What young Australian wouldn't love the chance to travel across the world, challenge themselves, engage in new communities and cultures and meet new people?
To me, those three things - explore, service, challenge and friendships is what Scouting is all about, so I decided this was a chance to extend my Scouting experience beyond its Australian borders! To earn the Balthasar Award I knew I had to come up with something different and propose the craziest and most adventurous challenge that I was willing to do. The Chadar Trek was the result. This trek that I was looking at, labelled the most unique trek in the world is probably also one of the coldest! With temperatures ranging from -15 to -36 Celsius, the Chadar - meaning ‘blanket of ice’ - is literally a ten day trek through a frozen canyon. Trekkers on the Chadar walk across the ice that has solidified on top of the Zanskar River, which is still flowing below. Aside from a mountaineering expedition (which I didn't feel I had the time or skills for) this was as adventurous as I was going to find in this part of the world and to make it even better there was an international camp earlier in the month that I could link into my trip!
And so, at the beginning of January 2016, I headed to the airport were I met up with 17 other Australian Guides. Our first stop was Singapore where we stayed at the Singapore Guide headquarters briefly before heading on to India. Arriving in Mumbai we were picked up in a bus which sped through the streets and we got our first glimpses of the colours and smells of India. After a terrifying ride over the mountains we arrived in Pune two hours later and to our home for the next ten days - Sangam World Guide Centre.
At Sangam we got the best orientation to India you could ever ask for, with the chance to play tourists while meeting and working with locals in the safety and security of a Girl Guide camp, filled with likeminded Guides and Scouts. Everyone who was volunteering, visiting or working in the centre had the same ideals. Within Guides and Scouts we truly are a family that is just spread across the world, waiting to meet each other!
During the week we ran programs for local children living in slums, went shopping in the markets, bought saris, tried our hands and feet at Indian arts and dancing, ran a teamwork and leadership workshop for teachers and councillors at a local university and even became ‘comfortable’ riding solo around town in rickshaws.
Had I not been looking forward to the next leg of my journey I definitely would not have wanted the camp to end! Luckily there was more in store, so after many hugs and setting a new goal to return someday as a volunteer I jumped into a rickshaw and headed to the airport. It was time to head to northern India and start walking!
The flight into Ladakh over and through the mountains was absolutely stunning, but stepping out of the plane and into the ‘airport’ - a small shed with some blankets across the doors to keep the heat in - was another story. Posters about acclimatisation and High Altitude Illness (HAI) lined the walls of the airport as a warning of what was to come. After meeting up with our trek guide, we were welcomed into our hotel for our acclimatisation day and instructed how to get to the markets and pick up our last minute supplies - which included the gumboots we would be walking in for the next ten days. The hotel was warmed only in the kitchen with a patio heater and our rooms, with no heat were supplied a bucket of water for showering once a day - it was time to crack out the down sleeping bags and beanies!
After a short afternoon of acclimatising and exploring the markets, monasteries and local surrounds we were up early and ready to start the trek the following day. The bus ride out to the Zanskar River was slow, as the mountainous road was covered in many places by the constantly falling rocks, but the excavators formed a path for us and we eventually made it to our starting point. That day, we just had a short walk down to the river where we had our first night camping on the ice and learnt how to walk like a penguin. Our trekking group of 25 (which would soon go down to 17) spent the afternoon playing soccer on the ice - a game that was made even more entertaining by our lack of balance and skill!
From here our trek became routine, we were woken daily by our porters with a mug of steaming Chai tea. This luxury was just enough to pull us out of our warm sleeping bags deep within our ice encrusted tents. We would walk for about five hours in the morning, stopping when the sunlight finally broke into the canyon and we could find a place in the sun to eat lunch without freezing! In the afternoon we continued walking, until we reached a new camping area on the side of the river to stop. Here we would refuel with hot tea and soup and bunk down back inside the warmth of our tents before a big communal dinner with our trekking group.
The walk was magnificent! There were frozen waterfalls, isolated villages to visit, hairy ice crossings, duck-unders and lots of slipping and sliding along the ice. The area itself is very unique as it is a mountainous landscape in the middle of the desert. This means aside from the frozen river there was no snow, just dry rocky canyon. The downside to this unique landscape was the lack of trees and therefore no firewood, so fires were limited to cooking fires made of kerosene and dried animal dung carried by the porters. The exception was our celebration campfire on the final night of the trek!
