A collection of photos depicting Chris Lamb's trek around Cambodia. The images are arranged in a square with the ESS logo in the middle

ESS Business Performance & Quality Manager, Chris Lamb, Completes Springboard Charity Cambodia Trek

31 May 2024

Chris joined a team of 22, representing organisations from across the hospitality industry, to support in the construction of an eco bungalow close to Siem Reap before embarking on a 100km trek from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat.  

The group’s final fundraising total will be in excess of £90,000 for the Springboard Charity which works across the UK to nurture young people into careers in hospitality, leisure and tourism by equipping them with the inspiration, knowledge, skills, advice and guidance they need.

Chris talks about this once in a lifetime experience below.

What did the challenge involve?

After a long journey via Singapore, we got straight to work helping with the construction of an eco bungalow which is being used to teach local people sustainable building techniques and will house future visitors completing further projects in the area. The tasks were really hands on and provided a great opportunity for us to acclimatise to the 40-degree temperatures and extreme humidity. We stayed in the village for three days and ended the visit by putting on a traditional sports day for the local school, including egg and spoon and sack races, and a football match where the school team ran rings around us!

Before we set off on the trek – 100km over five days, covering all different types of terrain from villages and rice fields to thick forests and mountains, we were all blessed by the local Buddhist Monk and received a string bracelet for good luck and to enhance our spirituality for the adventure ahead.

I particularly enjoyed some of the chats with my fellow trekkers during the long hours we spent walking. The group was a real mix of ages and backgrounds, and it was really interesting to hear everyone’s stories. We ate together and camped every night which, again, fostered a brilliant team spirit. Some of the paths weren’t very well walked, particularly in the forest areas, and finding our way through those areas was great fun. My previous career in the Army was good preparation for that and helped me to tune out the thoughts of any local wildlife which may be lurking in the undergrowth!

Why did you want to take part?

I try to complete a different physical challenge every year, and a 100km trek through Cambodia certainly ticked the box of a new experience for me! As well as the walking, this was a country I’d never visited before.

The opportunity to fundraise for Springboard and complete some work in the local community at the start of the trip were added bonuses, so when the opportunity came up I was quick to apply for it.

I found the idea of completing the trip with a group of people I’d never met before an added chance to get out of my comfort zone.

What training did you do to prepare for the challenge?

A lot! I have a competitive mindset and I didn’t want to let my team mates down, so I focused on being physically ready for the challenge. I’m an active person and I enjoy getting into the great outdoors for a walk, so it wasn’t a big ask for me go out walking for hours a day – I enjoyed it!

I started in November and built up slowly to give myself a base level of fitness. Just before we left, I did a week of hill walking to finish off my training. This included 30-35km a day for three days to make sure I was ready to walk, sleep and walk again the next day.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

The heat! It was over 40 degrees and extremely humid every day. The three days working in the village helped us to acclimatise to the conditions, but it’s difficult to prepare for a trek in tropical conditions when you’re doing your training in the snow in North Yorkshire!

My military background kicked in at times, with things like time management, camping experience, dealing with extreme weather and water discipline coming in very handy.

What was the best part of the experience?

It was great to meet and get to know the other members of the team, people who I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to mix with. You end up having very in-depth conversations when you’re walking side by side with someone for three hours and I really enjoyed that part of the experience.  

The Cambodian people were so friendly and welcoming – the children in the village were always smiling and laughing, especially when they beat us in the football match!

The food was just phenomenal. There were so many fresh ingredients and great flavours – the meals were light but filling, and I never felt hungry. Every meal was great.

The sunrises and sunsets were out of this world – seeing the sun rise over the temple at Angkor Wat was a very special moment for me.  

I was in the Army for many years and led a very structured life, before joining ESS to support our Defence business. It was amazing to step out of that mould and do something completely different for two weeks. It’s an experience that I’ll remember and treasure forever.

What is your biggest takeaway from the challenge?

Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your everyday bubble! I got to walk through the Cambodian countryside, eating fresh mangoes and bananas from the trees, with a group of people I had never met before.

I feel very privileged to have been able to go on this adventure and extremely grateful for all the support I received with the fundraising.

I would do it again in a heartbeat! And I recommend anyone to do something similar if the opportunity arises.