A 6-Day Adventure:
With a Backpack through France
Explorer Belt is a challenge, a journey, an opportunity , a lifetime chance. This project, originally created by English scouts, is now experienced by scouts all over the world. Explorer Belt consists in an expedition that lasts for 6 days in a foreign country, only with your backpack and 10 euro per day, per person. Pairs gather in a meeting point, by choice and then they receive a map, the money and of course, envelopes with daily challenges in them.
Happily, I had had the opportunity to participate in this project with my two friends Lorena and Cynthia.
Hearing the description of the project made us think we understood what it was about. Completing the expedition made us realize that it was much more than we could have ever thought.
Of course, before we went to Haute-Savoie, France, where our main campus was held, we decided that we had to train for this challenge. Therefore, we hiked from Cristian (Brasov) to the 'Grind' Mountain Refuge in Zarnesti. We had to carry our big and heavy backpacks that were filled with unnecessary staff all the way up the mountain and back home. With our backs in pain and our feet sore, we learned a first valuable thing, to prioritize.
A week later we were ready to start the big adventure. After spending two days in the main camp in Haute-Savoie, researching and preparing for the trip, we finally waved our hands with excitement and a little bit of fear to our mentors and organizers that were slowly drifting away in their cars.
'What now?' We looked at each other and laughed for about five minutes. It's just us, alone. We have the envelopes, we have the money, we also have our backpacks and of course, the immense map. We are sixty kilometers away from the camp, let's orient and start walking, we have six days to get back!
The sun was shining, we were extremely excited. Unfortunately, the good weather lasted for another ten minutes and then 'The Rain' began. In the whole six days that we were on the trip, we saw the sun for two hours. Of course, that didn't stop us. Here we learned another important lesson, always, without question, bring a raincoat with you, however sunny you may think it will be. And certainly, never ever give up.
So, as I said, the rain didn't stop us. We put our raincoats on and continue walking. And we walked, and we walked about ten kilometers each day through wind and rain but we still had a lot of fun. For example, on the first day, after enduring the rain for four hours, we decided our backs couldn't resist anymore, so we made a plan, to stop in the first village and ask someone to let us put up our tent in their yard. We couldn't afford to sleep in a motel. You see, in order for you to understand the situation, imagine that that region was similar to our Romanian 'Bran' area, here a village, there a valley, here a village, there a hill and so on.
Where was I? The plan, yes. The plan was excellent, we had only a little problem. The next village was pretty far, so we walked praying to find it faster and after some time we saw a guest house! 'Victory!', we thought but, big was our surprise when we discovered that it was a guest house....just for dogs! We took a short break to calm our laughter and then finally, after another fifteen minutes of agony, we found a village with a very nice man who kindly let us put up the tent in his yard and sleep there. He even brought us hot water to make soup and coffee.
What I pleasantly realize is that people in France are very hospitable and kind. In the next days we had the chance to discover that more and more. Not only people on the street stopped to help us orient but they offered to let us sleep in their homes several times. In the penultimate day, we found this wonderful family with a welcoming house filled with cats and cute dogs. We were shocked when they told us that they had to leave for their holidays in Geneva, but we could sleep in their house if we wanted to. 'And how are you going to lock your doors?', we asked. The answer was very simple: 'We don't'. You heard me right, the neighbourhood was so nice that they didn't feel the need to look their doors.
In the other days we found two more families just as sweet, who invited us into their homes with open arms and hearts even though we were strangers. And this is another valuable lesson learned in Explorer Belt, kindness.
All in all, the trip was full of wonderful surprises, we all liked even the pouring, annoying rain, in the end. If you ever get the chance to participate in this project, do not hesitate because as my best friend said: 'It was the most awesome thing ever'! And besides experimenting and learning a lot of incredible lessons, you get a belt to prove that you are a winner of this project! And don't forget the Scouts' motto: 'Be prepared!'%uFFFD