Towards the end of the week as we turned back towards home, the traffic along the Zanskar had taken its toll on the ice. With so many feet walking across the ice there was little left to walk on. Much of our return journey was spent clambering up the canyon walls with our packs, trying to avoid a swim in the icy water. In other sections we had to take our socks off and walked through in our gumboots with the water and ice chunks pouring into the top of our boots. In the final few days in particular, there were a number of places that the layer of chadar we were walking along was very thin, almost bouncing below our feet. In these spots we followed the locals and porters as closely as we could, but majority of the group still broke through the ice and fell into the water at some point along the trek, sometimes all the way down to hip or neck depth. Luckily I managed to escape that torture and ended the trip without a submersion!
Overall words don't do the adventure justice. The area of Ladakh holds a timelessness, as if the constant cold temperatures of winter have frozen it in time. Living naturally, surrounded and immersed, frozen down to the bone by nature was a wonderful experience. The locals live in the harshest lifestyle you could imagine, but are the friendliest people I have ever met as they warmly welcomed us along the route.
In total contrast I also loved to chaos of the Indian cities, the colour, noises, vibrancy and richness of the culture was amazing.
I would like to say a thousand thank yous for this opportunity. Or as said in Hindi - Dhanyavaad! The video from my trek can be viewed here Lauren Hansen Turramurra Rover Crew
Do Stuff! ... friendship, service, and wild activities that will stretch you to the limit!
Rovers opens the door to a world of adventure, excitement, challenge and achievement.
Challenging outdoor activities such as bushwalking, canoeing, sailing, caving, skiing, canyoning, four-wheel driving, rock-climbing and scuba diving can all form part of a Rover's calendar.
Awesome social activities like balls, dances, harbour cruises, nights out, car rallies and "Moots" (gatherings of Rovers on a local, national or international level) also feature on an active Rover's program.
A local group of Rovers is known as a "Crew" and every Crew is different, tailoring its activities to the requirements of its members. Crews vary in size from a handful of members to thirty or more. Most Crews meet weekly. The friends you make within this group will be lifelong!
Rovers is the section of Scouts Australia open to all young men and women aged between 18 and 25 years. Anyone can become a Rover - there's no need to have had any previous involvement with Scouting, or any prior outdoor activities experience.
A Crew's activities are planned and run by the Rovers themselves, with plenty of opportunity to develop personal abilities and learn new skills. You could become involved in organising a simple weekend away for just several people, a major event involving thousands of participants, or anything in between!
The Rover motto is a simple one - "Service". Rovering helps develop leadership abilities and appreciation of the value of helping other people, through service activities, both within Scouting and the wider community.
There are many hundreds of Rovers in scores of Rover Crews across N.S.W. and around 3,500 Rovers throughout Australia. Rovers or their equivalent can also be found in many countries throughout the world, offering the opportunity to make great contacts when travelling.
No other leisure-time activity offers as much.... take the plunge, try Rovers!
As the lucky recipient of the Tony Balthasar Achievement Award in 2010, I proposed that I would like to travel to Peru and attempt to climb Nevado Alpamayo (5,947m). My adventure followed...
I flew out of Sydney in July 2011 and spent my first few days in the capital of Peru, Lima. I met up with the national PR officer at the Scout headquarters, and we had a chat about Rovers in our countries. I discovered there are only around 200 Rovers in all of Peru!
I then travelled up to Huaraz, nine hours drive north of Lima, at the foothills of the central Andes mountain range (Cordillera Blanca) to meet up with the climbing team. I spent the next week doing day hikes up to lagoons in the hills around town for acclimatisation, to help prevent altitude sickness. We would climb a little higher each day, going from the town’s height of around 3,000 metres above sea level, eventually up to 4,600m.
We then did a successful three day ascent of Nevado Vallenaraju (5,686m), a phenomenal experience in its own right! Summit day consisted of a 1am wake up, then six hours of struggling uphill through crevasse fields and ice cliffs to reach summit at sunrise on a pleasant minus 15 degree morning... all the while feeling like you're breathing through a straw (and I do this for fun!)
