In December 2015 three members of the group (David Hudson, Patrick Walker and Chris Branch) travelled to New Zealand to complete their Explorer Belt expedition with Greater London South East Scouts, alongside three leaders from the group (David Goodwin, Alan Alexander and Ellen Simmons).
All were an absolute credit to the group and had a fantastic time. You can read David Hudson’s review of the trip below.
On the 18th of December 2015 I embarked on a once in a lifetime experience to New Zealand in order to complete my explorer belt expedition along with 9 other participants and 6 leaders. We had been planning the expedition for about 2 and a half years with a selection camp and 8 training camps. The whole expedition had been planned by us and whilst out there we had to take the lead in organising what we were doing and getting ourselves around the country.
Our whole trip was based on the north island, and we started in Auckland where we landed after 2 flights totally 25 hours of flying. During the afternoon we visited the Sky Tower with the New Zealand Scouts National Commissioner. We had some amazing views of the city and the sunset, however most of us were too tired to really appreciate it.
The next place we visited was Matamata, where the Hobbiton movie set is. We had a tour round the set where we saw all the Hobbit homes and even saw in the unique Hobbit Pub. We also had the chance to dress up in Hobbit clothes which was very entertaining!
Next was Rotorua where we stayed for 3 days over Christmas. We had the opportunity to visit and stay overnight with a Maori tribe which was amazing, we got to experience their culture first hand by taking part in the Hakka and Poi with them. Whilst in Rotorua we volunteered at a local soup kitchen called Love Soup. We prepared, cooked, and served meals for the homeless community over Christmas. As a thank you for being allowed to stay in the scout den we painted a mural on the side of their building.
Taupo was our next destination, which is most famously known for its huge lake. Whilst there we cycled around part of the lake, and put on a barbecue for a local scout group. It was really nice to meet scouts our age from a different country and to hear what Scouts is like there. Finally we took a boat tour on the lake to see some Maori rock carvings.
We then travelled to Tongariro National Park. This is where we undertook a tough 8 hour trek over the Tongariro Crossing, passing Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings along the way. This was the most challenging thing I have ever done, but was the very rewarding once we got to the end of the day.
Next we travelled to Waitomo. While here we went Black Water Rafting in glow worm caves, it was very cold water, especially when jumping backwards off a waterfall with only a rubber ring around you. We also took a boat ride through another glow worm cave where we were able to experience the glow worms at their best, with the ceiling of the caves being illuminated with thousands of them.
Before we completed our round trip back to Auckland, we stopped off in Hamilton. Here we watched a Kiwi cricket game and went around getting to know some local people. Finally we drove back up to Auckland for our last few days. We visited an Aquarium, before watching the Auckland fireworks on New Year’s Eve. On our last day we went up to an artificial ski slope which was a lot of fun and much better than dry ski slopes. We then completed a glow in the dark crazy golf course to conclude our expedition.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Explorer Belt expedition to New Zealand and would definitely want to do it again if I had the chance. I would also recommend it to anyone interested in experiencing a different culture and meeting new people.