Chateau d'Oex is the place to be for a Young Explorer today. Loaded with heavy backpacks twenty young minds from all around the world arrived at the charming village in Switzerland. For the whole day the air was filled with laughter and excited welcomes – new members were introduced and old friends were hugged.
A beautiful campsite next to a river is going to be our home for the upcoming week. We enjoyed our first dinner together in the group tent and afterwards gathered around an open fire. Here we started discussing about Pangaea, future projects and our visions.
We are full of enthusiasm and eager to exchange our ideas and thoughts. Our goal is to work out new strategies for ACT projects, also we hope to find as much time as possible to talk about new, original ideas that will help the Pangaea program to develop even further. We will keep you updated on this blog. Please follow us here and don't forget to tell your friends! We send a warm hug to all our fellow Young Explorers and supporters!
– The Reunion YEPs
Following the tradition of Selection Camps, the second day of the reunion camp also started with a morning exercise. At 6.30 we reluctantly crept out of our warm sleeping bags and were greeted by a cold gust of fresh alpine air… Setting off at 7 from the camp site, we made our way up the steep slopes, into the forest and over bridges for a refreshing jog. For those of us from countries with level terrain or at lower sea levels, the run was extremely tiring…
After a simple breakfast of bread, muesli and tea as well as a warm shower, the 20 YEPs walked up to Hotel de Ville for some Act project presentations. It was great to hear from other YEPs about other successful environmental projects in other parts of the world: Inspiring each of us to go back to our own communities to do our part for the environment.
A major aim of the Reunion Camp is to plan and implement new Pangaea Act projects around the world. Thus we shared our ideas about a new Green Wave project, that YEPs from every continent can take part in. This lead on perfectly to a presentation made by Nespresso about ecolaboration and their experiences with Mike on the Pangaea. It is fantastic to have a company supporting the Young Explorers Program that is so passionate about creating a sustainable future. The Young Explorers are thoroughly looking forward to collaborate with Nespresso…
This rewarding and fun day was completed with a 45min walk to a farmhouse. The trek up the steep slope was thoroughly rewarding: the view from the top of the mountain, looking into a breath-taking valley and rocky peaks in the distance, was worth all the effort. At the farmhouse we were pleasantly surprised by a tour of the dairy farm, the production of cheese and of course the cheese tasting. Eating home-made cheese on a mountain is not comparable to eating Swiss cheese bought from a supermarket… Spoiled by a sumptuous meal of raclette and potatoes, we were all thoroughly grateful to the farmer, Pipo, for his generosity.
Today there was big excitement in the air: we were going to go canyoning in freezing cold water! After a long car journey we finally arrived in "les marecottes", where Claude-Alain and Gilles waited for us. While packing the equipment, everyone was wondering what was ahead of us.
The activity started with a fifteen minute walk uphill. At the top, the guides made sure we all understood the safety precautions and the techinque to use during the canyoning. The first jump into the water was a shock: the water coming from the glacier was so cold! Our first two slides were called the "shower" and the "jacuzzi". While sliding down the rocks, it was essential to have a straight body and to lay on one's back. In the middle of the canyon we had the chance to use a flying fox to get down a 20m waterfall. It was impressive to see the power of the water creating these narrow canyons… To finish this amazing adventure, those who were brave enough had the opportunity to jump from an 8m high cliff. We'd like to thank Wenger for sponsoring this amazing experience…
In the afternoon we had a discussion for our future Green Wave project as well as other long term projects. Since the Young Explorers were very enthusiastic, we ended up having a lot of ideas and are looking forward to commence our up and coming local projects.
Today we had a contrast between swimming in ten degree cold water and sitting around a two hundred degree campfire at night… It was truly an unforgettable day of the YEP reunion camp..
It can be really tricky to find an act project in Switzerland. It is a pretty clean and green country so you can't really pick up trash you know… But our kind organizers found us something interesting and actually useful to do. It wasn't as easy as running uphill because we had to use skills that most of us don't normally use. We had to use both our hands and minds to build something. What can it be?
Well, nothing can stop a young explorer, not even professional and noisy tools. We all put our hands to work to build some bird nests. Those will be used by owls. Normally, owls nest in holes left by woodpeckers but since there are not enough woodpeckers here, a lot of owls don't have anywhere to nest.
Most of the people who came to the reunion are girls and I'm sure you can picture 8 unexperienced women trying to build something out of random pieces of woods. Fortunately, we had Nicolas, a local dad whose boy is part of the Pangaea community, to help us manipulate the power tools and saws. After few hours of hard working and after a couple of mistakes, we finally managed to put together 8 bird nests for the local owls!
It felt great to concretely see the result of your work and to know that you have done something useful. We also discussed about possible projects we can do individually or communally. Brainstorming as a big group is really creative but sometimes hard for we all have different opinions about what we would like projects to look like. But, most importantly, we get to meet amazing people from all over the world and you feel that you finally belong somewhere. It might sound very cliché, but I feel that together we can achieve great things and that is one wonderful opportunity to share and build a unique network with people that have the same strong will to make a change.
Chilly evening in the Alps, all the YEPs are at the campsite. By the campfire, we sat reflecting on our great adventure of the day. We had woken at 6am ready to start one of our many YEP Adventures: the re-raid, hiking from Chateau d’Oex to Montreux on Lake Geneva through the Swiss Alps. It took us 9 hours of walking through rain and mud trying to find our way through the mountains. Arriving in Montreux, and witnessing the relative enormity of Lake Geneva made all of our effort feel worthwhile.
To boot, Becci and Florence waited for us in the train station with 24 boxes of well-deserved pizza! We ate lunch seated smelly and dirty on the steps of the train station. To us it felt normal, but passersby were curious… our final 30K was a train-ride back to Chateau d’Oex in our privately reserved train car—we felt so privileged!
These are the kinds of experiences that helps us YEPs to bond more closely together and remind us why we are all a part of the Pangaea Family. â˜º
The Pangaea Family celebrated a special occasion on Friday: Andrew's 21st Birthday! Being from the USA, it is very special that he decided to celebrate this landmark with us. After a day full of discussion for our future projects, the Young Explorers, Mike Horn Team and friends in Chateau-d'Oex all met for a BBQ Party and danced the night away. And what climate could be more perfect than Switzerland for a midnight swim?
The Young Explorers fought the break of dawn and watched the sun rise on the mountainside. What a beautiful way to spend our last hours together!
Reunion camp has been great, and we are all thankful for the bonds we have strengthened with each other! Even the YEPs we only met on Friday feel like good old friends.