Southampton SSAGO's International Trip to Switzerland

Oliver Bills (Southampton SSAGO)

Monday 10th of July 2017

Southampton and Solent SSAGO embark on a journey to Kandersteg, Switzerland staying at the International Scout Centre for a week of excitement and adventure!

After over a years worth of planning it was time for 24 Southampton SSAGO/Network members to set off an adventure to the World Scout centre (KISC) in Kandersteg, Switzerland!

Meeting at 2am meant a very early start but it was well worth it, with the week ahead that was planned. After a packed full minibus drive to the airport, a flight with an overwhelming number of excited Scouts and Guides and several trains admiring the scenery; travelling there could not have gone any better and our luck finally ran out as we just missed the bus to the campsite. After Oli and Lauren’s tour of the campsite and everyone else arriving it was time to set up camp in our patrols (Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau)! Our first experience at KISC was taking part in the International evening where we represented the UK in our Scout/Guide uniform and each group showed what their country had to offer, mainly food. It was a fairly relaxed evening after a long day of travelling and a busy week of activities to come.

The first full day began with a Treasure hunt, giving everyone a chance to explore the pretty village of Kandersteg in the glorious weather, beginning with a wander alongside the river Kander. The afternoon proved more relaxing for some off swimming and others went geocaching which seemed quite challenging. During the evening the Kander challenge provided another opportunity to meet other scouts and enjoyed ice lollies - a great way to end our first full day in Switzerland!

Wednesday offered the chance for people to either visit Trummelbach falls or high ropes in Interlaken. Everyone had the chance to experience more adventures on the Swiss trains, this time with interesting journeys for those going to Trummelbach - including a getting on a rather overcrowded train which moved unlike the other one but not without some rather sudden stops. On a glorious sunny day, some enjoyed the scenic walk along the valley and spray from the waterfalls, whilst others took the challenge of the high ropes. Later in the afternoon we met up to explore Interlaken together, with others deciding to enjoy a nap in the sun along the River Aare. Excitement levels rose when we caught a double decker train back, followed by a campfire and bat watching back at KISC.

For the next two days half the group set off on their overnight hike and the others ventured to nearby Thun and Our Chalet. Group led by Lauren set off for the town of Thun; We quickly spotted the castle from the train, heading across several rivers and uphill to the castle. We were all able to enjoy Izzy’s knowledge of the medieval castle and spectacular views from the top of each of the four turrets. All of the walking up to the top meant that it was time to enjoy our packed lunch in the shade, before exploring the town involving a search for ice cream! We decided to make the most of our train ticket by also popping into Speitz on our way home to enjoy the views of Lake Thun. Back at camp we managed to cook Spaghetti Bolognese as if it was for the whole group rather than half, not that anyone was complaining! Soon it was time for the 'light trail’ which was an unexpected surprise of the week; we were given a flaming torch, followed lanterns, whilst answering thought provoking questions (starting with scouting experiences and then bigger global issues). The evening ended with a lovely campfire together with the other groups on the light trail.

Friday was another early start to get to cable car nearby, just after it opened. We all boarded the cable car, with some enjoying the views as we ascended and others just pleased to make it to the top! After some photo taking opportunities and faffing time we began the walk, with Lewis acting as a great 'back stop’. Despite the rather steep climb up to Bundespitz, despite zig zagging, all 12 of us managed to make it to the summit (2800m), all enjoying the 360 degree view. The journey down proved more challenging as we headed for Our Chalet, with a map seemingly not as user friendly as the Ordnance Survey maps we all take for granted. Despite arriving at Our Chalet a little later than anticipated, we still had time for a quick to look around and buy badges. Soon the tiredness of the hike set in as we made our way to catch the bus through the valley, back to meet the others at the campsite.

In the other half of the group they ventured off on their overnight hike. Joined by our guide for the next two days called Rebecca, who was soon to discover that as SSAGO we enjoy doing things that children enjoy, like going to the playground. There were beautiful sites as we went along, cross bridges, waterfalls during the first day. We extended our first day walk by going to a nearby "dodgy bridge" that was 30 minutes away (actually about an hour and 30 minutes away). After arriving at the mountain hut after a long day, Vicky made sure that everyone had enough to eat by cooking a reasonable unreasonable amount of pasta, when let loose on the supplies. We also Introduced pictionary whispers to Rebecca, with marmot featuring lots, despite the fact nobody could draw them. On the second day we got to use ice axes and go across the glacier, feeling a very good sense of achievement and milkshakes to enjoy at the top. It was sad to say goodbye to our new friend Rebecca even if she tricked all of us into believing a train was running under the mountain at 'Train Rock' and you could hear it... but there was no train. Weall re grouped along with hundreds of other scouts and guides to enjoy the International campfire which we had all been waiting for! We performed a sketch of 'Goldilocks and the three bears’ and 'The Penguin song’.

Saturday introduced a range of activities to enjoy on site, a change from being in the mountains the day before. Some brave adventurers went on the fast-paced zip wire flinging them through the air, whilst others offered a hand to the pinkies through a service project on the campsite, preparing the volleyball pitch for later use and learning what it’s like to be a pinkie at KISC. Lunch was more exciting, with baked potatoes on the fire. Pioneering competition during the afternoon involved again mixing with other international scouts to build a stretcher, a tower, a ladder and a bridge with no rope, with the emphasis seeming to be on speed rather than structural soundness. The evening drew to a close with more swapping of neckers and stew for dinner.

It was another early start to head to Oeschinensee (lake with glacial waters)and the summer sled run that we had been waiting for all week! The steep ascent to the lake also brought with it the first rain of the week (but I don't suppose that we could really complain)! We made it to the start of the summer sled run just in time before our tickets expired, with some being more competitive than others but all having very good fun! After enjoying lunch and ice cream next to the lake some decided to make a splash in the freezing cold water, with snow on the tops of the mountains! We all leisurely strolled to the bottom in time to get ready to go out for the meal altogether in the village. That evening we also presented the paper plate awards to everyone.We then wondered slowly back to site talking happily of the adventures of the week.

Sadly, the final day had come which meant it was time for us to pack up and leave our wonderful new home in KISC. We started the day with a cooked breakfast of scrambled egg, sliced potato and most exciting of all - mystery meat. After our feast, we all began packing (trying to work out how all our things had fit in one bag on the way here!) followed by tent dismantling. We then distributed our leftover food to other scout groups before we headed on a final trip to the shop for last minute necker acquirements. We then all ventured into Kandersteg to stock up on Swiss goodies for our journey home including plenty of sweets and chocolate before setting down out bags at the station and waiting for the train. There was a good long wait so a number of us enjoyed a game of “spending all the change” and resulted in the local supermarket running out of value chocolate. Before we knew it was time to board the train back to the airport and before we left Switzerland there was a final attempt to eat all the snacks so that they could fit in suitable bags. Back in the UK, lots enjoyed a lovely sleep in the minibus back to Southampton as we most likely dreamed of KISC memories, friendship and reasonable amounts of pasta.