by Mrs Beth Coetzee
Be prepared. Expect the unexpected. Think outside the box.
As a staff member going on Trek, these are the things you have to be ready to do! We left Tzaneen bright and early on Friday 26th March to join the staff and pupils who had just completed the walking section of the Trek. Little did we know that we would be thrown into full “Trek mode” way of thinking very early on. We were blissfully bumbling along on our way to Penge when we received a call from Mr Petrus Khumalo, our School Driver, telling us that the Mahindra bakkie, towing the boats that we had hired from Hazyview, had broken down.
Always expect the unexpected!
Petrus wasn’t too familiar with the area and from his description, we understood that he was between Ohrigstad and Graskop. He wasn’t. Eventually, after a detour that lasted about three hours and the world’s quickest tour of the Panorama Route, we saw the Mahindra on the horizon! The trailer was quickly hitched to the bus and all the equipment that had been so carefully loaded into the back of the bakkie was now shoved into every corner of the Quantum. After a detour of over 150km, we were on our way to Penge!
At this point, we had been unsuccessful in making contact with Mr Haarhoff and the rest of the group. We all envisaged him having paced a trench out of the roads of Penge – worrying frantically about where we were.
Finally, we reached Penge and saw relief over the faces of the staff and pupils. For us, it felt like we had done an entire expedition already! Only when we saw the disheveled looking staff and pupils, after four days of hiking, did we realise that actually, we were still fresh! Fresh and ready to tackle the water. We were finally in the rafts by 15:30 and had to paddle, paddle, paddle to reach camp before nightfall.
The next three days went by in a flash and the details of the water section can be read in reports written in previous years. I’d like to focus on what made this Trek so special, for me, as a member of staff.
In the moment, there are so many gripes and moans.
“Ma’am, I’m getting blisters on my hands from paddling.”
“Ma’am, I’m sunburnt.”
“Ma’am, when the boat tipped over in the last rapid, my snacks got wet and now I don’t have anything to eat.”
In the moment, the pupils love to hate Trek. I guess it is human nature to see the negatives before the positives a lot of the time. As a staff member, you shrug off the little gripes, knowing that at some point, they will be struck with the realisation of exactly what it is that we are experiencing and how unbelievably privileged we are to partake in these adventures. It might not happen during the expedition, but it will certainly happen when they get home and reflect.
It is certain moments that you witness, chuckle to yourself and think, “Yeah, sure, you’re really hating every moment of this.”
Watching a pupil stop paddling for a few seconds and lean back in the boat, close their eyes, and soak in the morning sun with a deep sigh of contentment.
Overhearing an exchange of conversation or a joke being shared and seeing a group of pupils burst into hysterical laughter. Knowing that you just witnessed a moment that will be remembered and laughed about for years to come.
Witnessing the student at the front of the boat stare up at the mountains and cliff edges, pointing out a Verreaux’s Eagle soaring above them to their friend at the back.
Seeing the look of achievement and pride fall over a student’s face as they successfully swim themselves out of a rapid. That moment when they look at the water they just conquered and think “I just did that. Me!”
Seeing their utter joy as they bounced over the white waters of “Rollercoaster”.
These are the moments that they will take away with them forever. The blisters, the sunburn and the soggy snacks will soon be but a distant memory. This is why we do what we do.