure, the task of getting dragons eggs up a hill and over various natural obstacles without touching the eggs, and a myths and legends Greek word puzzle! After which we were more than ready for the extremely welcome cup of tea and piece of Swiss roll that awaited us. In each task we had been awarded with Dong (the Vietnamese currency) which we were invited to spend in an "authentic" Vietnamese market put on by Claire, Chris C and Sam. Having got over the initial shock of the noise and bullying tactics, we had to purchase goodies to put on a performance of some description for later on that evening. Meanwhile the cooking team was hard at work producing the most delicious Vietnamese curry with rice, naan bread and peanuts! This was followed by fruit pies and custard (just what the doctor ordered)! The cleaning up group set about scrubbing all the pots and pans while others collected firewood and lit a magnificent bonfire down by the river. Here Ryan, (who happened to be wearing a rather fetching dress) was presented with an enormous birthday cake (and narrowly missed setting his frock alight)! Now it was time for the evening's entertainment, which involved rather a lot of cross dressers! We had hilarious group games of 'Play Your Cards Right', 'Simon Says' and 'Word Association', though the show was undoubtedly stolen by the sock-puppet show and the adventures of a young pair of socks in love in the top drawer! We had a really lovely evening sitting around the campfire toasting marshmallows (an acquired art form) and singing songs while Donald jammed on his guitar! This relaxed evening was the perfect end to a day where we had all worked and bonded together as a team, and off we went happily to our tents, dreading the rumoured mid-night activity which had been confirmed in our minds by the sudden appearance of Allan McGee!

Morning arrived which in itself was confirmation enough that there was no mid-night activity, unless we had all managed to sleep through it! As it turned out we had in fact managed to sleep through the wake-up call and although the breakfast team were up and cooking, the rest remained soundly asleep, and subsequently missed the scheduled morning wake-up run! A delicious breakfast of Cornflakes, bacon (or quorn), mushrooms, rolls, fruit and bread and jam were all that was required to not only wake up the team, but put a broad smile on everyone's face.

Now was time to dismantle the camp and do our best to un-do any damage we may have done. It turns out to be much easier to take these structures down than put them up! After much deconstruction and filling in of pits, we walked around the camp as a group and checked for damage or litter. Here came what turned out to be an incredibly memorable moment for the team - the eating of Ryan's Birthday cake. To say that this was the best chocolate cake in the world is no exaggeration (Heather you're a star J)! Having recovered from the marvel that was the cake, we had some talks on equipment and fundraising, planned/discussed events in our Cluster groups, and posed for a photo! Lunchtime was full of excitement over the weird and wonderful things people were eating (tubs of cheese and Branston pickle - wow!) but slightly subdued, as we were aware the weekend was nearly over. Having done a sweep search we set off back to the hall, sneakily taking a short cut we had spotted the day before. After un-loading the trailer we went inside and experienced the weird sensation of sitting on a chair (an experience we hadn't had for at least a day!). Here Allan gave us a talk on the ups and downs of being a venturer and read some really touching letters he had received from previous venturers. After a slide show of the Peru expedition, we were all very aware of what a fantastic opportunity we have been given by BEG, and the incredible stories and memories we will undoubtedly have this time next year. The High and Low points of the group were basically just an opportunity to say what a great weekend we had all had and to tell Heather how fantastic the food had been! Just time for some fond farewells and off home for a very early night.

Training Weekend 3

Friday 26th - Sunday 28th November


We arrived at Yetholm on the Friday night, some of us a little later as usual (the Hawick crew especially as they all couldn't find Yetholm!!)

We had a quick chat to catch up and then Vicky revealed the plans for the weekend. We started of the evening by splitting into groups and preparing our presentations about the Scottish Borders. Various information had been collected from the venturers, things which were touched upon included tourism, education, sport and leisure. After some tea and coffee we all headed off to warm bed in the hall but ready for an early start the following morning (in true BEG style). Breakfast included the unique bowl of porridge and jam! Yummy! Saturday morning activities involved all of the team learning basic fist aid. CPR, lifting & carrying, wounds and general things to be aware of in Vietnam were amongst the challenges, but we think that everyone's favourite had to be the special 'piggy-back' technique which involved very compromising positions with Rob and a few of the ladies!!! This lead us to lunch, followed by our risk assessment talk by PJ, where we quickly learned that we have a few risk junkies among us. After that we split into two groups to prepare the evenings entertainment... a St. Andrew's Day Celebration. One group set about making table decorations from anything they could lay their hands on, whilst the other group headed of around Yetholm in search of some historical information of the town. Just as everyone was settling down waiting for dinner, the training team surprised us with a team building activity. This involved small groups walking around Yetholm, all blindfolded except for one person at the front leading the team.Once finished we all headed back to the hall to find a delightful serving of Haggis, neeps & tatties!!- Complete with brown sauce, salt and pepper! Yey! Christmas had come early! Haha! Dinner started of in true Scottish style, an addressing of the haggis with Howard on bagpipes, Robyn playing waitress and Vicky reading the poem. An hour later, dinner was done and dusted, and we were all full of energy. Raring to go, everyone got into the mood when Jim put on some music for a Scottish ceildgh!!! After busting several on the dance floor, the group clambered into bed for a good nights sleep.....or so we thought.

