It was 4.30 am on Saturday 13th July and a party of 11 Explorer scouts plus their leaders from Horsham were setting off to take part in the Nijmegen Marches along with 46000 other participants-quite rightly called the Walk of the World. Before them four consecutive days of walking 40km per day , out from the centre of Nijmegen and back each day on a different circular route.
But first, to get there.
By car, train and boat to the Hook of Holland then by car to the scout campsite in Nijmegen.
It’s 6.00 pm Dutch time when we arrive, time to freshen up, change and get down to the city centre to join in with the festivities-the whole city is alive with music and entertainment.
It’s been a long day but at 1.00 am it’s time to wend our weary way back to the campsite have having got our first taste of the Nijmegen atmosphere and perhaps an idea of what lays before us.
Sunday dawns and it’s a more relaxed day, with explorers surfacing anytime from 8.00 am until 11.am to enjoy a full English breakfast, followed by an afternoon of free time in the city to have a proper look around, enjoy more of the sights and sounds and to buy those gifts for those at home. We all have to be back at the campsite for the camp BBQ-never seen so much all BBQ’d at the same time!!
Free time after the BBQ and everyone decided to stay on site and relax (Very wise considering the exertions to come).
Monday is a very different day and a somewhat thought provoking experience for the explorers. A visit to the allied war graves at Groesbeek. Some of the soldiers buried there from the 2nd World War are only 17 years of age.
The afternoon is spent relaxing on the campsite and making new friends and acquaintances with the other scouts on site from throughout Europe.
An energy giving dinner before the camp opening ceremony followed by the camp curfew at 8.00pm– all to bed for a 3.00 am call on Tuesday-the first day of the Nijmegen Marches.
Tuesday 3.00am– the dreaded early morning call then, dressed, up and into the site HQ for breakfast and prepare our lunch, making sure we are ready by 4.15 for the lift into the city to start the first day-The Day of Eslt.
We start at 5.00 am, and immediately the crowds are out cheering and giving support-it’s a surprise we are not suffering from RSI after the first mile, we couldn’t count the number of high fives.
On through the city and out over the famous Nijmegen bridge. Before us the towns and villages of Lent, Bemmel, Elst, Valburg,Stijk-Ewijk and Oosterhout before that long drag back along the river path to Nijmegen.
About every 8km we stop at a scout rest point where we can all get excellent treatment from qualified scouters for any blisters and aches and pains that beset us on route.
Is that the bridge we see in the distance?-afraid not-it’s the railway bidge! It will be another half an hour before we see the road bridge.
Back into the city and the finish. What a day-, 40km in 30+ temperatures, amazing crowds and not too many blisters.
Time for an ice cream before it’s back to the campsite to shower, freshen up, have dinner and book in to have treatment if we need it for our blisters and aches and pains. No need tonight to persuade the Explorers that they need to go to bed at 8.00!!
Wednesday, as before and down to the start for 5.00am.
Then off through the towns and villages of Alverna, Wijchen, Woezik, Beunigen and Weurt before we see the spire of Nijmegen cathedral in the distance. Another fantastic day of support from the crowds everywhere we go plus all the necessary medical care at the scout rest points.
Thursday follows the same format but this time through Malden, Huemen,Katwijk, Middelaar, Plasmolen, Milsbeek and Groesbeek.
Friday-the fourth and last day.
Out through the villages and towns again. What an experience as we passed through Linden, the Dutch royal family were everywhere, I’m sure they were in more than one place at the same time.!!
And so on the the last and most exhilarating part of the Marches.
Through the town of Cuijk, over the specially constructed pontoon bridge for the last 17km. Wall to wall people, on settees, in armchairs, on the roofs or just standing and cheering. What a climax.
With just 5km to go the team are presented with their individual medals and there is a special team medal as well.
The final leg is indescribable as an experience-you have you be there to be able to tell it.
And so back to the campsite-our traditional last night takeaway meal followed by the campsite blister party.
Enough to say that the explorers didn’t get to bed until 3.00 am. Then up at 6.00 am for the journey home.
What a week and one we’ll all never forget.