Training weekend 2

The Bolivia training weekend 2 (which was much warmed and drier than training weekend 1) diary is available here. Read how we're preparing for the expedition, including being taught about risk, river crossings, and how to wash using only a cup of water!

Training weekend 1

Interested in what a typical Bolivia training weekend might involve? Read our first training weekend diary here! It involves games, hiking, failed campsites, and an emergency evacuation!

7th September 2016
Hello from the 2017 expedition team!
We have a big update about the 2017 expedition: after consideration between the leaders and the BEG committee, a decision has been made to change the destination of the 2017 expedition away from Brazil and to Bolivia. The decision was made principally due to Zika and the uncertain political situation in Brazil.
The new destination of Bolivia enables us to still go to South America, but stay high enough so that we're away from Mosquitos. It's a country where we can do a lot to help local communities, and we've already started to make connections with possible projects there. We're all really excited about going to Bolivia, and thank everyone who has been involved so far for their help and support!
- The Bolivia 2017 team

Training Weekend 1

I think the first training weekend for the 2017 Bolivia expedition could fundamentally be described in a few short words: wet, cold and great fun.
A wrath of storm clouds drew in over St Mary's Loch as the newly selected and somewhat apprehensive venturers (and leaders) gathered at Cappercleuch Village Hall on Friday evening. Dragging rucksacks half our body weight we were welcomed warmly as friendships were instantaneously established and bonds made.
Firstly: a quick briefing on what to expect over the coming days and then to kick off events with a pub quiz. Following this everyone was given the opportunity to show off their artistic abilities in the task of designing the team's expedition logo to be voted on at a later date. Then set into small groups to combine our perhaps shaky knowledge on Bolivia (slightly aided by a few travel guides and manuals).
Several cups of tea and hot chocolates later we started to get ready for bed, setting up camp in the hall, we all squashed in quite nicely for lights out at 11 o'clock.
6.30 Saturday morning and the lucky breakfast team begin to peel themselves away from the lukewarm comfort of their sleeping bags, by 7.00 we are all up, getting dressed and packing/squashing sleeping bags back into rucksacks. The smell of bacon pouring out of the kitchen in barrel loads. Though there was a slight problem; we'd ran out of water. The hall wasn't connected to the mains and so was reliant on a small stream feeding the loch that supplies the building in mere feeble doses, our ablutions ran it dry.

Beautiful views, lulling us into false security about the weekend weather...

Anyway, after a lovely breakfast we were divided into three groups to partake in three different activities. One of which was related to fitness and involved measuring our heart rates across various different exercises and considering the steps to be taken for improving our individual physical health before the final expedition. Another involved awareness of health and safety for when finally in Bolivia, giving us a briefing on our well-being and personal hygiene. And the third gave us some extremely beneficial advice on packing and equipment.
Then, in our groups we were given a map, a compass and a final destination and with much trepidation we set out along the route to make it to base camp. True to Scottish tradition, as soon as we left the hall it started raining and it didn't stop. Along the way we encountered some breath taking views of the hills and loch(if not slightly obscured by clouds) and the picture postcard Dryhope Tower some miles down the line. As we pressed on up into the hills the rain became heavier and a thick mist set in. On the final stretch we found ourselves lost in the fog of the Heather, as if from the pages of a Bronte novel, the trying conditions only brought us together as a team and we persevered on towards camp.
As we neared we were all greeted with warm smiles and cheers from the teams already there. What came next was possibly the most challenging aspect of the entire experience: putting up tents in the rain…Some time later we have managed to have assembled what loosely resembled a base camp.
Running for the shelter of the trees we get out the tranjias and cooking equipment and threw together a fairly decent three course meal (cuppa soup, vegetable pasta and fruit pie and custard-can't complain really!). On our way back to the tents we battled not on the elements but also an army of midges(who were out in full force and were in no way remorseful!) The weather had us defeated, we'd given up on the hope of a camp fire and any form of group activity and so retired to our tents desperately trying to keep dry.
Some time later from outside the tents we hear the best news we've heard all day;
“ The rain is getting too much, cars are coming, we are going back to the hall, be ready in 10 minutes”.
Suddenly the energy in camp was immense and the excitement almost tangible. Throwing anything and everything into our rucksacks we left camp and thundered on up the road, racing to be the first to meet the cars. The rain continued to besiege the landscape though it was unable to dampen the spirits of the now united B.E.G team. We continued along the road showcasing our fantastic vocals and musical talent until at last we met the cars, the leaders taking sympathy for a select few who were seemingly under dressed and under prepared for the conditions and chose us to pile into the back of the first land rover and return us safely back to the hall.
As everyone, soaking, arrived back at the hall it was evident that the washout had some how brought us all together as a team, something had changed, the rain almost seemed to have a catalytic effect on our morale and on our relationships, everyone was laughing and getting on as one unit and the atmosphere of the evening was simply great.
Hanging our saturated belongings on chairs at the back of the hall we all warmed up around mugs of tea and coffee and headed to bed for one final night in the hall.
Sunday morning, we woke up astonished to see a million bright ambassadors pouring in through the windows on sunlight wings. To combat the scarcity of water, a few of us ventured down to the loch side to collect some in buckets.