Back down into town and then straight away off on the three day walk in to Alpamayo. The first few days consisted of a spectacular hike up the Santa Cruz Valley, then eventually a climb up the super steep moraine wall to the glacier edge. We had donkeys to carry gear until this point. Another day’s snow/ice climbing up and over a high col then down into high camp at around 5,500m on the glacier below the main face of Alpamayo, an unbelievable place to camp!
We had one false start this night when we were all ready to go at 1am and the weather came in just as we were heading off. A day of nervous waiting around in high camp then we made our summit push at 2am the next night. We attempted the French direct route, the longest, hardest and steepest on the wall, as all other routes were closed due to dangerous seracs at the summit. Two pitches of around 60 degree hard snow climbing, then another three pitches of 75 degree hard ice as the crux of the climb. With 100 metres to go, only two short easy pitches to the summit, my luck finally ran out! As I was hanging on a belay, a climber above dislodged a sizeable piece of ice which with the help of gravity decided to temporarily relieve me of the use of my left knee.
After calming down I gave one-legged ice climbing a go, but pretty quickly realised that wasn't the best idea. My partner and I retreated from the face in six terrifying abseils, and I slowly made it back to my tent for a really well-earned sleep! I woke later to find a nastily swollen and bruised knee but nothing a few painkillers couldn't fix. Could have been worse so I'm not complaining!
Over the next four days we headed back out over the col and back down the valley to Huaraz. A long bus ride back to Lima followed, then an epic 36 hour return flight/waiting lounge journey home.
To the Balthasar Award committee, I'd like to say thanks again for the incredible opportunity, I had some amazing experiences on my amazing adventure! Dominic Warland Turramurra Rover Crew
At the beginning of July 2011, five Australian Rovers participated in the Timor-Leste project, a co-operation between Scouts Australia and Rotary Australia. The Timor-Leste project aims to improve health and sanitation in East Timor.
Chris Malam from ACT, Nicky Strachan from Victoria, Brandon Leaning from Queensland, Delshard Mozhdehinia from WA and Lauren Tubby from Epping Rover Crew in NSW, along with Graeme Fordham from Scouts Australia and two NSW Rotarians, Jo and John, spent 11 days at Amutin Primary School in Dili, building a new toilet block and refurbishing other parts of the school.
Currently, Amutin Primary School is attended by 1,200 students, 20 teachers, and has only four toilets. As part of the Timor-Leste project, the Rovers worked with the local Timor-Leste Rovers and Rotaract Youth to paint the existing toilet block, and almost the entire school, insulate the small school kitchen and assist with laying the foundations for the new toilet block. Local builders were hired for the major construction work required during the project.
The Timor-Leste project was funded by “Dollars for Dili,” and ACT Government initiative, and the Rotary Club of South Dubbo. “It was a fantastic project - to be able to work with locals our age, to help even just a small community and to experience the country and culture. It’s a great project with memories to last forever” said Lauren from Epping Rovers. The Timor-Leste project is planned to be an ongoing service project for Rovers, Scouts Australia and Rotary.
After a 30 hour flight, my twin brother Ben and I landed in Rovaniemi, Finland on the July 18th, 2010 ready to get started. To get on the road though we needed just one thing, our bikes, which we desperately hoped were still in one piece and on the same plane as us. As a result, my first memories of the trip are not of air in my hair and Nordic forests, but rather of us standing, glued to the airport window watching the entire plane being unloaded. Finally out came the bikes. So excited were we that everything had made it, we found ourselves assembling our bikes then and there. Despite the fact that it was now 11.30pm we started riding our first kilometres south.
Before I start counting off the kilometres and stories though, I think it is important to explain the aims of the trip. We were not out there to break any records or train for the Tour de France. Our aim was simple, get to Vienna from the Arctic Circle in 100 days. How we got there and what we did along the way, well that was fairly open. It was this freedom to explore the world around us that really made this trip such a magical experience for me. On the way we got distracted by random sights, went to whole countries on a recommendation and got waylaid for weekends by friends. All this meant that we felt we were not riding to get somewhere. Instead we were riding to experience something. It was this element of the unknown that saw us getting back on the bikes day after day.