At 5.30 in the morning, we were all awakened by Chris shouting that he had just received a phone call from the Vietnamese ambassador claiming that troops were on their way now to invade Yetholm!! An hour later and the team had set of on the trek to escape the fighting! However, no training weekend would be complete without a hitch. 5 miles into the trek and we had to turn back around due to the poor weather and lack of hot food. So we took a leisurely walk back to the hall where we feasted on a banquet of sausages. The rest of the day we amused ourselves with various games including the old favourite, Chinese ladders! Woohoo! Exhausted and breathless, we all decided to grab our lunches. After which we where presented with a scenario. Using our techniques from our first aid training, we had to rescue 3 members of the training team, who had all strangely decided to go for a walk that went wrong! Bizarrely they had all managed to injure themselves very badly, so we had to rescue them. We split into three teams and set off to find a casualty each with everyone hoping to find Rob and not Chris!! Think of the difficulty!! The task was successfully completed and all casualties were returned safely to the hall, where they all surprisingly felt 100% better. Must have been all the good first aid skills eh?!!!

The weekend was soon drawing to a close and before we knew it we were all sitting around in a circle saying our 'highs' & 'lows'. After several farewells we all left feeing excited and scared for the next installation of our BEG training.

Aisha and Nina

Training Weekend 4

Friday 28th - Sunday 30th January

Samye Ling and Newmill Hall

A break from the norm, we all arrived at Newmill on Saturday morning to find the leader team, who had been subjected to extra training since Friday night, looking a bit dreary eyed but as usual ready to get on with the weekend ahead. After everyone had arrived we had a quick discussion on how the preparations were coming on-the whole trip sounds like its going to be a pretty amazing experience- (even though it looks like some of us may be wearing kilts during the cultural phase.) Then it was sit was down to business and Angela gave us an informative but rather hilarious lesson on the Vietnamese language and its many sounds, tones and interesting pronunciations-makes French seem all too easy. Next there was the familiar tea break followed by a video on...Vietnamese food (looked quite nice actually, especially the spring roles). However this was stopped short and we split not two groups, one to make lunch and the other to try and perfect washing area construction. During the riddle estate training weekend the washing areas, although I have to say a valiant attempt was had making them, were not private enough. So we set about, in two teams, armed with tarpaulin, ropes and poles to make the perfect washing area-both were successful, however it was pretty obvious that one of the teams definitely came out on top. So with half the group thoroughly qualified in washing area construction it was time for dinner and as usual Heather, with help of those on dinner duty, made a lovely meal of courgette/tomato pasta sauce followed by a yoghurt and shortbread piece (luxury).

With lunch sadly comes the task of cleaning up, so the half who had made dinner went out to deconstruct the washing areas and the others got to work cleaning away. Next we were again split into different groups for two talks. The first, or second if you were in the other group, was on how to have a selection of nutritionaly balanced foods and specifically how to have a high a calorie intake (definitely the best kind of diet!- although dried mashed potato does not sound particularly pleasant). The second, taken by Claire Kitchiner, was a brief introduction to the many customs of Vietnamese culture, followed by some role-playing of what and what not to do.

So that brought us up to late afternoon and as planned we packed our rucksacks and headed of to Samye Ling, a Buddhist monastery. An hour on the minibus and we arrived, unpacked everyone's stuff and entered our accommodation for the night which, compared to most training weekends was like a five star hotel, central heating, loads of space and even a shower!! By this time everyone seemed quite hungry so we got out our packed lunches, had tea in what was supposed to be the buildings prayer room and headed up to the female sleeping place and began to practice meditation techniques for the next days trip to the Samye Ling temple. Definitely of note are some of the things people began to imagine, including a goose with a ducks head and of an elephant, which fell through the floor. Anyway, so after this spiritual experience it was time to go to bed. You would think with central heating, a big room with plenty of space and of course a solid roof over our heads it would be easy to get to sleep. I can't speak for upstairs but downstairs it was not to be so- although it wasn't really their fault someone started snoring loudly- (I hate to point a finger but it was almost definitely Stuart).

