Blog | From West Wickham to the Southern Hemisphere...
Where in the world has Scouting taken you? For these lucky Explorers and Network members, Scouting is going to take them all the way to New Zealand for the Explorer Belt expedition of a lifetime.
Anything worth doing is worth the wait. And it’s fair to say it’s been a long wait for the Explorer Scouts and Network members of Greater London South East County. Along with their leaders, and members of the County and District teams, they have been planning their Explorer Belt expedition to New Zealand for the past two years.
'I heard about the expedition through a friend,' says Jade, 18, a Network member at 8th West Wickham Scout Group and one of the lucky young people going on the trip. After an initial selection weekend, the group of 10 have taken part in eight training camps.
'Pretty much all the planning for the trip was done on camp,' Jade tells me. 'All the ideas came from the group.'
David, 17, is an Explorer Scout with 23rd Bromley Explorers and is also going on the trip.
'As a group we’ve really bonded over the past two years. Everything has fallen into place, and I’ve got some really good friends out of the whole experience.'
Whilst out in New Zealand, the group will be exploring the North Island in the capable hands of Dave Goodwin – expedition manager, Explorer leader and Assistant County Commissioner.
'The team will use a variety of transport methods, including hiking, kayaking and public transport to travel between eight different locations,' Dave says. This will allow the participants to achieve their Explorer Belt – which requires at least 50 hours of travelling, split over 10 days.
They’ll stop off in Rotorua for a couple of days, where they’ll get to visit Hell’s Gate geothermal park, an other-worldly, sulphur-smelling landscape full of bubbling thermal mud pools and geysers.
Rotorua is also a cultural centre for the indigenous people of New Zealand – the Maori. The team will stay overnight with members of a local tribe, and take a boat out to see Maori rock carvings. The team will be challenging themselves to gain a deep understanding of Maori culture whilst they are in New Zealand.
'The participants chose this as it was the part of the Kiwi culture that interested them most,' says Expedition Manager, Dave. They are looking to discover the differences between UK and Maori culture, and complete some mini challenges along the way – like learning the Haka. It’s the traditional Maori war dance that most of us know from the All Blacks rugby team, but its history stretches back far beyond competitive sport.
'The Maori overnight experience is something I really want to do,' says 17-year-old David. 'It’ll be really interesting to experience their culture and see their way of life.'
The team will be away from home over Christmas and New Year.
'I’m a massive Christmas lover, so it’s going to be a bit weird not opening presents with the family or having a big roast dinner this year,' says Jade.
Instead, on Christmas Day, the team will be rolling up their sleeves to help at a soup kitchen, spreading a bit of Christmas cheer to people who really need it.
'It’s through a local charity called Love Soup Rotorua,' Dave tells me. 'We will be helping at a special community soup kitchen on Christmas Day which will serve around 500 people.'
Excitement is at an all-time high as they count down the final days.
'It’s going to be an amazing trip,' says, David. 'As a whole, I’m really excited to experience the environment and scenery. After two years of planning, it’s finally going to happen!'
'I’ve never done anything like this before,' says Jade. 'It’s all becoming very real and very exciting. I should probably start packing at some point!'
Greater London South East Explorers’ trip lasts from December 18th to January 3rd. Keep up to date with their adventures via Facebook and Twitter. Feeling inspired to organize a big trip? Get some tips on taking Scouts on an international trip with our factsheet. And if you’ve got a trip planned, make sure you tell us about it!