The camp stirs around dawn with the rustling of rucksacks as everyone prepares themselves for the walk ahead. Some of our colleagues slept outside the tent overnight and were treated to a display of shooting stars.
After a filling breakfast of bread and freshly prepared pancakes the group heads out through the back of our tented encampment and a slow haul up through the mountains. Whilst the gradient isn’t too steep we all need to take care with our footing as the path is very narrow and strewn with rocks and boulders. Fortunately a decent breeze picks up and gives us some respite from the searing heat of the day.
Given the terrain, the back up team are unable to set up a tent for lunch so we shelter from the sun in a dry river bed where there are a few trees under which groups of us huddle. Our second pack lunch in three days and boiled eggs, tinned sardines and dry bread are wearing a little thin already – although the evening meals in camp are excellent.
During the afternoon we trudge mile after mile over a dried out lake bed which stretches out almost as far as the eye can see in every direction. The group fans out to reflect the different walking paces and we take about three hours or so to reach our camp for the night.
We also have a temporary reprieve from camp showers (i.e. a jug of water) and toilets which constitute a hole in the ground. The camp is just by a small guesthouse where we are able to use the shower blocks and bathrooms and most of the group sit together in comfortable sofas in the palm lined gardens.
It gives us all more opportunity to mix with other members of the team. From a personal perspective this has been a great part of the experience. Working in Bulgaria, I haven’t met most of the William Hill colleagues on the trek before so its been interesting to learn about them and their roles in the organisation. It surprising how some of the challenges I have overlap with some of the issues my colleagues face in different parts of the business.
What is more, we have set aside the normal competitive rivalry and all integrated well with the team members from other operators. We have a broad range represented with people from bricks and mortar businesses as well as on-line operators and developers. The happiest amongst us though is our those representing bingo operators given their numbers came up last week with the tax concession in the budget! Mark, our host from the Responsible Gaming Trust has also been taking time to catch up with each of us and I have had an interesting insight into some of the issues he deals with.
In the evening some of us hike to watch the spectacular sunset over the adjacent plain which is framed by a craggy mountain range on the horizon. Given the amount of walking during the day most of us are in bed straight after dinner and a quick warm up by the camp fire. Tomorrow is the longest day of all so we rest our weary legs.