Even so we still had enough of a good nights sleep to get up the next morning, some enthusiasts got up at 5.15 so they could be down at the Temple in time for 6.00am prayers. The rest of us met them down at the temple in time for a very nice breakfast of croissants (and in some cases a very weird sesame spread), toast and cereal, wash up and head for the temple for an hours meditation. It was indeed an experience and everyone seemed to cope with it in different ways, some slept, some found out how much useless info was in their head, someone snored etc. So after this we were taken on a tour by Glaswegian monk who turned out be quite a laugh and had loads to show us and tell us about Buddhism and Samye Ling (although he was lost for words when asked whether he missed playing boggle or scrabble). So that was that and again it was time to say our farewells, get on the minibus and head of for a small trek. We arrived around 12 (I think) had a quick snack and headed of in our four groups over the hills and back to New Mill. After negotiating electric fences, treacherous marshy bogs and of course the odd burn we reached the edge of a small pine forest, sat down and had our lunch of laughing cow cheese, oatcakes, crispy bar thingies, fruits, and enough Tesco's value peanuts to feed an army (definitely high calorie stuff). It was actually turning out to be quite a nice day if not a bit windy and so the final trek down to the hall wasn't that difficult. We arrived just in time to have our good and bad points, said our goodbyes and left until next time...

Jamie & Robert

Safe Arrival

Hi Guy's

Just to inform you all that the Vietnam team have arrived safely in Hanoi. I received a phone call at 11.30 GMT [4th July] from Stuart Ruffell - 17.30 Vietnam time. They are all together in their Hotel, no problems were experienced in transit and the advanced party have consolidated all the groups arrangements. Hot, sweaty and tired but thrilled to be there.

from Allan McGee

Expedition Up-date 18th July 2005

We arrived safely and then spent a couple of days in Hanoi, visiting Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum Complex and the museum of Ethnology which was very interesting for everyone. An early start on the morning of the 6th of July and a long bus trip (6 hours) through some spectacular scenery to Ha Giang (pronounced Ha Zang) where we were welcomed by the Ha Giang province, and a further hour onto Quan Ba. The following morning we were welcomed to the Quan Ba district by the peoples committee (similar to the district council), and a short journey to Lung Tam Commune and a third welcoming party, before we went onto the two villages of Lung Tam Thap and Tung Nun.

Half of the Group stayed in Lung Tam a Hmong village, staying in a school and helping to repair the local village road by breaking up big stones into little stones, laying on the road and covering them over with soil The second half of the group went 2km further up the valley to Tung Nun, a Dao community, and also staying in the school and repairing a road by widening, flattening and digging drainage ditches. All the work was completed with the assistance of the local people within the 9 days, which I think was quite unexpected by the villagers, but a great achievement by all.

Both groups came together for a sports and cultural day with the local people from both communities, and we were beaten at Badminton, Volleyball and Tug of War! but we demonstrated the Gay Gordon's, and a strip the willow complete with Howard in his kilt and playing his bagpipes, we also sang a few Scottish songs all of which went down very well. The local people demonstrated some of their gentle singing and dancing then they got us all involved in their bamboo pole dancing!!! A most excellent experience enjoyed by everyone

The weather has been unavoidably hot and sticky, but we are now getting used to it, today it is 37oC. The evenings are a little cooler and whist we were in the mountains of the Lung Tam communities we were treated to spectacular thunder and lightening storms every night. No health problems other than some bites, a few bouts of sickness and some excess sun.

So we are now back in Hanoi, Chris and I have met with Buffalo Tours and they have undertaken a lot of work on our behalf, and by the sounds of things the next stage of the expedition will be fantastic, I'm still so excited.

Anyway that's about all for the now, much love and hugs from everyone here to everyone at home.


Expedition Up-date 24th July 2005

A wee update...

Monday 18th... Everyone enjoyed time in Hanoi, doing a little sight seeing, a little shopping, a little postcard writing and a little dining in some of the varied eateries in Hanoi. We eventually caught the overnight sleeper train to Lao Cai, which was an experience for those who haven't been on a train before, and as all good train journeys it was a little on the late side so in the morning we were able to see some of the scenery on the way... Its all rice fields, little wooden houses, people on bikes and water buffalo...

