So last night we had a presentation evening, to review our week in KISC, and show off a selection of the 3000 photos that were taken during our trip. This reminded us of what an amazing time we had whilst we were out in Switzerland, and one thing that came out of the meeting was that 1st Formby will return to KISC!
Please see the below reports from two of the leaders that were on the trip.
A big thank you to the team at KISC, and also the team at VA – you made our trip successful and ensured we all had a great time.
What a week we had in Kandersteg. I don’t think a day has gone past since we got back that I haven’t spoken about the trip to somebody.
I have been going through the 3000 photos that you all took whilst we were there, whittling them down to a collection that will hopefully sum up our trip, however what has become very clear is that no amount of photos can get across the magical time that we had that week.
So why Kandersteg? Why do 12,000 scouts from over 40 different countries choose KISC?
Back in 1921, the chief scout of Switzerland came across an unused chalet that was used for the workers building the Lötschberg Tunnel, and wrote to invite Baden Powell to visit. BP had a dream, to have somewhere that was a permanent mini jamboree, where scouts from all around the world could visit. In 1923 the chalet and some land was bought, and that’s where it all started, and the dream continues today.
So we boarded our coach and set off to Switzerland, picking up another group from Shrewsbury. After the ferry, thankfully most of the group slept and woke up as we entered the Swiss border. Saturday was all about settling in, finding where things were on the site, gave the leaders time to check over activities and make sure the correct food was ordered, and to relax after a long journey.
Sunday brought a Sunday morning meet up, where we all got involved with games from many countries; with Katie taking the lead to teach the other scouts Spider (Somebody gave Katie a megaphone!!) So then we demonstrated the game before inviting other scouts to join in. We then went on to practice our volleyball skills before the international sports afternoon!
Monday and Tuesday….. so the group split to over 14 and under 14. The over 14’s set off on their hike bright and early, climbing up the back wall of the valley, and started the mammoth climb up to 2700 meters, crossing some flimsy bridges, some snow, a glacier and passing some magnificent scenery. Monday night brought our highest ever investitures, welcoming Matt and Lucy into the group. We then slept in our mountain hut before the descent the next day. It was a very tiring day but well worth all of the effort. The under 14’s started off in the afternoon with a trip up in a cable car before a hike up to their mountain hut – where they had some cows with cow bells outside their bedroom window all night! Those bells are loud! The scouts also had an investiture ceremony for Zoe!
Onto Wednesday, for me, the most amazing day. So we started off with breakfast, out in the open on the sports field, with 1500 other scouts from 36 different countries. There was a major buzz that morning! The day’s activities then started including wet and wild, dunking, zip wire and crate stacking. A carnival was put on in the afternoon, giving us a chance to try food and games from different countries – and even a chance to have your photo taken with an Olympic torch that came all the way from London! The evening then went on to have a BBQ before getting our uniforms on and heading to the sports field. There was a short ceremony, and then each group started doing their chants whilst the torch lit procession was built. There was a mass of flags at the front, followed by the 1500 scouts, explorers and leaders and volunteers from the centre as we headed down to the village. We found the Portuguese were very loud and took their chants seriously – we fought back with a rendition of Hey Jude! There was a massive buzz as we paraded down to Kandersteg village, and this feeling will live with me forever – something I most definitely will not forget.
So Thursday started with a trip to the high ropes course. This was, in my opinion, much better than the go ape equivalent in the UK, and had a great variety of challenges up in the trees. In the afternoon we headed down to the village pool to give the group a chance to show off their diving skills! Swimming in a pool surrounded by snow capped mountains was a first for many of us – but it wouldn’t be the last of the trip!
Friday, we headed off up to Oschensee – up another mountain but the thought of an alpine lake up at the top was very welcoming in the heat. It was a hard slog up but we got there in the end. The lake was freezing, but was in a gorgeous setting, again surrounded by steep mountains, snow at the top, and a bright blue mass of water. Yes it was freezing!! After the swim and lunch we headed over to the toboggan course. For anybody that has been in Llandudno, imagine about twice the size, twice the speed, and some very steep drops if you were to come off the track! 2 goes were given to all, however some paid for an extra 3 trips! The smile on Ian Chapman’s face as he finished his first run still makes me chuckle! Friday evening the kids went off to the international scout campfire, whilst the older members of the group had a wander into the town to celebrate a brilliant trip!
