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I’m walking 100km for a woggle…not charity

Hi there friends 🙂 My name is Niamh Brennan (aka brenhun) and basically I’ve decided to tell all you lovely humans about my experience of Venture Challenge 2017. If you enjoy reading this, or have any questions, be sure to let me know 🙂 Hope you’re sitting comfortably, here goes…

Okay so to begin, I was sitting in my kitchen (bored as can be) with my friend Philip back in January. We were laughing about our trip last summer to Roverway in France when we decided why not do something mad again this summer and sign up for challenge. Basically clueless about what we were getting ourselves into, we thought “sure it might be a laugh”. After a wonderful, yet soggy training weekend in March we felt a little more aware of what we had to do. Also, the realisation that 29 other teams of two would be in the same situation as us helped make it a little less daunting.

Skip ahead to July 19th in Athlone scout den where we all reunited for our real adventure. Nerves and excitement were on a high and despite the 5am start the next morning, that didn’t stop people from staying up the whole night… We piled onto our bus at 6.30am and started heading further West towards the Mayo/ Sligo side of the country. Yup, zone #1. It wasn’t long before we were told to hop off the bus and then we were left to it. 5 days to survive. Just us.

123km, blood, sweat, tears. With all our gear and tents on our backs, 40 euro to live on for the week, several projects, a logbook to complete and relying on the kindness of people letting us camp in their gardens (also the lack of garden insurance) we couldn’t allow our nerves to get the better of us. Dropped at Foxford we began our journey through Charlestown, Ballymote, Collooney, Dromahair, Calry (there’s no shops there just incase anyone was curious), Sligo and then up to the check-in point at the base of Benbulbin. Words cannot explain the experiences we had and utmost kindness of the people Philip and I encountered. The laughs we had were of such ridiculous nature now that I think of it. 3 Things to take from the experience are; 1) road signs are incorrect 2) always say yes to a cup of tea after a days walking and 3) laughing makes everything easier.

So there were highs and lows on the road but when we reached the 50km mark on day 2, we began to count down the kilometres and it got gradually easier. The regular encounters with the wonderful sweep team and their jellies kept us going. Reaching the check-in point for the hillwalking adventure skill element was fantastic. We were just so delighted to see other teams. The wild camp was so much fun to hear the other teams experiences on their 5 day adventure. The hike the next day was rough but we remained motivated with Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” and also knowing that base camp was awaiting us.

Base camp was the best… with assessments, SWIM TEAM every morning, dancing, chill time, kayaking, making lots of new friends and sleep. On the Friday night we got all dolled up in our uniforms, took lots of pictures and went for a meal and awards ceremony. The atmosphere was tense as the teams were randomly called and awarded the various certs, badges and well sought after silver woggle. Everyone did fantastic and myself and Philip were overwhelmed when we were awarded the woggle. We did it! We got back to our campsite with the biggest smiles on our faces. Packing up the next morning was heartbreaking, saying goodbye to sweep and all our new friends was the toughest thing. The people without a doubt were the best thing about the whole experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world!!

So all in all I would 100% recommend Venture Challenge to anyone who is interested. It’s both physically and mentally challenging but it’s important to be a little daring sometimes. Step outside of your comfort zone. Thats what scouts is about. No regrets. I’ve made the best of friends from all over through Challenge and Ventures. Without a doubt its one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s an unforgettable experience so don’t hesitate, experience the “venture” in “adventure”!

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