St Mary's Loch giving us a great backdrop to the first training weekend./p>

After breakfast the team divided, half of us travelling back to Saturday's ‘base camp’ to collect the tents and the rest of us remaining at the hall to prepare lunch for everyone with the left over ingredients from last night's feast. Those of us who remained at the hall took part in a small scavenger hunt around the site and a competition to come up with a poem either about our experiences of the training weekend or about Bolivia. After that we got lunch going and began to tidy up the hall. The other half of the team arrived back with all the equipment that had been abandoned in the rain and we all sat down to our final meal of vegetable pasta.
Packed up and tidied away, there was a final discussion on fundraising, the expedition, future training weekends , highs and lows an all that's to come.
So that's it. We headed home, many of us sad to leave our new friends, all of us looking forward to the next time and all of us that little bit more uplifted and in some way all of us a little bit more self assured.
It was a fantastic experience for all of us and precisely what the team needed-it certainly kicked things off with a bang!

(Almost) all of the 2017 expedition team!

Training Weekend 2

Our base camp under a beautiful rainbow.

Training weekend 2 took place from Friday 21st October to Sunday 23rd October 2016 at Lilliesleaf.

When we arrived at the village hall on the Friday night we dropped our heavy rucksacks off our shoulders and partook in some ceilidh dancing to warm ourselves up as it was absolutely freezing! Following that we did several activities, including designing our Base Camp and going over risk factors for the expedition. After this we dozed off to sleep in our sleeping bags on the wooden floor at about 11 o'clock.

The Bolivia expedition's first 'base camp'.

Sharply woken up at 7 the next morning, we got ourselves ready for the intense 10 minute hike to our camping location for the Saturday night! Here we set up the Base Camp we had previously planned out, each of us having a different task to complete (mines personally being the honour of digging the toilet pit!) before getting on with the rest of our busy day which included team games such as moving hay bales from one point to another with blindfolds on and racing one another on make shift three-man-skis! (Basically just long planks of wood).

Blindfolded activities, which were much harder than they looked!

Other activities that day included learning how to cross a river safely as a team and finding out how to clean your whole body with just one cup of water! (Surprisingly effective). That night while we were all asleep the leaders began to bash pots and pans, screaming "CODE 1!" which means to get out your tent as fast as possible and meet at a rendezvous point. This thankfully was just a drill but the baltic conditions had given me such a shock my body took ages to calm back down and catch a few more hours sleep.

Morning came too early on Sunday to say the least.

Learning how to do a (very cold) river crossing.

However we still rose, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to tackle the day. After breakfast we took down Base Camp and headed back for our, not-so, cosy little hall. Once back at the hall we learnt a bit about observational skills and how to get the most out of our experience in Bolivia, before having a group discussion on what to do for our adventure phase of the expedition (still to be confirmed) until we were picked up at 2:30pm by our parents.

Personally I really enjoy the training weekends, I feel each one is better than the last and it is noticeable how much stronger the team is becoming. We'll be ready in no time!

Spooky pumpkins by the bonfire.

