After a successful Ecocamp in Tara Nationalpark in 2013 the local Pangaea members of Kraljevo decided to organize yet another outdoor experience for the youth. Everyone learnt about themselves, the natural environment and what it means to spend a unique experience.
By Danica Babic
Time really flies! Just a year ago, we were the participants of a great eco camp in the Tara mountains, getting to know everything about organizing a camp: from forming an idea to its realization. And now we are proud to say that we’ve added one more item on the “mission – accomplished” list: our very own camp!
So, after the camp in 2013 organized by the Pangaea Project, we were pumped with enthusiasm and willing to use what we learned to make something remarkable. Right away we formed the eco club, and started working on our activities and on sharing the word about us. In March this year, we were visiting schools, and talking about our experiences. From our stories and awesome photos, everyone could see that we really had an amazing two weeks on Tara, and that’s what attracted them to join us in quite big number! And by the time the camp was near, we’d already had the idea of who we’re taking with us. One more thing which is very significant: we managed to get a guaranteed help from several big sponsors!
The whole year of planning and putting our ideas together had finally paid off, and we were all excited: our camp was about to start – so let the countdown begin!
This year we chose to go to Golija – certainly one of the most beautiful mountains of Serbia. To be precise, the camp took place on a camping place in Rudno, tiny picturesque village plateau on slopes of the mountain, and lasted for ten days: 17th – 27th August. Some of our team went to see the campsite, and found that it was exactly what we’re looking for. It was round, located by the stream, and hidden in the shadows of the trees during most of the day.
You find pictures of the camp and information about the local Serbian Pangaea group here.
Rudno, here we come!
A group of us peer leaders arrived first on the 15th of August and prepared the camp. We brought much food with us and put the first tents up, but the main part of arranging the camp was left to our campers when they arrive, as it is special fun when you do it for the first time! Planning, exploring, preparing – these two days we used to get to know better the place where we’ll spend the next 12 days.
Feels good to be back on the hiking trails!
The camp begins!
It was noon on August 17th when we heard the joyful yelling from the road behind the trees. The children joining the camp are coming! In a few seconds we could see the bus stopping thirty meters away and smiling faces getting out and carrying huge backpacks. We gave them a happy welcome and Nadja briefly introduced everybody to the place, some rules and what they’ll do when they are in camp. Everyone was very excited! We were pretty satisfied with the organization: by the end of the day all the tents were up, all the jobs assorted, and we had a cozy fireplace in the center of our little place.
– briefly on what we were doing these ten days-
These ten days on Golija were filled with broad range of different activities: hiking, exploring, clean ups, running, sports – volleyball, football, frisbee, listening to presentations and fieldwork, quizes, lots of team building games…and of course, cooking! Every activity was filled with a lot of funny moments that are going to be remembered ever after. Team building activities are something that was dedicated most of our attention. That’s what we learned from our friends from Pangaea – only by acting together we can reach our goals, and that’s what we needed to show our campers as well. Simple games are a lot of fun when you work together! And as we got to know each other better every day, the camp was getting more interesting!
Something unexpected happened during the camp that I remember very gladly. On a sunny day, all of a sudden, the sky burst open like I’ve never seen before, and in less than ten minutes the camp was flooded. But literally, all the tents were getting wet and there was a risk that it’ll be the end of our camp. For a moment we were standing in one place shocked. But then – several guys, not saying a word and not caring for the cold, simply threw their clothes and shoes away and grabbed the shovels. Then one by one, everybody did the same and now it was every single one of us digging, most of us with our hands, in order to redirect the water away from the campsite, while the rain was still spilling down.
Without saying a word, some grabbed a shovel and started to re-direct the water. It was one of the best and most powerful moments.
It felt really good, and it was indoubtably one of the greatest moments of the camp. One of those when you realize what motivation can do: we just didn’t want to let it all go by the board.
All these activities were an excellent preparation for what was to be done on the day before going home: THE RAID. It was the icing on the cake!
So, three days before it took place, the teams of peerleaders were having a lot of hard work, hiking from morning till the evening, when they’d be welcomed for dinner in the camp. We had to find, walk and mark each and every little path of the area (using really trashy maps), decide which ones are the best and eventually connect them all into a unique route that the participants were going to overpass.
Every day was a special and unforgettable adventure! We had been lost; countless times we’ve walked the same trails trying desperately to link them; on the end of the third day we were caught by the rain and were about three hours of walking far from the camp – so we joined a group of 30 drunk people in a truck returning from the local fair… Well, it’s hard to tell whether we were lucky or not, but one thing is certain: we’ll have stories to tell long after this camp.
So on the 26th August the raid was finally about to start! The goal of the competition was to walk the whole route going through all the seven checkpoints. As the route goes about 15 km through the forest and mountain terrain, this, we knew, wasn’t going to be so easy. Each of three teams was given a guide, and wished the best of luck. “Be green and smile!” was an instruction and an awesome motto at the same time!
Let the game begin!
The teams started running up the hill like crazy. At first they didn’t even know what they’re looking for exactly, so two teams simply zipped past the sign we had left for them. They were walking for half an hour in a wrong direction! The moment we stopped them and turned them back was a bit discouraging, but not for long – next second they were running to catch up (and outrun!) the others. This time they didn’t miss the sign: green smileys hidden on trees and stones were guide marks.
- Lazar’s task: to topple three plastic bottles from a distance using a frisbee
- Maja and Sara: testing the teamwork: team members are supposed to cross the training ground with different barriers with their feet tied with a rope all together
- Milica and Tina: confidence test: one’s crossing the labyrinth while the his team mates are outside, giving him instructions
- Vuk: think fast! the team needs to spot all the letters hidden in on the trees and in the grass, and join them into a word which will tell them their next station
- Maks and Stefan: mind task: the team need to solve an interesting riddle
- Smilja and Tamara: test your knowledge! Quiz and pantomime
- Nadja: the last but not least important: Nadja will let them go only when they tell her the password
An hour and a half after the raid has started, all three teams had finished the first task. Walking, running, climbing and climbing… The raid was full of tests: about noon the teams found themselves in the forest. What was waiting for them there were almost identical paths: and it seemed that they were innumerable! That’s where interesting tactics come to the play!
The last two hours of the raid were simply amazing to witness: the campers had been walking for seven hours, but they were becoming more ready and willing to win! The weariness had disappeared. They were now encouraging each other, carrying and pulling each other. They had reached the real goal: the true teamwork.
After they had screamed the password at the last checkpoint, the true race began! What an adrenaline rush! The last kilometres to Rudno everyone was running and the teams were entering the camp laughing. We were proud because they had realized: We really don’t know our limits until we push ourselves to reach them. And as you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further!
That night the campers were awarded the deserved feast by the fire! But the best award after this day was the feeling itself.
The very last day of our adventure felt a bit sorrowful, but that only shows that these ten days were a unique experience for each of us, especially for those who were part of a camp for the first time. What we managed to do we’d like to share with all the people, especially the young, as a proof that a small group of motivated people doesn’t need much to make something big. Because if there is a will, there is a way!