Sleep deprivation and gin for breakfast

Sometimes in life you have a surreal moment, sometimes you have a surreal day…I’ve just emerged from a surreal 48 hours.

After 3 months training it was time for our assessment day – a test of our ability to ‘survive in the wild’ shall we say. We were about to be split up and posted out to our various new locations…the question was…were we tough enough….??

We had been given no briefing on what to expect other than ‘expect the unexpected’ and know how many paces you have in 100 metres!!

4am – early morning wake up call telling us we had 20 mins to get out kit together. I mean 4am for pete’s sake…that’s just antisocial!

Off we set under the cover of darkness with a mute driver heading to where, we didn’t know. We were blindfolded, bundled into separate vehicles and our journeys continued. By the time we were hauled out of our vehicles the sun was rising.

I were given a vague brief I had to get myself round a 20km route stopping to complete various ‘challenges’ along the way, that everyone else was getting exactly the same brief and that it was a race.

I managed to catch snatches of crackled radio comms as I listened to my briefing, it sounded like there were 6 or so stop offs and one of the guys had already set off. I grabbed my backpack, threw in a few bottles of water and set off. There was no way I was coming last!

For the next 12 hours I beasted myself round what turned out to be a half marathon circuit, up to my knees in soggy rice paddy fields, stopping every 2 miles or so to fix a landrover, draw a map or resuscitate an ‘injured deminer’! All in 30 degree sun with an occassional 5 minute tropical downpour!

One of the more surreal moments of the day – arriving at a river crossing to find the bridge completely collapased I raced along the bank until I randomly found a tree trunk some enterprising soul had chopped down as a makeshift bridge.

I ‘dirty danced’ my way across (that will mean nothing to you unless you’ve watched the scene in Dirty Dancing where Baby and Swayze practice dance steps on a tree trunk across a river!) just as 5 very lost Swedish girls turned up on bikes with a look of bewilderment on their faces wondering how on earth they could cross with their bikes!

Much balancing and wobbling later we managed to somehow get all 5 + bikes across. Later, retelling the story to the boys they just couldn’t believe it was me who bumped into 5 Swedish girls and not them!

The day (of course) had plenty of those either laugh or cry moments…? Picture this…

The boss turns up at one of my challenges to see how I’m doing…hmm, well…I’ve been better!

I’m in a baking hot landrover, dripping sweat all over the steering wheel trying to manuveur the damn thing round an obstacle, as I back up I hear a worryingly loud bang.

Why or why do these things always happen just as the boss shows up!!??

Panicking that I’ve just backed his landrover into a wall I jump out of the car just as (for absolutely no reason whatsoever!) the lenses falls out my sunglasses…

So I’m stood there, feet squelching in my boots, bright red sunburnt face, exhausted beyond belief and sweating like a pig with no lenses in my sunnies making me look like a badly styled 80’s school teacher!!

And what did the do…? He laughed, rolled his eyes, turned on his heels and walked off!

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry…luckily for the poor Cambodian guy anxiously looking at me probably knowing I was on the verge of doing one or the other…I laughed!

We were then back into the vehicles and to the office compund for written and verbal testing…no easy feat in sopping wet clothes! I certainly never thought I’d ever feel chilly in Cambodia.

Before we knew it our 12 hours was up, we had all passed and that was it…3 months done and dusted and we were leaving Cambodia.

So with stinking kit bags and grubby faces we sank into our seats on the plane, pulled the old ‘aid worker straight from the field’ card to wangle some free champagne and spent the long flight watching endless movies, having gins with our breakfast and generally annoying our poor fellow passengers as we flipped between utter exhaustion and giddy euphoria!

Delayed flights, lost bags and 4 hours in Heathrow T5 (what a truly awful place!) I emerged in Manchester arrivals halls a slightly ‘broken’ figure of my former self…some uncomfortable chaffing from my half marathon (!), bed bug bitten and with a truly glowing rudolph red nose…but wearing an incredibly wide grin on my face!

People say life is tough…really??

Whoever these ‘people’ are obviously don’t get what life is all about!!



  1. M said,

    August 21, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    oh my god my love, so proud of you!!!!!!

    Hope we can meet up while your home, missed you and cannot wait to hear all about it!!!!

    Will call you at home,

    Love M xxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. Bailey Boots said,

    August 28, 2008 at 4:31 am

    I totally agree! You are an amazing lady, Ms Helsy Bells!! Fantastic stuff!

    Hey I’ve booked flights to Cambodia in November … fancy heading back for some more survival in the wild???!?!

    Speak to you soon, love!

  3. saz said,

    August 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Hey Sis,
    It all sounds amazing… the dream!!!! We’re so proud of everything you are doing.
    Makes my life of mortgages and babes sound very dull- but at least I can tell all of my yummy-mummy friends all about your adventures.
    Keep the stories coming and stay safe

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