Training Weekend 3

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th November 2016
Rosie (venturer)

Dropped off in the dark at 7.30pm at Newmill to have a short walk to our destination for the night. On the side of a farm track we found the small area beside a river to be our campsite. Split into our tent groups to put up our tents in as little time as possible in the dark was a challenge but we set up camp in no time. Soon after, we boiled water for hot drinks in our trangias due to the weather giving us below freezing temperatures. As it was so cold and dark we decided for us to go to sleep with quiet at 10.30pm.

With hardly any sleep due to the temperatures dropping to around -7 and the sound of the river it was finally time to get up at 6.30am to have breakfast that we brought and to boil water for hot drinks. Following this it was time to pack up our tents and campsite for a morning hike to the next destination. In the process of walking to the car to put the tents and tangias in the boot we noticed Ron's (training team) car stuck in the ford and having to be pulled out by a tractor. Walking to Hawick from Newmill took around three hours as we took a detour across the hills to take a visit to the monument made in remembrance of Nan Lyle. We then came onto the A7 and followed the road to the old parish church hall in Hawick where we found the warmth of the heaters and could put all our bags down. Following that we were able to sit down and our lunch.

Furthermore, after lunch we were out into three groups for us to complete three activities, each took around 30minutes. One activity was taking place in the kitchen to learn basic Spanish, by Mairi (leader). We learnt numbers up to ten and to say hello etc. Following this we went into the small hall at the back to go through the golden rules which the group had created earlier in the year. Moreover, the final activity was a fitness session (circuit training) involving shuttle runs, skipping, burpees, step ups etc. for one minute each. Once the activities were finished the whole group came together to go over the golden rules we created, we ended up spending the whole time going over one rule; Alcohol.

At 3.00 we were split into groups of ¾ people and had to create an 80th birthday party for a granny with a budget of £5000. We had to organise the event and given a list of everything with a price on, such as the destination, drinks, food, guests, decorations and presents for granny. This activity taught us how to budget your money as in Bolivia we will need to be tight on money.

Repeating the theme of budgeting, at 4.00 we were told by the leaders that we had 6 guests arriving at 7.00 who were expecting a fun-filled evening organised by the venturers. We were put into groups to complete a separate task; there was a cooking team, decoration team and an entertainment team and we all had to budget our money to support the evening with £210. Two people from each team to go in front of the leaders to attempt to receive as much of the £210 as they could get for their group. With this, the cooking team took a trip to Sainsbury's, the decoration team went to B&M bargains and the entertainment team called their parents to bring in their musical instruments. The cooking team had to create a 3 course meal with the starter having to contain the Bolivian flag colours (green, red, yellow) and the dessert containing the Scotland flag colours.

The guests arrived at 7.00 and were taken to their seats. The tables were laid out in a horseshoe shape with white table cloths and glitter sand sprinkled over. The back table had tinsel round the chair for the guests. The evening began with a parent reading allowed ‘Tam O Shanter’. The poem finished and platters were put on the tables containing a mix of cheeses and gluten free oatcakes (to meet the need of gluten free), salmon and lemons, and green and red and yellow peppers to meet the requirements of the Bolivian colours. The main was served, consisting of a potato curry and rice, with naan bread and coriander to suit the needs of the vegetarians.
Between the main and dessert we had the entertainment team. There was a quiz consisting of questions from past expeditions and to Bolivia, each corner in the room was numbered 1-4 as the questions were multiple and we had to go the corner which we thought was the correct answer. Joseph then played the bagpipes and Alex on the drums, then a piano piece from Joseph, an accordion piece from Harris and a second tune from Harris while the rest of us danced the Gay Gordon's. Moreover, the dessert was served containing chocolate fudge cake with blueberries and cream to fit the Scotland colours. However, there were two gluten free cupcakes. Overall, the evening seemed to be a success.

