05/08/2019 – Day 17
Today we were heading to Canada. We had quite a relaxed morning as we weren’t leaving the university until 10 am. Breakfast today was potato’s, pancakes and sausage patties, along with with, of course, soda. Everyone packed away their bags, which by this point are getting fuller and harder to pack, some almost at bursting point. Today also brought around one of the units Birthdays, Molly. We ended up singing happy birthday in the dining hall with 300 others, so it was a loud one.
We loaded up the coach with all our stuff and started the drive up to Canada. Out coach driver, Joe would be staying with us in Canada until we headed back to New York for our flight home. We stopped at a couple of stops along the way, to stock up on sugar, sweets and energy, something that is the norm with any of the coach journeys we have had so far. Who needs 1.5 litres of soft drink? The rest of the time was filled with a lot of sleepy people and some sing along’s.
As we crossed the border all our passports were taken and scanned, but we had no troubles there and in 5 minutes we were across into another country. We drove for a little longer before we arrived at Camp Wetaskiwin, near St Catherines, our home whilst in Canada. The total journey time was about 10 hours, making it 8 pm when we arrived. This was good compared to some of the other units, that took over 16 hours to arrive. Whilst on hosted hospitality, we are camping with 4 other UK units and some Scouts from the host groups too, meaning there were over 250 on the site.
We were greeted by Scott and Kevin, who had been organising it for us. All the leaders there were very welcoming and were so kind. We offloaded the coach and started to set up the tents, which were still wet from the Jamboree. After we grabbed some dinner, which was make made your own subs with lots of veg and fruit! We set up a small campfire and shared it with some of the other units as they arrived which made for a nice chill evening.
Tip of the day: Coaches with air conditioning, comfy seats and charging points make Scouts happy!
06/08/19 – Day 18
Breakfast today was pancakes and sausages which tasted fantastic. The morning was quite a chilled start to the day with a few games going on and relaxing. The first activity was birds of prey from a local wildlife charity. There were hawks, kestrels and vultures and were interesting to listen to and interesting to look at. After that a storm moved in that would be with us for the rest of the day, we took shelter in a lodge and played some board games before we got on the coach again to explore the local area.
We first stopped at St Catherine’s museum and lock gate 3. The locks are used by ships to transport between the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. After we headed to Queenston Heights Park and Brock’s monument. We explored the park first and checked out some views over the Niagara river before we got dinner. It was lots of takeaway pizzas, as it was feeding over 300 UK Scout units. The pizza tasted great, either because it was or we hadn’t had any for over two and a half weeks now.
We got back on the coach and drove to Niagara Falls. We got dropped off and got our tickets for the Maid of the mist, a ferry that takes you into the base of the falls. We got our first sight of the falls as we were making our way to the felly, and wow! They are huge and powerful, easy to see why it is a natural wonder of the world. We made our way onto the ferry, grabbing a free red poncho in the process.
As we departed the rain started, this was the heaviest of the trip so far, the poncho made no difference to it! It was laughable how hard it was raining!! We were trying to take photos of the falls, but our phones weren’t working as it was so wet!! The views from the falls were incredible. As we made our way into the mist, we got even wetter and as we headed back to the dock, it rained harder still. Even though this was the case, it was the most enjoyable experience of the trip so far for me.
As we dripped off the ferry, everyone and everything was soaked, shoes were puddles, t-shirts sopping, and coats wet through. We made our way through the gift shop, where lots of things were brought. The unit split off into groups and headed off to explore some of the local area and town. The rain was still hard at this point. There were food places, souvenir shops and views of the falls to enjoy.
We met up again just before 10 pm to watch the fireworks display over the falls which were great to see and topped off the day. We hopped back on the coach and headed back to the campsite for well-needed sleep and dry clothes after a long, wet day.
Tip of the day: Once your wet, you don’t care how wet you get!
07/08/19 – Day 19
Today started with a lie in which was the best present the participants could have asked for until 9 am. Breakfast was the Canadian classic of pancakes, maple syrup and bacon, which was delicious!!! Today was a chance to relax and take it easy as it had been a long and tiring trip. For the morning most of the unit started the task of packing up their stuff back into their bags, which with added souvenirs from the trip, made it harder than they thought. There was a lot of weighing, repacking, throwing away and donating of items. Lunch brought make your own subs again that were enjoyed by the 300 plus Scouts staying on the site.
