For everyone in group 2, who made this an unforgettable experience.
At the end of 2013, I went on an adventure of a lifetime, and I would like to share as much of it with my blog readers as I can, because I learnt so much out of this journey and realised things about myself that I never thought I was capable of. My school split our year group up into 8 groups - 4 boys groups, and 4 girls groups. We had to hike, river raft, canoe, and cycle a total of 368 kilometres, all while carrying bag on our back that was a quarter of our body weight. Each group was accompanied by 2 leaders and there was a support crew dropping off food supplies very 3-4 days. We had no contact with anyone outside of the group except for letters, which were delivered once a week; and we only saw the boys groups in front and behind us on 4 occasions, during rest days. This is the journey we call Trek.
I must say, a few days before the journey started, I sat at home, rather arrogant in my thinking that it would be mostly easy, and that the only difficult thing would be missing home slightly. When we were at school on Monday 4 November, it hit me. I though I would be the one with a brave face; and yet I was the first to tear up when my family saw me off. It was a hot day, and the first hike was uphill most of the way. We were not hiking fit at that point, and carrying a heavy bag and walking in boots that gave me blisters quickly brought me back down to earth, and I realised I would have to work hard to make this worth while. The first 'campsite' we stayed at was a protea farm, on a sloping mountain; with uneven ground and rocks and sticks in the soil, making the thin mattresses pretty useless in terms of providing comfort. The first night was difficult adjusting to sleeping on the floor, and rolling onto my tent buddy because of the slope was unavoidable. The other thing that sent me into shock was that there was no washing facility at the first site, and after sleeping and walking in the dirt we were all stinky and dirty.
Day two was also slightly gruelling, as we got very VERY lost on the mountain in the hot sun. We walked for about 2 hours 'bundu-bashing' through thick, sharp fynbos shrubs where there were no paths. Eventually we came to a small gorge where we took a rest, ate and filled up from water from a mountain stream. That was the first thing I really came to appreciate on Trek: water. Especially fresh, mountain water. Naturally filtered and cold and fresh, it was such a treat after sipping on a warm water bottle. We walked in a forest, following a famous Trek canal for almost 2 hours until we finally reached our destination. When we got to the site there was a large dam, with a rope swing. We swam, swag and washed ourselves and our clothes for the firsts time and walked around with (not so) clean wet hair.
Day three was emotionally draining, as it rained cats and dogs. We got lost a couple of times, and in the middle of it all my friend and I burst into tears, out of sheer frustration. It sounds silly now, but in the moment you get so emotional. We met a support crew member and swapped our massive bags for smaller day packs, for the next day's hike up a gorge. We slept in a hut that night, half way up the mountain.We dried our socks and clothes in front of the fire place, and we all even got to sleep on real mattresses; which was amazing. There was a bathroom, that you could call #bathroomgoals, because it was outdoors, on top of a mountain peak with a lookout view for miles and miles. Truly a throne!
Day 4 was bittersweet. We had very light packs, so walked much easier for most of the hike. Because of the rain the previous day the rocks were slippery, and when it came to a point where we had to do some no harness rock-climbing, it proved difficult. I remember us having to push and pull each other up to intersecting rocks. I slipped, and my leg twisted to a ninety degree angle, and my weight made me slip further. Luckily two of the girls behind me caught me from slipping further, otherwise I might have broken my knee half way up the mountain. We walked further and had to really push ourselves to hike to the top of the mountain, on a steep incline with no clear path. It was freezing but at the same time we were all sweating and hot from the difficult climb, so frustration was clear, but soon forgotten when we achieved having climbed to the top. From there we walked an easy path to another mountaineer's hut, which had proper toilets, a fireplace, and again proper beds with mattresses. We barbecued our food and went to sleep warm and satisfied that evening.
Day 5 was an easy hike, and although feeling extremely homesick, I wasn't physically drained. We had our first proper shower since Trek started, with warm water. I put my clothes and mesh toiletry bag on the floor, and when I got back out, I saw that all my clothes and toiletries were soaked, including some of my soap and shampoo. I had a complete breakdown, because after a pretty good day, something had to go wrong. As soon as I gathered myself, two more friends also started crying because of homesickness so we had a little crying trio. after that we were all sorted. We had a barbecue with boerewors rolls.
Day 6 was the longest walk distance wise, but it was definitely one of the most scenic and enjoyable.. Although the weather was scorching hot, I started to really appreciate and enjoy everything fully for the first time. We had lunch at a gorgeous little waterfall and natural pool, where we swam; and often found mountain water stream that we drank from. we had to cross a rickety swing bridge to get to our hut, which was very nice and we had a fireplace near the hut to keep us warm for the night.
Day 7 was also relatively easy, as it was flat. For lunch we stopped outside Franschoek Pass, a road I knew very well because my family and I often rode our motorcycles en route to Franschoek on weekends. I kept my eyes peeled for my grandparents or parents riding past, but never saw them to my dismay. We stayed on a beautiful farm for the night, and it ended up being one of my favourite campsites of the whole journey. There was a lovely shady pine forest, which was a perfect spot to sit, reflect and write my letters and diary entries. The farm also had a Dam, which we swam in for hours and washed our dirty clothing in. There was a trampoline which we used a lot, even if just to sit and have a snack and a chat on.
Day 8 was awesome. We woke up early and cooked instant oats on our rickety meths cookers. We walked to a truck, where we switched our normal bags for day packs and split into pairs. We carried canoes down to a large dam and started to kayak. The wind picked up an the water got very choppy, so we stopped at the side of the dam and were driven the rest of the way to our campsite. What would have taken us another 2-3 hours took us 10 minutes; so that was a huge bonus! We arrived at our first rest stop camp, and met up with the boys in the previous group. We all swam in the dam, and played with the campsite's German shepherd. We decided to write our Trek song, something every group has to do over the duration of the 27 days.
Day 9 was our first rest day. We woke up late that morning, and said goodbye to the boys, who went for their first cycling day. We had to build a raft and float it on the dam, and we happened to be the first group in 10 years to complete the task successfully - a feat seeing that the boys had lost one of the essential barrels needed for building the raft; apparently someone had let it float down the dam... We got letters for the first time, and it was better than Christmas morning! it was extremely emotional, seeing as it was the first contact we had with anyone back home in over a week. Later that afternoon, the boys from the third group arrived at the campsite. They decided to PUNCH a tree down, since they 'didn't have enough firewood', which was a questionable method of logging, if you ask me.
The first 6 days were definitely the hardest, but once you realise that you're not going to be going back home anytime soon, you just make the most of it. You learn that you don't need every day luxuries, and not once did I ever miss my phone, computer, iPad or any form of social media; because I was so caught up in either focusing on staying positive or taking in all of nature's beauty.
Stay tuned for the next 2 parts in this travel series, they will be coming soon!
Until the next post
-The Traveling Oyster xxx