The guests left at 9.40pm which left us all to clear up the hall and kitchen so it was the way it was before. Luckily this did not take long due to everyone mucking in. Following this, the leaders went off to have a meeting in the small hall beside the kitchen while the venturers had to settle down for the night. Did we though? For once, the venturers were not required to get up early and produce breakfast for everyone due to us producing a successful evening, resulting in the leaders having to get up at 6.30am, giving us an extra 45 minutes in our sleeping bags.
Woken at 7.15am on Sunday to get up and have breakfast. The sight of warm cooked food including bacon and porridge was SO exciting. The morning activity for the venturers started at 8.30am and it was to explore Hawick park and note down all the sights and smells that we could. This was great fun and we all enjoyed it as we split into groups and went for a stroll around the park grounds. There were plenty trees and a river and stream flowing in the centre. There was a museum in the centre near the waterfall and walled gardens. This gave us a bit of freedom as all the leaders stayed back at the hall, as it is ‘all about trust’ according to David (chief leader). The weather was a cooler crisp morning but compared to the temperatures the day before it was relatively warm. The venturers met back at the park gates at 10.00 to walk back to the hall, which was a few minutes away. When we got back we had to present our findings to describe to the leaders what the park was like, the leaders had chosen John and Theigan to talk for 10minutes. This activity was to make us describe a place people hadn’t been to before in order for them to picture it in their mind, as in Bolivia we will have to describe what it was like when we come back home to our friends and family such as the landscape, sights and smells.

Following on from this we got together and talked about ideas and catching up on fundraising and sending in the money you fundraise. The cluster groups then got together with their leaders to have a talk about how the fundraising is going and any ideas for group fundraisers or individual fundraising. Lunch was next which included the packed lunch we had brought. The last jobs to do were to tidy up the hall. This consisted of cleaning the kitchen, small hall at the back, the main hall, the bathrooms and mopping and sweeping the corridors. This took us to around 2.10 and we were getting picked up at 2.30 so we sat down and went round saying our highs of the weekend and the lows.

Overall, despite the freezing temperatures the 3rd weekend was a success and the whole group had already bonded and both the leaders and venturers get along so well, which makes the weekends and activities more successful and joyful as we all have a laugh.

Training Weekend 4

Friday 13th January to Sunday 15th
Chloe (venturer)

We arrived at Lindean Hall at 9am, and got straight in to activities. Ian the paramedic kindly came in to show us how to do some basic first aid to benefit us for future training weekends and our expedition. Poor Cammy was used as the dummy for every tutorial, but got on with it none the less. We went over CPR, bandages, splints and little did we know it would come to be used later in the training weekend...

We were then joined by Jim MacPherson, who helped us make route cards and reminded us how to properly map read for the walk ahead. Everyone was split into two groups, both going the same route but one clockwise and one anti-clockwise. We set off for the walk and although it was very VERY snowy and icy, it was a beautiful day. There were good laughs throughout the whole walk and everyone's spirits were high, but nothing bet the view of the sunset from the top of the Three Brethren, simply breath-taking. We powered back to the hall (with an unplanned detour), Graham and I got so excited for our hot cuppa that we sprinted right up the hill and into the hall - to be greeted by the other group who'd also made it back very quickly.

Now everyone's favourite part of the night.. FOOD!

Pam had us all make a sandwich and sit at the table but with true table manners, we couldn't eat until everyone was ready, but one person was missing... We waited and waited and David was a no show. Our food was sitting right in front of us for what felt like forever but in burst David WITH CHIPS!!! Fair to say he got a massive standing ovation.

The entertainment of the night consisted of the classic games - 'wink murder' and 'heads down thumbs up'. The moment I triple - crossed Jim in heads down thumbs up, was one of the funniest moments of my life. I don't think he'll ever forgive me... sorry Jim!

Day 2 of the training weekend and we went out on a little stroll to stretch off after the big walk the day before. As we walked by a field, we noticed a man and woman on the ground, distressed, by a tree. The woman was shouting for help so the whole team headed over. We instantly split into two groups and my group was taking care of the lady. We went through all the procedures that Ian taught us the day before and it was a success. We even made a stretcher out of poles and jackets! I'm sure it was just a coincidence that the distressed man had a BEG Zambia jumper on...

After our emergency situation, we headed back to the hall to learn some Spanish from Paul and Patricia, who were lovely and excellent at teaching. We also got an insight into what we'd be doing in Bolivia, which made the expedition seem even closer for everyone.

