Girlguiding Dunkeld – Guides & Senior Section in Switzerland
A big THANK YOU to all who have contributed to the fundraising over the last year to make this trip possible!
While assembling 41 people at Edinburgh airport in the early hours of Saturday 1st of July, the thought crossed my mind that the busiest day of the travelling year may not have been the best day to start this venture – but precisely because we were such a big group, this was the only week that Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC) was able to accommodate us. After a little bit of nail-biting because something seemed to have gone wrong with the number of bags we were allowed to check in, everyone eventually made it to the boarding gate. We were on our way!
The less than perfect weather on arrival didn’t dampen spirits – there was enough to do to find dorms, settle on who was going to sleep in which bed, and generally get to know the centre and the surrounding area.
But by Sunday afternoon, a bit more action was needed – and what do you do with Scottish Guides when it’s too wet and chilly to do anything else? You take them to the open-air swimming pool!
The day ended with an impromptu campfire with the Torwood Scouts from Falkirk, ably (and loudly) run by our Senior Section. It was the Scouts first day, and after travelling all day, some of the boys didn’t quite know what had hit them!
On Monday the weather started to improve and it was the start of our organised activities. The Guides went rock-climbing, which gave everyone a sense of achievement – whether they got to the top, or simply managed to get a little bit higher than they would have expected.
For the Senior Section the cold waters of the Lütschine provided some great White Water Rafting, followed by a visit to the pretty town of Interlaken. The picture shows them having their lunch at the most scenic spot imaginable.
The International Evening at KISC concluded the day. Our display of all things Scottish was much appreciated (particularly as it included such local goodies as smoked salmon and a lot of homemade tablet), though we were by no means the only Scots there that week.
On Tuesday it was the Guides’ turn to go White Water Rafting on the slightly more sedate Simme river. While some girls (and leaders) had to overcome a bit of nerves, they all agreed afterwards that it had been brilliant fun. The Senior Section meanwhile went off to hike to a mountain hut to spend the night, followed by a climbing session the next day.
For the rest of the group, Tuesday night was taken up by the KISC Kander-Challenge, with everyone on site mixed up into teams and given a set of challenges to achieve through team-work. Due to the large size of the teams, some of our girls felt they didn’t have much in-put, but it certainly gave everyone a sense of being part of a big movement.
By Wednesday we were all ready for something a bit more sedate. At a culture-craft workshop, the girls could make leather woggles and dream catchers, and during a solar workshop they learnt ways to harness the sun’s power (KISC has a strong environmental ethos).
As it was a nice hot day, we also managed another visit to the swimming pool – this time in much more appropriate weather.
For the evening’s ‘Come Dine with Me’ session we had been paired with the Torwood scouts. Both groups being Scottish, there was less of a cultural aspect to this evening, but it was a nice chance to build on friendships struck during our earlier campfire session.
The next day, the Senior Section took themselves off on their own for a day at the ‘other’ special place in Switzerland. ‘Our Chalet’ is one of WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts) world centres, and happens to be just one valley over from Kandersteg. The girls enjoyed their independent day out and gained a bit more experience about the history and the global aspects of Girlguiding.
For the Guides, Thursday was Hike Day, which some girls anticipated with a bit of trepidation. The hardest hike was up to the Bunderspitz – at 2546m a proper mountain top, and only available to 14 year olds or older. Three of our girls chose to take on this challenge and acquitted themselves very well, drawing may be on reserves they didn’t know they had.
For the rest of the group, the choice was between the ‘Cheesery Hike’ and the ‘Gasterntal’. The first being an extremely steep walk up and down to an alp, to see how they make the cheese and to taste it as well, the second a longer but more gentle walk down a very scenic valley. It was a hot day for all, and my group (the Cheesery), were extremely pleased to have their lunch by a wonderful little waterfall – where not many clothes stayed dry!
That evening, after all groups had returned tired and happy, there was a palpable sense of achievement in our camp. What a wonderful environment for the girls to test how much they were capable of, with wall to wall sunshine to boot.
So Friday, our last full day at KISC, dawned with one of the biggest treats still to come. A trip in the cable car up to Oeschinensee, that most beautiful spot, where many girls had chosen to take their Guide promise. In fact, some of the Senior Section renewed theirs at the same spot where they took it originally in 2013. Before we got to the lake however, we stopped off at the sledge run, which soon echoed with the shrieks of exited girls. As it was another hot day, the girls went paddling in the lake the moment we arrived there (I find that they never need much excuse to get wet). Even without a promise ceremony, this would have been a memorable day, but for those girls who did take their promise, it will hopefully stay in their minds as something very special.
The day ended with the KISC International campfire, another special occasion, where all the people at the centre come together to celebrate the Scouting and Guiding movement. Our contribution was a performance of the Gay Gordons around the fire, which was soon taken up enthusiastically by many others – in fact they had to call a stop to more people joining in, as there simply wasn’t enough space.
And so our last morning arrived, with an early start to get our rooms cleared and cleaned, and to catch the bus into Kandersteg for the last time. It had been a great week, and the memories will hopefully last a long time.
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