For some of the Venture Units in Portugal this is the busiest period in the summer: they are in the middle of final preparations of “Down River”, an impressive river rafting activity organised by local Scout Groups for the tenth time on the Albufeira da Barragem do Castelo de Bode on the last weekend of August 2014.
“Down River” is an activity designed for all Scouts and Guides aged over 14 from any local group in the country affiliated to one of the three Scout or Guide Associations in Portugal (CNE, AEP or AGP). For many of them it is a highlight in their annual calendar of events and a spectacular way of saying good bye to the summer season.
Today, the event is hosted by three local Scout Groups (Agrupamento 44 Tomar, Agrupamento 542 Entroncamento and Agrupamento 941 Asseiceira, all established in the Santarém Region of CNE).
“The expected 150 participating Ventures will form crews of a minimum of 4 paddlers,” explains João Carlos, one of the volunteer Leaders helping organize the event. “Then, part one of the activity consists in each crew constructing a raft fit enough to carry the crew and their gear across the lake for three days. Dinner, evening activities, the night (under the stars), and breakfast are spent together (organised by a team of accompanying volunteers) and allow mingling of participants from different crews and sharing experiences and local Scouting traditions. And during the day, each crew navigates a total distance of about 15km, with accompanying qualified volunteers ensuring proper safety in case of emergencies.”
Apart from providing participants with an exciting land- and water-based educational experience “Down River” also aims at promoting the many potentials as recreational area of the Albufeira da Barragem do Castelo do Bode and its coastal regions.
“Over the years”, recalls João Carlos, “we have welcomed Ventures from 33 different local groups from all parts of our country, with 904 Ventures navigating down the lake on 84 hand-made rafts. And the largest raft built so far carried 29 Ventures during three days and not a single part of the raft nor one of its crew was lost!”
Since 2005 “Down River” has been bringing a growing number of new visitors to Albufeira da Barragem do Castelo do Bode. And this includes not only the participants of the event itself but also their parents, friends and other spectators who gather on the shores to admire the regatta of hand-made rafts and acknowledge the skills of the crews handling them!
And if it is perhaps too late for you and your group to participate this year, why not already mark in down in your calendar for the summer 2015?
© all pictures: CNE / Down River 2013