In the afternoon, we were able to use the pool on the site, and thanks to Tom and Harvey who are lifeguards, the unit splashed around for hours and had a good time. There was also the opportunity to hike some local trails around the campsite and see some of the views, waterfalls and learn about some of the local history of the Bruce Trail. There was a BBQ for dinner, burgers, hotdogs and corn dipped in butter, a real highlight.
After dinner brought a campfire with everyone from the site and we were also joined by Unit 68 who were staying close by. Lots of participants from the different units got up and performed some British campfire songs, as well as some they had learned from the trip and local songs too. Everyone had a great time, and all took part. After the campfire, we took Scott, who had been organising the camp, and Kevin, our local Scout group contact, aside and presented them with some gifts as they were such generous hosts and made sure we had a great time. This included a framed West Sussex Scarf and unit badges along with gifts from the participants. After there was the final bag packing before everyone headed to bed. Quite a lot of the participants choose to pack all their things away, including their roll mat and sleeping bags and choose to sleep on the floor in their clothes. I’m not sure how much sleep they got considering it was a cold night.
Tip of the day: Nothing beats a proper campfire with new friends
08/08/19 – Day 20
It was again another early start; everyone was up by 5:15 am ready to pack away the last of their things. After grabbing some breakfast bags, filled with juice and cereal bars, we said goodbye to our gracious hosts before getting on the coach at 6 am, bound to JFK airport in New York. We reached the US border in no time and after we had all got off with our passports to be checked we were on our way again; it was about 10 minutes which wasn’t bad.
The coach was filed with a lot of sleepy people, sleeping in some very strange positions, which of course had to have pictures taken of them. We stopped off at some services to grab some breakfast which for many was a Subway, which the unit enjoyed.
At our next comfort stop, the participants got everybody in a circle before presenting each of the leaders with some thank you gifts. These were a unit signed Jamboree banner and a pin badge from Niagara Falls. There were a few tears in the leader’s eyes, mine included. We also sang happy birthday to both Rachael and Harry. As we hit the road again lots more sleep was had. We got into New York we hit some traffic meaning it eventually took us almost 11 hours to get the airport.
With just 3 minutes to spare for our bus driver, we arrived at terminal 1 of JFK airport. We thanked our driver Joe for the 3 days he had been with us with a scarf. We offloaded the bags from the bus and proceeded to check-in. We made it through security, with some difficulty as some participants had to go back around again as they left some water in their bags. Once everyone was through, we headed off to get food from some of the food places in the airport. Quite a lot of the unit enjoyed pizza and Asian food. There was just enough time to do some shopping before we had to board the plane which was due to leave at 11 pm. Once we were all on board, some participants fell asleep straight away and would sleep through the night.
Tip of the day: Always remember to take out water before going through security!
09/08/19 – Day 21
We had a couple of meals on the slightly quicker 6 hr flight back to Gatwick. Just before we departed the flight, the pilot which Rachael and Harry a happy birthday, queue the whole plane to sing. We landed at just before 11 am UK time and as we stepped off the plane, I was surprised by how hot it was here, I expected it to be colder!! After navigating the corridors of the airport, we made it straight through passport control and baggage collection with ease. We got on our coach that would take us back to Copthorne for the pickup.
As we arrived back at Copthorne, we offloaded all the kit and gathered up as a unit for the last time this trip. We made a circle and the leaders spoke about the trip, the memories from it and how awesome the participants had all been. As this was happening some tears were starting and as they were dismissed and the hugging started, there were even more.
As everyone was slowly collected by their parents, there were loving embraces, tearful eyes and sombre goodbyes. A lot of thanks directed to the leaders for looking after their children for 3 weeks. As the last participants left, the leaders could take a breather and reflect on what truly had been a magical trip of a lifetime. There was only one way to celebrate, with a pint!!
Tip of the day: All good things must come to an end 🙁