The first four weeks our trip took us down through Finland, in the most scenic and indirect way possible. We would ride 60km to kayak a river, before heading another 100km to laugh at what the Finnish people call a beach. With the landscape covered in lakes of all sizes there are no direct routes in Finland and that suited us perfectly. Each night we would always find ourselves swimming in a lake at sunset, as we decided if we would head to a national park, town, castle or all three the next day. We were surprised to find that after the first few days of the trip our legs were no longer tired in the morning, with riding became a task and not a chore. It was in this style that we rode, sauna-ed and ate our way down Finland, enjoying the unique elements in each region and slowly getting sick of pine trees.
It was in Helsinki that our first major distraction occurred. Arriving there we realised just how close we were to the Baltic States. So despite the fact that it was in the wrong direction we found ourselves on a ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia. As soon as we arrived in these small states the interesting sights and cultures made us forget that these countries were completely in the wrong direction. In fact we enjoyed ourselves so much we ended up being 300km from our Tallinn ferry with only two days to get there. Throughout the Baltics we enjoyed a mass of castles and sites supported by a people proud of their culture. These experiences more than made up for our first day of constant rain and the trip’s only crash, luckily resulting in only small cuts and a bruised pride. So with a need to get back on track, it was back on the ferry to Finland.
From here we rode along the southern coast of Finland, following the ancient Swedish Kings’ postal route. With one last sauna, lake and salmon buffet, we were then on a ferry over to Sweden. In Stockholm, I had a commitment to attend a water conference at a set time, and it was here we found ourselves circling the capital. On this route we took in a royal palace and discovered the gastronomical delights of pickled herring. Arriving in Stockholm just in time for the conference, we both enjoyed the change of a few day of just riding around a city. At this time I attended some fantastic presentations about bringing water and sanitation to the third world while Ben explored a city, truly at the heart of Scandinavia. Yet again though we realised time was slipping away and we were still no closer to Vienna, so it was back on the bike. Riding around the horn of Sweden, we saw amazing Viking sites and palaces, while also having time to meet up with old friends along the way. The hardest part of the ride during this time was the wind. While before it had been negligible, now it picked up, blowing up to 40km/hr. It also seemed to follow us, always changing to be head-on, no matter which way we turned. Despite being attacked by the elements we pushed on making it over to Demark with time quickly running out.
With friends to see in the Czech Republic and Austria on weekends, we had only 10 days to get through Germany and Demark. Luckily the wind and rain died down and we were able to push on and managed to enjoy two days in Copenhagen and one in Berlin on the way through. It was in Copenhagen that we really saw the power of the bike. Here, cyclists outnumbered cars 5:1 and we enjoyed being part of a city which runs on two wheels. Along the way we also visited some of the most impressive palaces on the whole trip and admired the 160m white cliffs of Mon. Taking a ferry over to Germany the forest started giving way to more and more fields and our first real hills appeared. Despite this we were pushed on by an uncontrollable love for Germany pastries and great cycle paths. Berlin, with it catch phrase of ‘dirty but sexy’ was also different to any other European city but after 80 days on the bike we at least fitted in with half of the city’s name.
After our sprint south we crossed the Czech/German border and I found myself knocking on my host family’s door, having not seen them for five years. The weekend with them can only be described with the words ‘excess food’. Meeting high school friends one day, a teacher the next and family friends the day after, we seemed to move from one meal to another. Still it was a fantastic time and I really enjoyed how many people I managed to catch up with after so long. We also managed to make it down to Cesky Krumlov and some of the other castles in this area, on our way to Austria. These places were spectacular and made the Czech border mountain ranges worthwhile. Finally with only seven days left in our 100 day journey we climbed up to 1065m to cross the Austrian border. While this may seem like enough time to make it to Vienna, with snow falling around us in mid-October, it was not a moment too soon. So, with -5 degree nights we pushed on, being warmed by the natural beauty of the Danube as we rode down to Vienna. After a few more turns of the wheel we pulled into Vienna with four days to spare. These days were not wasted though and we enjoyed celebrating the 8,434km ride with a trip to the Opera and a feast of Vienna’s famous chocolate cake - the Sachertorte.
