Chattering teeth Ilse gets a wet suit in the middle of the night and perseveres. Survival tour in Vledder is not for sissies

It is pitch dark, two degrees above zero and it is drizzling. Most residents of Vledder and Wapse are still lying low, but the headlamps of the Wampex participants are flickering along the roads and in the fields.

The teams participating in the grueling survival tour (Wampex is an abbreviation of Weekend Amphibious Expedition, an originally English army exercise) will certainly have to cover at least thirty kilometers when they arrive at post 8.

There is a crane near the ditch in the meadow on the dead end road at Wapserveen. A rope dangles from it. The participants have to swing to the other side. The biggest challenge is not the distance. That’s not too bad. The blubbery embankment is ‘snotty slippery’.

I’ll continue

“Take her, take her! Ilse’s teammates shout as she swings across the water. It fails. Ilse slides back into the water from the shore and gets a wet suit in the cold of the early morning.

“Poor girl, her teeth were chattering beforehand,” says volunteer Johan de Vries, who gives the teams instructions. Somewhere in the pitch black the word give up is heard. But Ilse is determined. “I’ll continue. I’m just putting on some dry pants.”

Staying warm is the challenge

Ilse and her colleagues from consultancy firm Arcadis have participated in the blubber tour before. “This time we made a big mistake in the beginning,” says one of the team members. They have been on the road for almost 13 hours, walked 35 kilometers and completed eight assignments.

“The challenge now is to stay warm, we have to keep moving,” says one of the team members. When Ilse is back with dry pants, they leave, ready for the last kilometers. The six main lights slowly disappear into the night.

Drizzle and cold make drafts difficult

The circumstances make this 33rd Wampex a tough edition. It is far too quiet in the construction hut, where volunteers Fenny and Alma carefully keep track of which teams have already visited. “We will be here from 1 o’clock,” says Alma. “It wasn’t until 4 o’clock that the first group arrived here. We have now had seven and at least another twenty to go.”

The door of the shack swings open. “Good evening,” Luco calls. “Team Havelte is welcome!”, Alma responds. Many volunteers and participants come from the area and know each other. “It’s going well,” says Luco. “I’m glad we’re almost there,” adds teammate Niek. Luco: “We do the last kilometers based on character.”

Go with that banana

After completing a puzzle, the team of Luco and Niek can move on to swinging over the ditch. “Poop,” says one of the boys, weighing his chances. “It looks more exciting than it is,” Johan de Vries reassures the team. “Free advice: throw a beam into the ditch to get the rope.”

When the first man is ready to jump, Johan calls again. “Go with that banana, don’t hesitate, reach high, pull up and swing,” is the success formula. The first two jump out of a book. But then it becomes less. The receivers miss the thrown back rope and have to enter the water. Cheers from the other side. “Losers!”

Beer and chowder

When night turns into morning, Fenny and Alma suddenly become very busy in the shack. Team after team reports. This year too, the vast majority of the tough guys will complete the tour. The regular participants know: two more assignments to go and then the ultimate reward awaits at the fire station. Beer and chowder.