SNOW CAMP 2020
Snowcamp 2020, Kazakhstan. February 15th - 23rd: This was the second Snowcamp hosted by Scouts of the Great Steppe (Scouts of Kazakhstan) assisted and facilitated by Eurasian Scout Support manager Kevin Angell. Last year Kevin took 4 Network Scouts, this year a much larger contingent attended consisting of 3 adults over 25, 6 Network Scouts and 5 Explorer Scouts over 16 years old.
Planning started immediately after Snowcamp 2019, following discussion with the Kazakhstan leaders, with the hope of using the same log cabin again at Strawberry Glade in side of the Burabay National Park, 250 kilometres north of the capital Nur-Sultan.
The first advertising of Snowcamp 2020 was published in march of 2019 with some members interested, re posted on the last day of the WSJ in August a much larger interest was obtained with potential participants approaching 30. Both times it was posted widely on Facebook, more advertising at Gilwell Reunion produced a few more interested people.
The decision for a weekend get together in October was already taken and all those interested where invited, following that just 15 decided they would like to come in February of 2020 to Kazakhstan.
All the participants were briefed and informed of whatever they asked, kit list produced considering that temperatures could be as low as -40C. All monies collected, paperwork done.
Saturday 15th February we all gathered for the first time at T4 LHR, some participants had not been able to attend the October weekend, so it was the first time the whole contingent was together as one. 6-and-a-half-hour flight direct into Nur-Sultan with Air Astana proved a bit rough as the weather was bad over Europe but it eased as we got further away. Landing at 05.40 local time was hard hitting as it was 00.40 to us and we were straight into a new day. Being greeted by the 5 Kazak leaders whom we would spend the week. It was good to see old friends again. Still dark and relatively warm outside, -15C all got dressed accordingly for our 3-hour bus ride North.
Upon arrival in Buravoe we found we where not using the previous venue, but another had been sought which was closer to the place of activities. The replacement accommodation was also a log cabin but attached to a hotel where we would eat most of our meals.
During the forthcoming week all the participants interacted with the Kazakh leaders constantly, with many games being played mostly physical team games. Good thing considering the cold. The Kazakh Scouts are still in the process of developing a programme system and as yet they have no programme for the 16 to 25 year age group so this was good experience and training for them to see how the age group work.
Programme for the week included, dog sledding, ice skating, sleigh riding, fishing through ice. Together with cultural tour of the National Park, Tour of the Natural History centre, trip to the market to purchase local goods, trips to the shops in the town. Hiking in the forest at night and on the frozen lake.
The Kazakh Scouts provided everybody with the opportunity to assist with the cooking of some of their nations food, and an evening of Kazakh tradition was enjoyed by all. We cooked Plov over the fire and Baulsak in the cabin. Plov being a dish of rice and meat, Baulsak could be described as a “doughnut” but small and round about the size of a golfball. Also during this evening the participants where treated to Kvas, an non-alcoholic beer and Kumis, fermented mares milk. During the fishing day everybody was treated to their first taste of horses meat, served as a stew together with a fish soup and Grog to keep warm.
Towards the end of our stay at Burabay we had the gala dinner, at which the guest of honour receives the ram’s head to be carved and distributed to the other guests by him, followed by the national dish of Kazkhstan, Beshbarmak, horse meat consisting of boiled rump, sausage from innards and offal and the really tasty bit, the rectum. All served on a platter of onions and pasta, eaten with the hands and washed down with ak-serke, broth of stock from the cooking liquor. This dinner was attended by a number of local officials from the town wishing to see who they may help in the development of Scouting in the area. All the participants received an official gift of the traditional hat a tubeteika from Ildar Katenov the secretary general of Scouts of the Great Steppe.
Back to Nur-Sultan for more culture and eating, now staying in a hotel in the old city which is quite central and easy to navigate around, the evening was ours to rest, get cleaner and relax. Followed by a quick walking tour of the immediate area and shopping. The final last day started with breakfast together with 12 young Kazakh Scout leaders who would accompany us on our walk around the city, another excellent opportunity for interaction. Time at the largest shopping mall to look around and a traditional lunch of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Followed by tour of the National Military museum given by a very interested young lady in military uniform who was so interested she asked about becoming a leader and her 2 boys becoming Scouts. This was followed by souvenir shopping at one of the 2 shops in the city. Going home dinner everybody in uniform, presentations, badge swapping and a spit roast lamb as the main dish. After dinner Kevin was presented with a bag as a thank you for helping the Kazakhs for the last 2 years and inside was a poster for Snowcamp 2021, its on again for next year. Karaoke for the Network Scouts with the young Kazakhs at a local bar and bed for the Explorers, beer time for the leaders.
Departure day was relaxed as our flight wasn’t until 2pm so some went to the local shops with most packing bags in their rooms. Goodbyes at the airport and we are homeward bound on time.
Everybody came home intact and healthy, although rather sleep deprived. The opportunities they had you may not get anywhere else and it was such a great thing to participate in the development of another Scouting country.
So February 2021?
Eurasian Scout Support manager and Contingent leader Snowcamp 2020.