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Explorer Belt 2014

Scout Notes Special Report:- Explorer Belt 2014

The Explorer Belt is the challenge of a lifetime, which is open to Explorer Scouts aged over 16 and members of the Scout Network. It is a chance to take part in an astonishing ten-day expedition.

This summer, 21 young people aged between 16 and 24 formed four teams from a mix of Groups and Units across the district (Darroch Explorers, Westburn Explorers, Finnart Explorers, 59th, 73rd and 6th) put years of development and progressive training in to practice and embarked on their experience of a lifetime by undertaking an Explorer Belt expedition to Bavaria, Germany. More specifically, the Allgäu region.

The Explorer Belt is sometimes described as “the antidote to the package holiday”. It is designed to help young people develop a real understanding of another country by travelling through that country, completing surprise projects, working as a small team and meeting local people.

Another expedition aim was to inspire other Scouts in our area and show that through Scouting’s progressive outdoor experiences there is always something to aim for and strive towards.

All four teams worked hard to meet their targets and to make this expedition a truly memorable experience.

The expedition was supported by funds and donations from various sources. It was also greatly assisted with putting on training events to ensure that all teams were comfortable with navigation, hiking and camping. The teams’ supporters also helped with travel, equipment and training resources.

As well as funding support participants also worked hard to support themselves with Group and individual team fundraisers such as quiz nights, activity days, bag packing, car washes etc…

During the planning stage, participants were divided into teams based on ages at the time of expedition.

They chose the Allgau region of Bavaria as it’s an area known to some of the Leadership team through attending past Summer Camps nearby and through a work exchange programme.

With its Alpine trails and unique culture it was ideal for an Explorer Belt expedition. Having researched the area and potential route extensively the Leadership team also felt that this was an area that was safe for young people to explore and if any issues arose they would have exit strategies for each leg of the expedition.

The group travelled to and from the start and end point, Sonthofen, together. On Day One we met up with the VCP Scouts of Sonthofen who offered us hospitality throughout our stay in the region. We settled in and had a joint BBQ evening.

On Day Two the teams set off on their 10-day expedition. The expedition leaders stayed at the Church in Sonthofen as a base for the expedition and on the day the teams set off they assisted with a Church fete and met more of the local scouts – the hospitality was tremendous.

The teams checked in by phone each evening to give details of their day, confirm their location and that they had set up camp and that they were all ok. All messages where captured and back by e-mail as daily updates for eager parents and followers at home.

Everyone gathered again on the second last day where the teams had a debrief before having a well-earned rest, a swim and a large group meal. As a gesture of thanks the group took the German scouts out for dinner too to celebrate our fantastic trip. The night ended with some bowling and, in true international scouting spirit, with campfire songs.

On our final day we travelled back to Munich where we toured the city before travelling home.

The Explorer Belt is no easy summer holiday. In order to complete it, the teams must:

  • Plan and train for an international expedition
  • Travel to Bavaria, Germany and travel through the Allgau region over ten days
  • Complete a self-selected major project
  • Complete ten smaller project
  • Keep a notebook or diary during the expedition
  • Take part in a debriefing after the expedition
  • Make a presentation about the expedition

The expedition length was around 100 miles. It was important that the route and distance took into account the local geography, methods of transport, physical ability of the team members, daytime temperatures and likely weather. Teams also have to make time for their major and smaller projects.

All this took 18 months of planning for the four teams.

This involved monthly planning sessions during which teams identified their major project, their daily legs of the route and identified places to stay, campsites, hostels or mountain huts.

Each team’s routes were chosen with the following in mind.

  • It should pass through at least four towns or villages
  • It must not include any wild country
  • It should support the major project and provide opportunities for completing smaller projects

The teams were on their own for at least 10 days and were responsible for carrying personal kit, tents, stoves, maps and a phone per team.

The Explorer Belt was assessed by a team who base their decision on:

  • How much the team have developed their knowledge of the country, people and way of life
  • How much the team members have developed personally and as a team from the experience
  • The quality of the expedition

Once home, the teams started to prepare to give a presentation of their expedition to an invited, audience and assessment team.

The four teams successfully gained their Explorer Belt Awards on Saturday 27th September after their fantastic presentations of their experiences and challenges in front of an audience of 160 people. The assessment team was thoroughly impressed and all participants should be extremely proud of their achievements in gaining their belts.

Completion of the Explorer Belt is an experience that these young people will never forget.