Monday, 19 September 2016

Journey experiences

What an incredible programme that my friend, and old AR teammate, Garry Townsend has put together! Garry has been in outdoor education for as long as I've known him (17 years) and this shows in his experience and how he has put this Journey (one of many of his programmes) together.

9 days and 8 nights
20 x Grade 10 girls (16 years old)
Over 60km of hiking
Carrying a loaded backpack
Three food drops
One 'solo' night - sleeping alone in the bush in your own self-made camp
An environmental activity
Kayaking in a two-person inflatable raft (water was too low so we spent the morning paddling on a large pool in the river and jumping off a cliff into a deep pool below)
No mobile phones and internet

For most of the girls in my group (one of three groups) it was their first time ever to hike and camp and carry a loaded backpack and to sleep alone in the bush - and to have no cell phones.

I was fortunate to have a super assistant facilitator, Shane, with me. We got along very well. About two or three days in the girls asked whether we knew each other before this trip. They were concerned about the "What if we didn't get along?". I explained that since we both like the outdoors and that either directly or through friends we had a connection to Garry, that there was little chance that we wouldn't get along.

I thoroughly enjoyed each night's debrief session as it was interesting to hear the girls' thoughts from the day and their experiences. During the hikes we got to chat here and there to the girls, getting to know them.

On the whole, we found the girls to be really sweet and kind to each other. Of course, there were a few odd issues, where a girl here and there thought they were going to die - from the heat, effort or blisters. Shane and I thought that the girls were often a bit too sweet and too sympathetic to each other... where milking of attention is awarded - for small issues. Nonetheless, it was good to see so much kindness.

The area - past Bronkhorstspruit - is lovely, albeit helluva dry. The Olifants and Wilge Rivers are incredibly low and the bush screams out for rain.

This was a rewarding experience for me to see these city girls adapt to this environment and come out of it smiling and richer for the experience. I felt very proud to see these girls discover just how strong (physically and mentally) and capable they are.

Very proud indeed.

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