Two 19 year-old local scouts earned a distinguished award for completing a 200km long expedition that entailed making their way on €4 a day from Croatia to Slovenia.
Paul Gerlitz and Keith Agnew from Bay Estate and Dublin Road, respectively, became only the fourth team from town in 25 years to win the scouting explorers belt.
Both are members of the Dundalk Venturer Section of 1st/2nd/5th Louth, being in the Scouts since they were nine and ten, and were set the challenge of finding their way to a certain point in Slovenia after being dropped in Croatia with a map and €4 each to spend a day.
They had to keep a detailed log book and complete 15 projects, doing the expedition in ten days and walked 220km.
Keith said: ‘The generosity of the Slovenian people was quite simply unbelievable. They cooked us meals, they let us camp on their property, and one night we were even given beds and hot showers by a local family.’
Paul agreed saying ‘It really was fantastic. Part of the idea behind the belt is to get to know a different culture and to get talking to the locals. Myself and Keith had no problem yapping away, we managed to communicate ok.’
The pair carried their own tent and cooking equipment and food all along the journey, but the local folk were most helpful with the owner of a pizzeria opening up one night to cook pizzas for them.
The pair had to carry out fundraising and seek sponsorship to undertake the challenge for which they prepared by hiking and mountain walking.
When they reached base camp they handed in their log books and projects. After a day of well-deserved rest, they then had to go through an interviewing process with the organisers, to see if they would be awarded the belts.
Venturer Leader, Gerry Byrne, said he was absolutely delighted for the pair. ‘It is a very tough challenge, and the boys put a lot of preparation into it beforehand. This is only the 4th team from Dundalk who have been awarded the belt.’