Grade 8: Wolkberg Explorers
On Thursday, 16th September, 50 Grade 8 explorers set out on their longest expedition yet – they were about to embark on a 7-day trail through the Wolkberg. Day one was tough on the legs, that weren’t yet used to the weight of the packs or the kilometres to be covered. After almost 17km and wiggling their way around the western side of Ebenezer Dam, the group set up camp among the plantations South of Bifrost Mountain Retreat. The next morning was rather miserable as the campsite became enveloped in thick mist just as the group began packing up. From there on in, it was rain coats, ponchos and backpack covers for all – the mist surprisingly deceptive in its permeating abilities!!
The second day was quite tedious, following the main road into the Mohlapitse Valley en route to the base of Serala. The group covered 14km in quite miserable conditions, but spirits were high once the campsite was reached. The knowledge of it being a campsite for two nights was refreshing for the group and that their third day would be day packs only!
On the Saturday morning, the group were due to set off for the waterfalls but had a change of plan. The day trip out was postponed a little in order to greet and cheer the cyclists participating in The Magoeba Trek. It was lovely for them to be able to cheer on some familiar faces including Mr Willson and Mr Ceronio and for Gordon Noel to even get a brief glimpse of his dad as he trudged through the rocky crossing of the Mohlapitse River. After the cheering and supporting, the group walked with a spring in their step deeper into the Mohlapitse Valley, towards the waterfalls. Despite walking with much lighter packs, balance was tested all round as the group crossed a total of nine river crossings. There were very few who made it across all nine without getting their feet wet. For most, there were some spectacular wobbles, epic jumps and early “baths” as everyone’s footing was tested. Despite nine there and nine back, every single “fail” made for roars of laughter among the group. The slippery obstacle course to get there was worth it, as everyone enjoyed plunging into the icy pools at the falls.
On Sunday morning, the notorious “Devil’s Hill” awaited the group. This isn’t the hill’s actual name, more a nickname passed on from one grade to the next to instill dread in their younger peers. The 6km uphill takes you from the Wolkberg Reserve entrance gate to the grasslands of Serala. It is brutal and unforgiving, but the group conquered the legend that is. That afternoon, packs were dropped, tents were pitched and the grade made their way to “bumslides” – water covered boulders that make for a great slip-slide into the pool at the bottom!
Monday was summit day – the reason behind the entire expedition! Thankfully the sun was shining and the group enjoyed a long but sunny walk to view Cleopatra Pools and The Horns, before making their way to the summit of Serala. There was a slight haze but the views were still spectacular. A few of the girls gave a show at the top, singing and dancing to See You Again by Wiz Khalifa but substituting the word “friend” for “bed”. It was a great way to honour Serala’s heights on such a high. That night, a storm passed overhead bringing with it some rain, rumbling thunder, lightning and a nervous Headmaster watching it all unfold from his stoep. Thankfully the group were well protected at their camping spot and the storm soon passed, leaving only a plethora of stories to be shared the following morning.
Tuesday was a long walk to Bergplaas but worth it for those who braved a dip in the water and to be able to make a campfire. It’s amazing how a simple fire can bring the group together – an opportunity to share stories about their expedition, sing songs (even if they were Christmas songs – in September!) and generally enjoy one another’s company. On Wednesday morning, the group made the 16km hike back to the school, collapsing into heaps on the grass by the lake and relieved to be “home”. Overall, it was a tough week for the pupils, having covered over 90km, which is probably a record distance for Grade 8 Trek. Each and every pupil should be very proud of themselves for completing this challenging expedition.