On the morning of Friday 4th March, 46 excited Grade 9 pupils boarded the bus to start their first expedition of the year. A chorus of songs made the journey pass by in a flash and the reality of the day’s climb that laid ahead of the pupils hit them like a lightning bolt as they stared at the winding gravel road in front of them. Day one was tough! The 7km hike with an elevation gain of 700m was gruelling with heavy packs and legs that seemed to have forgotten what they were supposed to be doing. Thankfully the day was broken up with a nice plunge into a deep pothole during lunch and the view from the campsite, “Christmas Plateau” was worth the climb. The campsite so called as this is where Louis Trichardt spent the Christmas of 1883.
The following morning started with a 400m climb from the campsite to the top of the mountain and the highest point of the expedition, “Magokolo”. The steepness of the ascent was something new to most – quite a daunting experience and there were definite sighs of relief once it was over. At the top, the pupils took a visit to the Louis Trichardt Memorial Plate and some diggings that legend has it could have been a site of Paul Kruger’s buried millions.
From there, the group dipped over the other side of the ledge and made their way to Louisfontein, their campsite for the night. Louisfontein is a natural spring that provides a strip of lush and bright green grass down the mountain slope, a stark contrast to the other vegetation around it. The wind howled that afternoon and the staff entertained themselves with a running commentary of the “runaway” tents – watching brightly coloured canvas balls of air picking up high speed and rolling away from the campsite.
The next morning was a long and hot hike down to a village called Mankele, where the pupils were thankful to take a dip in the Olifants River to cool off before spending their last night under canvas. The next morning was a sweltering walk into the village of Penge, where the pupils were grateful to be able to buy an ice-cold Coke and kick their hiking boots off one final time. Sweaty socks were traded for a barefoot breeze and the next part of their adventure commenced – the river!