And thus with a last pull on the brakes, just like a first push of the pedals that started this journey, our cycle trip came to an end. As I look back on the event, I still can’t believe that it really happened. Each day seemed to have been its own event, full of wheels turning, sights and experiences. When I remember all of these moments the final goal seems like nothing more than another city on another day. As I look back I release that I did not ride for a final goal, I did not see amazing sights, after all that time sitting and thinking on a bike I did not even discover the meaning of life. Instead I experienced a little bit of the world in the most open and freest way possible, and in our current busy world that was truly magical. Aaron Smith Kissing Point Rover Crew
When I applied for the Balthasar Award I thought it was a mere pipe dream that I might actually be selected and be able to carry out the couple of things that have been on my bucket list for many years. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be possible for me to go dog-sledding in the Arctic Circle or ice climbing at Kandersteg International Scout Centre, let along chuck in a little bit of touring around Europe and ANZAC day at Gallipoli to top it off. As a lover of the outdoors this was a prime opportunity to spread my wings and partake in some adventurous activities I might otherwise not have had the opportunity to experience.
There is nothing like spending a week in Switzerland, waking up in the morning to a postcard-like view out your window with snow everywhere. These were prime conditions for skiing at Kandersteg, fresh powder and minimal stacks but the long runs were an absolute killer on the legs! The staff members at Kandersteg were great, very friendly, smiling faces, forever playing jokes on a young Aussie travelling by herself but always up for a beer down at the local "Das Alps".
Ice climbing was a whole other experience in itself, my first challenge was trying to break the language barrier with the instructor - thank god for my school-girl German! I'm still not sure if I was saying "purple monkey dishwasher" or "What do I do now" in German but I managed... just! Crampons firmly attached and ice picks at the ready, looking up at a 40 metre ascent was a little daunting to say the least... "but hell, I'd rock climbed before, how hard could this be?" I swung once and the pick sat awkwardly in the ice, I swung again and the pick ricocheted off the ice and my hand slammed into the cold hard surface. Third time lucky? Success! I stepped my feet onto the ice and felt like I may fall at any time in this position. I felt a little ridiculous only a couple of feet off the ground, but with both my feet and tools in the ice, the only direction to move was upwards. I was amazed at how quickly the blood began to drain out of my forearms... my only option was to start climbing faster to get to the top quicker. Victory was mine and I was hooked! A day of climbing left my body feeling like death warmed up but the experience was well worth any pain.
The weather in the Arctic Circle in Sweden was a lot colder than the Alps of Switzerland, with temperatures averaging anywhere between -15 and -35 degrees Celsius. But apparently these were perfect conditions for the northern lights and dog-sledding. After being introduced to the dogs and learning how to harness the team it was time to learn the art of dog-sledding. Practice was had behind a snowmobile to get the ball rolling with only a couple of near misses and a rather friendly Santa Claus (or "Larry Christmas" as they call him) cheering us on. Picture this... four Alaskan huskies are frantically barking, jumping up and down and sideways, their born-to-run bodies eager to pull the sled that is hitched behind them. The barking comes to a halt as soon as the sled's brake is released, as the sled pulls forward the yelping is replaced with the whoosh of the wind and the sled carving the snow. Roughly 30-40km is covered per day and the dogs need as much help as possible from their musher to make the distance bearable.
A great week was spent in the middle of nowhere, where the Sami people reside to follow the reindeer. Small lodges are stayed in and saunas and fires are the only thing that keeps us warm during the freezing nights. The wood needs to be chopped, the water fetched from the well and meals need to be prepared not only for us but also for our dog teams. Put aside the frozen hair that breaks off, your skin sticking to metal and an ice axe that can provide a deathly blow when becoming lodged into someone's buttocks.. and what makes it all worth it is the companionship between you and your team, the thrill and adventure and the lights that launch themselves through the sky each night.
The memories from these particular activities will be forever lasting and I made some great mates along the way. The added bonus for me was that through the people I met along the way, I had to opportunity to go hiking across frozen lakes to wilderness lodges and watch brown bears in the wild in Scandinavia. This trip changed my life and has given me a new outlook generally and I can't wait to pick up my bags and go travelling for some more adventure in the near future.
If you're a lover of the outdoors and adventurous activities then I strongly recommend applying for the Balthasar Award for the experience of a lifetime! Kylie Young Mona Vale Rover Crew