They were awaiting the arrival of a coach which had started it's journey in Morayshire and had run around Scotland picking up Venture Scouts taking part in the Moray Area Scout Council Explorer Belt Expedition to the Lorraine Region of France.
The journey would take them down to Dover and across to Calais on Monday and onto Epernay where they would camp for the night.
Tuesday 14th July - Bastille Day in France and a Public Holiday.
An early start with a visit to the Moet & Chandon Champagne House and then it was on to Strasbourg, where the party of 26 were guests of Winnie Ewing at the European Parliament. Reports back from Paul tell us that they had a great first day.
Night two was spent at Strasbourg, under canvas again, and no doubt they had a great night joining in the Bastille day celebrations.
Wednesday - 15th July - A leisurely drive from Strasbourg to Mondercange in Luxembourg where they will spend the night checking their equipment, ready for the off on the Thursday morning for their 10 day expedition in France - Their Destination - well they will not know that until they are dropped off the coach, somewhere in Northern France.
During the evening the teams drew for drop off places.
During the evening the author joined the leader team, after flying out to Luxembourg City.
What is the Explorer Belt - full details can be found on Scoutbase - but basically it is a ten day hike during which teams of two must cover a minimum distance of 160 kilometers. During that time the youngsters are tasked with exploring the area, finding out as much as they can about the people, their culture and way of life. They have to keep a log of their experiences.
Thursday - 16th July - The teams board the coach and head for France. It's raining! The first time that the Expedition Leader can remember that happening.
It took Des, the coach driver some six hours to drive around the Region, dropping teams off, before the Leader Team arrived back at their base camp at Mondercange.
On dropping off the teams, their first task was to locate where they were on the map, and then locate their finishing place which Sierck les Bains, near the French/Germany/Luxembourg border.
The map on the left shows the area the teams were walking in, and the purple line depicts the approximate route taken by the Ayrshire lads.
What happens during these ten days - well you have to talk to the lads and read their log books! To read about their projects , go to the bottom of the page.
Saturday 25th July -The finish point is the Castle of Seirch les Bains. The night before the teams had to sleep a certain distance away from the finishing point.
We've arrived - Fraser collapses around the sign that indicates that they have nearly completed their 10 grueling days. But another surprise awaits the once they find the finishing point. Gradually the teams arrived in the town, starting to meet up with each other and discovering that the Leader Team's choice of finishing point was to set them one final challenge -
to reach the ramparts of the castle, with all their gear.
One by one the teams arrive at the finish point, hand over their logs books and spare cash, and then the stories start, as they exchange their experiences with each other. Our intrepid travellers are pictured over looking the River Mosel, with the hills of Luxembourg in the background. 160 Kilometers on, they are in good fettle, as are the rest of the teams.
All teams checked in, another group picture before loading the coach and heading for the new base camp at Strassen.
Sunday 26th July - A day of relaxation and then each team will undergo an interview session with the Leader Team to assess their Expedition. The Leader time spent the whole day reading each of the nine log books and project books, whilst the Venture Scouts were taken away for the day to the town of Echternach, where they had the opportunity to relax, do some sight seeing or, as some did hired a canadian canoe on the man made lake just outside the town.
Monday 27th July - Interview Day Each team was subjected to an 90 minute interview with the Leader Team, 30 minutes on their routes, 30 minutes on their log book, and the last session on their projects. A hard time for them, but also for the Leader team who had to endure the nine sessions. The teams spent half the day in Luxembourg City with Des, shuttling them back and forth.
After the interviews and the deliberations by the leader team, the whole party retired to a local hotel for a formal dinner party.
Tuesday 28th July - The final day in Luxembourg... and it was spent in France at a theme park, just outside Metz. The original plan had been to run an activity day including instruction in a range of events, but it proved impractical in Luxembourg, and the French Activity Centre which we located just south of Metz, could not cope with the numbers.
Wednesday 29th July - The party left base camp at Strassen and heads for Germany, first depositing myself at Luxembourg Airport, where they were taking a cruise down the Rhine, hopefully that afternoon, and on Thursday they were going to try and locate an activity centre which could handle the numbers.
Friday 31st July - Time to pack and head for home, via Calais and Dover. Des would be relieved at Dover by another driver, and the party will drive home overnight arriving back in Scotland around 5am on Saturday morning, for the Phoenix team anyway - for Aberdeen and Elgin, they still have a few hours to go.
The teams are set a number of minor projects and they have one major project which is of their choice. The Phoenix guys picked the World Wares for their project - a courageous subject possibly for that part of Europe. What affect did the wars have on the area, how did local people feel about the wars?
Both Fraser and Paul were very impressed about what they saw. There were numerous War time Cemeteries around the area, an awe inspiring experience to see so many graves laid out, all very well kept.The pictures above are of the entrance to one of the Cemeteries and the view down the length. It gives one an idea of what they experienced. They also found the old generation still held a lot of resentment to the war times, but in the younger generation this had diminished.
Their minor projects included reviewing the different styles of Church that they found in the area. They found a wide variation of modern style and older style buildings sizes obviously dependant on the size of the community. They were also tasked with talking with a Priest to find out about religion on the area and how strong the Church was in these modern days.
Other projects were to make contact with a local Scout Group, attempt to get home hospitality with a French family, carry out a Community Project, find out how the locals felt and about environmental matters - a strong anti nuclear power lobby was found, there being a very large power station in the area.
Interested in the Explorer Belt? You can read all about it at Explorer Scout Badges and The Explorer Belt .
The next projected Explorer Belt from Moray is in July 2000 -
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