Saturday – sadness as we were packing to leave, saying goodbye to holiday romances, saying goodbye to the many friends that were made, gathering up all the neckers, badges, sweatshirts and wrist bands that had been swapped throughout the week, thinking of all the activities that had been done that week, trying to work out how many tyres we had to puncture on the coach before we were forced to stay another night! It was a busy morning! We then boarded our coach for the short trip to Thun (toon!). So what does Thun have to offer…… a nice lake, a fast flowing river, mad people who climb up buildings, jump into the fast flowing river and get carried down to the steps to get out and repeat the process, and a random Ferris wheel that you can spin your car as your go around the loop, and of course more Swiss army knife shops! Back on the coach to Egerkingen to have tea, and that was it, goodbye Switzerland.
It was a quiet coach journey back, lots of sleeping, and we stopped off to buy Ice Age 3, Marmaduke and Garfield to help the sleeping!
So, my personal highlights of the week include all of the activities we did, the sense of achievement after the hike on the Monday, sleeping at 2700 meters, spending the week camping at a higher altitude than any point in the UK, seeing all the scouts with a permanent smile on their faces for the week but as I said earlier, making sure I took the parents role of making sure I embarrassed by as many of the kids as possible, but the bit that is permanently written in my mind is the events on Swiss National Day – to see the scouts from all around the world being patriotic, waving their flags, shouting their chants, singing their anthems (we had a go at ours!) but most of all, it was having 1500 people from 36 different countries, all together getting on, no fighting, no arguing, all smiling and enjoying taking part in activities together. That was Baden Powel’s dream, and the team at KISC have kept that dream going. We will return to KISC!
1st Formby ESL
…………….the magic lives on and on.
I recently took the opportunity to join 1st Formby Scouts and Explorers on their first visit to Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC) in Switzerland and as three of my grandchildren were going I thought, ‘Why not, when would I have another chance to camp with them on a great adventure?’
I first visited Kandersteg in 1958 for a fortnight as an ASM accompanying the 44th Beckenham Senior Scout Troop when some 20+ young lads from South London experienced their first trip abroad – no flying; train, cross channel ferry, then trains to Paris, Berne and Kandersteg.
We were hooked – some 12 Rover Scouts made the trip again in 1960 – this time we climbed ‘big’ mountains, hiring local guides to lead us – this led to a lifelong enjoyment of the great outdoors and the wild places that continues to this day. Sadly, some have passed on to that mountain in the sky but those that remain are still in touch wherever they are in the world and conversations will often revert to memories of those visits to Kandersteg in those early days.
Since then I have visited KISC on a day out on a family holiday, spent a week walking with one of my sons and attended a couple of European Scout Region meetings on Adult Support for emerging Scouting in the Baltic States when they split from Russia.
On to 2012 – we coached all the way – 26 hours – flying still too costly! – a bit taxing but all worth it for the camp to come. We had booked a package with Venture Abroad which included travel, meals en route, tents erected on site, full board and a wide range of adventurous activities plus the support of a rep on site. Some may consider this to miss the practice of camping – wrong!! This enabled all the Scouts to make the very most of the wide range of activities and challenges available.
The looks of awe and wonder on the faces of the Scouts (and Leaders) was great to behold as we rode up the Kander Valley towards snow capped mountains lit by brilliant sunshine from a clear blue sky. (It did lash with rain on a couple of occasions!!) We saw roaring glacial rivers, chocolate box chalets on the Alpine meadows and cows with massive and loud bells. We shared the camp area with about 1500 scouts from 36 different nations, a living international experience as Baden Powell envisaged it for the youth of the world.
The highlights for the band of Scouts from Formby (they could have seen it differently!) were :-
- camping at a height higher than anywhere in the UK;
- hiking off into the mountains, crossing a glacier and staying overnight in a mountain chalet;
- a trip in a cable car;
- a high ropes challenge (Go Ape!);
- a hike to a mountain lake, a swim in the lake returning via a dry sled run;
- an international day starting with over 1000 scouts sitting down for breakfast together in the open;
- celebrating Swiss National Day with 1500 scouts from around the world, finishing with a torchlight procession through Kandersteg village joined by the local population for a bonfire and fireworks;
- experiencing an overnight storm with the thunder echoing off the mountains and the lightening flashes reflecting off the rock faces and the lashing rain – great when you are tucked up in a warm sleeping bag in a sturdy tent.
For me, the week was an opportunity to camp with scouts again and see them learning the true joys of Scouting and gaining those memories and experiences that will light up a life time. It was also an opportunity for young people to grow in responsibility and confidence in themselves whilst in a foreign country by gaining the trust of their leaders to be allowed to explore at a young age.
Yes, Kandersteg is magic but it needs dedicated leaders to recognise the satisfaction they will earn by encouraging more young people to ‘go for it’ by waving the magic wand to create those memories.
My personal thanks to the Leaders for having me along at a particularly difficult time in my life, they waved the wand and the scouts made it magic!!
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