South Dublin Girl Guides complete mammoth 180km trek through Belgium

by Gary Ibbotson

Three Girl Guide leaders from south Dublin have completed the mammoth task of hiking 180km through Belgium and surviving on only €3.25 a day.

The leaders from Dundrum, Stillorgan and Dun Laoghaire were among 12 Irish Girl Guides to partake in the challenge which is held every three or four years. The survival adventure tests the skills that the young women have learned during their time guiding.

Helen O’Reilly, a leader with Stillorgan Guides, said that the trek was a brilliant experience.

“We walked for about six hours each day and were thankful that the heatwave from earlier in the summer had passed; it was a more manageable 25 degrees,” she said.

“We passed through plenty of beautiful sleepy villages and were surrounded by farmland each day.

“The projects that we had to complete gave plenty of focus to the 10 days and were a great conversation starter with the local people. 

“We really enjoyed the projects in the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Mesen, the witches’ parade in Beselare, and finding out about Guiding and Scouting in West Flanders.”

Each team-of-two had to keep a logbook and successfully complete a series of projects during their travels, that included finding out about the local culture, history and geography and helping out in local communities.

Helen’s team-mate, Mary Theresa Hally, a leader with Dun Laoghaire Brownies, said that the 10-day survival challenge was “a battle of perseverance, both mentally and physically.”

“As the Explorer Belt allows you to pick your own route to cover the required 180km, our team opted to cross the border and spent a night camping in France.

“That night we shared our camping field with an ageing horse, but it was by no means the most unusual place that we pitched our tent. 

“We also spent nights in a restaurant garden, on a pig farm and in a large-scale commercial garden centre.”

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