The Explorer Belt is the ultimate challenge for UK Venture Scouts. Further information about the Belt is available on ScoutBase UK
The Belt project was for groups of three Venture Scouts (two UK and one Uganda) to walk and work for ten days carrying out various projects along the way. Safety was the first concern of the Service Crew and with a scheme approved by the Programme and Training Section at Gilwell, daily monitoring, morning and night, of the progress of the five groups was undertaken.
This is the first report:
By now the ten UK Scouts with five Uganda Scouts have settled into a nice Explorer Belt routine - walking, riding and meeting local people. They report that they are finding everything very cheap and the people are just lovely and friendly.
Even our feet aren't too bad! reports Cavus Batki and Dan Cullis-Hallworth. We, including the Ugandan Scouts, are having a great time. Our projects are going well (care to climb a mango tree anyone?) and we can't wait to carry on. Hopefully, the people we are meeting gain as much from the encounter as we do!
At every school we pass, we are asked in to speak to the children. We are getting used to the chant of "Mzungu, mzungu, mzungu" (White person).
Oh well - onward!!
The Support Team have met-up with all five groups to ensure that they are following their planed route - all are in good spirits.
One notable meeting was with Rob, Jenny, and Emma who passed us on boda-bodas (Ugandan moped-taxi - Spike) with the Union Flag fluttering behind.
Fran and Cavus's teams spent memorial night at Lukantaire - a small village consisting of only Banda's but near the local primary school.
It was an "African Experience" indeed and the villagers served "fresh" chicken roasted in pans, and even washed-up for our teams. The children were wonderful, and the Explorer Belt teams will never forget Lukantaire. The night of Cavus's team, was however broken by a tropical storm of extreme severity - almost continuous lightning for two hours and torrential rain. They survived!
Everyone else on the road is most helpful - "Bush-Telegraph" is excellent and everyone on the roads seems to know when a Mzungu team has passed through or indeed when one is coming!
Nick Winter and Dick Booth
All five teams of three, made up of two UK Scouts (Mzungu) and one Ugandan Scout, have returned safely from their expeditions in the Kamuli, Iganga and Jinja Districts, after ten days full of opportunities, and experiences which they will never forget.
Everyone travelled 160 kms, on a combination of foot and traditional African transport, for example: chauffeured bicycles (Boda-bodas) and open-backed cattle trucks.
Between us, there are so many stories and phenomenal adventures, that we don't know where to start, so each team has briefly recounted an experience....
For Paul and myself, the most memorable experience of our Explorer belt expedition, was arriving in the small town of Lukotaime. We received a very unusual welcome from the residents of this rural town, as some had fled in fear at the sight of us, whilst the rest continually stood in silence, watching our every move.
Using the local language, our Ugandan friend, Idris, established that we were the first muzungu (white person), ever to enter this isolated village. Throughout the rest of this eye-opening day and night we broke many boundaries; teaching the community not to fear us, and building emotional friendships. We reluctantly left the following morning, with chickens slaughtered and trees planted to commemorate our visit. Paul and I were also renamed after the tribes founders.
Whether it was his spindly legs or his enormous grin, the children of Uganda found Richard to be hilarious in everything he did! From slicing his fingers whilst preparing cassova (potato-like vegetable) to balancing on a Buda-buda with two two-stone rucksacks, he brought laughter to all the places we visited.
Mos Eisley (officially Namwendura) was our first liquid re-fuelling stop - at the local pub! Well at 50p, for 1/2 litre bottle of beer, how could we refuse to boost the local economy!
Obviously Ugandan men are taken by Northern lasses, as we had to fight off bids of up to 200 cows, for Heather's Manchurian hand - we are holding out for a herd of wildebeest.
(He's only jealous because he's only had two marriage proposals, and Heather's had three!)
Ogi, ogi, ogi - oi, oi, oi! If you ever hear this in West Africa, you know where it came from! Just one of the things that the Ugandans rapidly picked-up from us. Other things included; politics, education and the fact that AIDS is not a disease created by the West to wipe out Africa!
We had great fun; pedalling Boda-bodas was much more fun than sitting on the back, and buying Chairman's Extra Strong Brew at 40p a bottle, made climbing mango trees not so bad! (Oh yes we did!)
After being informed of our partnership the night before, we were unsure of completing the ten days together, but we had similar personalities and sense of humours, so we instantly became best chums. We were unsure about following in the footsteps of our guide, by getting up and singing in front of a crowd of mesmerised children who had never seen white people.
But four days into our expedition, we were in the most picturesque village, it just encouraged us to sing the only song we knew with actions - "Singing in the Rain"!! And as a final decision, we (and all the others) would love to come back and be XB Support Teams for the future.
We thought at the start we'd end up killing each other, but surprisingly we completed our expedition, both in one piece and having a wonderful time!
We raced across three different Ugandan Districts, using a selection of different traditional transports - the favourite being Boda-bodas! Each time we used these, our convoy of bikes was led by Rob with his Union Flag flying! The best time, was at Lyingo, on the lake shore where we ate tilapia (white fresh water fish), which were still alive when they gave them to us! However they did cook them after we had seen them.
So the whole Explorer Belt team is alive and kicking and dying for some English food - we can't take any more rice!!
Nick Winter is planning a Explorer Belt expedition to Uganda in August of 2003. More details.