Camp life can be hectic. Let me describe a typical day.
0700 – Wake and shower, walk to chalet
0730 – Arrive chalet and help setting up breakfast
0800 – Breakfast with 60 or more very vocal children
0900 – Daily program begins, spend all day with children straight out of an Energizer battery commercial
1800 – Dinner with wired children
2130 – Children go to bed, staff debreifing of the day
2230 – Go to bed
Repeat the above cycle for five days until completely shattered. Great fun, but quite tiring. That was my week this week.
I had the week before off though.
During my week off I played almost obsessively with beer cans. The rest of my ongoing journey’s meals will be cooked on this:
This is a beer can stove, adapted from Scott’s Pepsi can stove idea. It weighs 13 grams. It boils one litre of water in 10 minutes from lighting to boil. It is good.
The stoves run on alcohol. The one on the right in the above photo is made from a Red Bull can.
The stoves are a blast to make. A great way to spend a week off.
I did manage to get outside during my week off also. Once again the recumbent was put through its paces on the trails around Anzere. The mountains here stare you in the face, the valley floor extending more than a kilometer vertically downwards.
The day out cycling was only slightly affected by a broken chain. After more than 15,000km, my chain is on the way out.
It was tough, but my first week as an outdoor education camp counsellor went well. We had about 62 students from Zurich International School (ZIS), and I had 12 members in my counsellor group (ages from 9 to 10 years old). It was a dynamic group to say the least. Some other counsellors reported that their groups were always attentive, and very well behaved.
My camp name is Weka, and by the end of the week, Team Weka was defnintely my favourite group. The kids were outgoing and keen to give all the challenges a go. There were some strong personalities in the group, but with these tamed and directed, the group tackled the team work exercises with gusto.
The photo above, kindly taken by one of the ZIS teachers, shows a particular episode where Team Weka harvested about 40 small tadpoles from a pond. Even the girls were keen to get in there and grab a few tadpoles for the bag.
At first, the general consensus was that everyone would take a few tadpoles home each. However, after discussing the impact of humans on the natural world, we all took a vote on what would be the most caring thing to do. It was an almost unanimous vote to let the tadpoles go.
My specific role this week was to be the overall ‘overseeer’ of my group. Specific skills such as living with nature, map skills, rock climbing etc were instructed by a specialist. I may have a chance to operate in a specialist role next week.
Apart from work, I had the opportunity to do a couple of day rides around the area. There are some great mountian bike tracks on which my recumbent performs remarkably well.
A fasctinating feature of the Valais region in Switzerland is the abundance of irrigation channels dug into the mountain side. These are called ‘bisse’ and in the immediate vicinity of Anzere, there are three important bisse. The Bisse de Sion, Bisse de Ayant, and Bisse de Clavant.
These irrigation channels take water from high up in the mountains down to the many vineyards in the region. All along the bisse are walking and mountain biking tracks. On Saturday I went out for a ride with Dee, an Irish lass who was only here for the first two weeks of camp before returning to Ireland.
To the right of the track in the photo above, there is a channel of water. This is one of the bisse that runs from below Anzere all the way down to Sion. An altitude drop of about 700m.
A novelty was seeing a steep vineyard cart in action.
Not for the squeamish for hights.
Today I went on another ride, this time up the valley to Lake Tzeuzier, with Simon and Eric, two others involved in Village Camps. We followed the Bisse de Sion up the valley, and the Bisse de Ayant back down to Anzere.
The track is quite rocky in places, and exposed tree roots posed a problem at times. All in all however, 8 months on the recumbent meant that I handled the terrain with much more ease compared to my companions on their mountain bikes. The recumbent still ceases to amaze me.
Here we have Simon navigating the new tunnel to take the Bisse de Ayant past a cliff face. Below is how they used to do it. This wooden bisse counstruction was made at the turn of the 20th century, using fairly basic tools. Apparently prisoners were the construction workers of the time.
So that’s the first week of serious work here at Village Camps. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem all that bad…
My brain is fried.
I need sleep.
I am in over my head.
This week has been staff orientation week for the staff working at the Village Camps spring outdoor education programmes in Anzere, Switzerland. I am one of those staff, and without a doubt the most inexperienced when it comes to leading in the outdoors. It has been a massive learning curve for me.
There are about 14 camp counsellors this year, with about 9 attending the pre-camp orientation week. After 8 months on the road alone, it is great being with other people. It is also a challenge, as I now have to think not only about what I need, but the needs of others around me also.
The other camp counsellors are from diverse backgrounds. Countries include Poland, France, Canada, England, Ireland. There are professional teachers, snowboard instructors, mountaineers. All with a lot of experience.
Village Camps has a strong emphasis on environmental awareness. Their programmes actively encourage the participants to connect with their physical environment, and become active in understanding their part in being a responsible citizen of earth.
And here I was breaking off a dead branch of a pine tree to make a pole for my makeshift shelter. It is as much a course in awareness for me as it is for the participants.
Day one of orientation – Navigation skills
‘If a member of your group had a serious accident on the trail, and you had to tell the emergency services to come and pick them up, how would they know where to come to, if you don’t know where you are?’
That was the point behind reviewing our map reading and navigation skills. We learned about scale, guestimating distance, giving grid references, and estimating times to and from set locations.
All along the trail, our instructor and program coodinator, Anthony, was giving us eco-nuggets. Small pockets of information about the surrounding area.
At one stage we walked through an area of bush that had recently been destroyed by forest fire. The air was still pugnet with the smell of scorched earth and wood.
Day Two – Rock climbing
A crash course on group management at a rock climbing site. There is a specialist who does the actual instructing, but as a group counsellor, I am responsible for ensuring that the group is controlled and safe around the climbing site.
Day Three – Living with nature
Outdoor living skills and map making were the name of the game today. Another hard day of learning.
The photo above shows a simple activity whereby a group member makes a ‘landscape’, hides some treasure somewhere in it (a drawing pin), and then makes a map representing the landscape, showing the location of the treasure.
Day Four and Five - Overnight trek
Us 9 counsellors were split into three groups, and given instructions to make our way to Lake Tzeuzier. We were to be sure to keep practising our map reading skills. Each group would be called at least twice during the day to report on our exact location.
Once at the lake, the next challenge was to construct a shelter. My group chose a tall rock to make a lean-to shelter against.
Nothing I wasn’t used to, but at 1,850m in altitude, it was a cold night.
The first group of students arrive tomorrow. Sixty 9 to 10 year old students from Zurich International School for their five day program.
It has been an intense and full orientation and training week, but I feel prepared.