Tuesday 19th... After our arrival in Lao Cai and our transfer up to Sa Pa through some spectacular scenery we spent the day cycling, mostly down hill, in fact only 3-4 kms of up hill and a whole 17 kms down hill woohoo...

Wednesday 20th... An early start for the first day of trekking, we were transferred to a place called Heavens Gate and set off in glorious sunshine complete with 20 porters from the Black Hmong ethnic group, a cook, 2 local guides and 2 guides from Buffalo tours. Most of the day was trekking up and down through tropical wooded areas and really very dense bamboo thickets. Camp on day one was in a valley bottom by a wee river and we even had birthday cake complete with candle for Imogen.

Thursday 21st... Trekking day 2, a hard day of trekking in the rain up through more wooded areas and bamboo to a height of 3100m + for our high level camp, as we reached our camp the cloud cleared enough for us to enjoy some spectacular scenery across the Lao Cai province and over to China.

Friday 22nd... Summit day, after a breakfast of pancakes all 24 ventures reached the summit. We are all tremendously proud of the challenge that the team overcame :-) The remainder of the day was spent descending to a height of approx 2100m

Saturday 22nd.. Only a couple of hours spent trekking back to the start finish of Heavens gate, and returning to Sa Pa for a much longed for hot shower. Big congratulations to everyone !!!!!

Today we are off to Bacha Market for some shopping before the overnight train back to Hanoi...

So that's about all for now... until the next time - signing out from Vietnam

Big Hugs


Expedition Up-date 1st August 2005

Since our last email we have had an extremely enjoyable week in Cuc Phuong National Park, we arrived safely on Monday to be shown around the visitors centre. There was a slight change of plan as some of the Palm Civits had been unwell and 2 had died, so some had been sent to Australia for health care. This meant we were not allowed to be with them...instead we helped make a new turtle enclosure for animals which have been confiscated from poachers; it's also a quarantine area for these animals.

We also helped plant 30 trees, some of which were 5 meters high! It was very hard work and very hot. We managed to get a special permit to visit the primate rescue centre. This was an amazing opportunity to see what the park is really about. They have an extending semi-wild area which was fantastic to see. The have managed to breed lots of endangered primates and we were all over awed by it.

On the last night we had a cultural exchange with the people from the park, including more bamboo pole dancing! The park staff were extremely friendly and welcoming; they were very appreciative of the work we carried out. They also were very impressed with Howards kilt and bagpipes.

Yesterday, after a full day of shopping in the city, we split the group and some went to see a First division football match and some went ten pin bowling. Followed by...the majority of the group going to a snake restaurant, which caused a lot of interesting discussion! Most people had really enjoyed it, and some managed to eat the still beating hearts..if not taking shots of blood! The seven people who slithered out of such an experience went to a very nice veggie restaurant.

Today we have had a day of rain, but quite nice actually as it makes things cooler...we went by coach to a nearby ceramic village. We had a tour and were shown around a workshop. Some people had a shot on the potter's wheel. We also got a pot to carve and decorate, some people put theirs to be fired and hopefully the pots might make it back to Scotland in one piece!

The only problems we are having is that most people are becoming increasingly concerned about how much extra luggage we are going to try and get in our the shopping frenzy continues!

Hope you are all well as we are all continuing to have an excellent time


Expedition Up-date 5th August 2005

So this week has been very special, as it turned out, even though the weather had been poor it cleared up more than enough for our planned trip to Ha Long Bay, but due to the extensive damage caused by the storm to some of the coastline we were unable to camp on the beaches as planned so instead we stayed an extra night on the boats and another night in very grand accomodation in Cat Ba (complete with Karaoke, which some of the team made full use of).

We had the opportunity to visit some of the spectacular sights of the the limestone karsts within the bay, including the surprising cave, and a wee trip to Monkey Island. We also all kayaked, most of us swam and some even tried their hand at snorkelling, and we all took the oppertunity to have a couple of relaxing days on the sea, in the sun. Today after returning to Hanoi we went to a showing of the Traditional Vietnamese Water puppets, and we have just had our last meal at a wonderful Vietnamese buffet restaurant, some of the team members even dressed in their new silk clothing for the occasion and they all looked stunning.

So its all hands on deck for an early departure to the airport in the morning, saying cheerio to Karen who is off to continue her adventure around South East Asia for the next 8 weeks (we are all very jealous). Now that the end is upon us we are all preparing for our return trip and are looking forward to sharing all of our experiences with everyone back home, see you all very soon.

Lots of love

The Vietnam 2005 Team