The day powered on and in what felt like no time at all, it was time for our parents to come for the meeting. Information, do's and dont's for Bolivia and a reminder about our jags (ahhhhh).

After a reasonably quick meeting it was time to go home. Yet another exciting and hilarious training weekend over, spent with the best people and each time we seem to grow even closer.

And from a leader's point of view (Jane B)

Saturday morning - leaders were up at, did a 5 mile run and had a bathe in the Tweed –just kidding - we actually had a more gentle start to the day than previous training weekends but were all ready by 9am for the arrival of the rest of the group and keen to get started on training weekend 4. In reality, our weekend had started the previous evening with leaders and training team only where Nancy took us through some leadership training. We discussed different types of leaders and had a chance to think about the kind of leaders each of us are, and talked about the analogy of ‘filling other people's buckets’ a good way of visualizing thoughtfulness. Our buckets were then filled by a delicious tea prepared by Rosie and Nancy. A meeting after, to share the weekend plans and update on Bolivia plans, led us to sleep time.

So, back to Saturday morning and the start of a weekend that felt like very real training for Bolivia right down to the cold, crisp, sunny weather. First off was First Aid delivered brilliantly by Ian, a paramedic. We blew up dummies, secured our fellow leaders and venturers wounded limbs - imaginary of course - and tried to master the art of triangular bandage. Hmmm, triangular bandages and I have met before and didn’t get on very well then; this time we were no more compatible although Graham was a very good sport and didn’t object to my confused fumbling with his arms!
Around midday, we all had a few photos taken for the Southern Reporter and after that we were straight into route planning in preparation for the afternoon activities. We were divided in two with Mairi leader of the one group and Cammy leader of the other. Jim McPherson guided us through the procedures and then we were let loose with a map and part filled route card. Thankfully we had John, who along with Eilidh and Joseph quickly completed the missing information. Then it was a quick lunch, boots on and out into the beautiful blue sky day. The plan was a circular route to take in the Three Brethren, one group going clockwise tackling the hill from the south side and the other anti-clockwise, taking it from north-east. Cammy's group, of which I was part, took the anti-clockwise route setting out at a fair pace along the River Tweed. We were accompanied by Nancy and Les, and originally Jim but he quickly disappeared to check on the other group, not reappearing until we were slip-sliding down the other side. He then appeared first as a bobbing hat covered head, slowly followed by shoulders, body and legs charging down the hill trying to catch up with us. We were motoring! The top was too good not to mention, snow covered ground with a well-trodden packed snow path up to the iconic three cairns of the Three Brethren, and the sun beginning to set. As we passed the clockwise group striding for the top, the deep snow off the sides of the path proved impossible to ignore by the certain members of the group and those said members ended up more than a little snowy!
We were all back at the hall by around 6.30 and ready for food. Sandwiches and soup were on the menu but after a good long walk in the snow we were glad when David offered to go and fetch chips. After dinner, the evening entertainment began and after a couple of different challenges, which involved pairs trying to untangle themselves from string and balancing nails on a wooden block we put our heads on the table to play ‘heads down, thumbs up’. There was an element of calmness emitted as we played but it was punctuated with raucous laughter and giggling as certain people failed to guess the correct thumb presser! Well fed, watered and entertained, we were all in bed with lights off by 10.00.

After Sunday morning breakfast, everyone got ready to head out for a brisk walk along the riverside. Funnily enough, they came across some casualties lying injured so it was very lucky that we’d had first aid training the day before. After a short break we were straight into a Spanish lesson with Pati and Paul. They took us through some basic survival language and gave us a few grammatical rules making it sound so simple. Their enthusiasm and sounds of encouragement were much appreciated as they got us mingling in search of hypothetical ingredients for a traditional Bolivian dish. All in all I had a great time, I really enjoyed trying to pronounce words correctly and came away enthused about learning more.

The training weekend ended with a whole group meeting, highs and lows, followed by a meeting for parents. The plans are really coming together now and it was great to be able to share them with everyone. By midafternoon, tired but happy, we cleared up the hall and headed back to our homes. Another brilliant weekend! Not long until the next one……