Our World Challenge Month In Africa: An Unexpected Journey
Written by the students of Sydney Tech High School and Sydney Boy’s High School
Arrival to Gabarone and our first adventure
After 18 months of preparation, it finally happened! The itinerary had predicted that we (9 from SBHS, 6 from Sydney Tech HS and 3 adults) would spend the first day of our expedition waiting in various airports and playing cards. After arrival in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital city, the pace really picked up. We assumed our assigned roles; a jumble of Leader, Transport, Communications, Morale, Accountant, Food, etc. Our test, our first trek, was only two days down the road. So, after arriving at our pre-arranged accommodation, Mokolodi Backpackers, we dumped our bags, set up tents and quickly returned to the city to prepare.
The first day was spent primarily at “Game City Mall”, where tasks included exchanging money and purchasing food. Our first day ‘in country’ really showed us what was required to ensure we actually had food to eat at the end of the day, as everybody scattered around the mall to make their delegated purchases. We pulled through in the end, getting our bearings around the city before eating a dinner of sausages and maize (and local food too!).
With a museum visit and more shopping, the two days in Gaborone passed by quickly. We were all excited as we scrambled onto the bus which would take us to the beginning of our next adventure – the Village Trek. After a good two days of settling in to life in Gaborone, we were eager to begin hiking and experiencing traditional life in local villages. The first day proved to be tough. We were not accustomed to the rocky terrain, blistering sun or thorny plants. After 12km of walking we finally arrived, to our surprise, at a cattle post rather than an actual village. We spent the remainder of the day playing with the local children (who were just as excited to see us as we were to see them!), learning about local cuisine and feasting on a hearty dinner before sleeping in a traditional mud hut. In contrast, the next village was an actual community. As one would imagine, the village had local shops and everyone was particularly friendly to us. Once again, we played with the children, who loved the attention we gave them – including the piggy-backing. After the New Year fireworks display, we all fell asleep in preparation for the last day of trekking. We were again surprised to find that the last village was a campground – complete with a beautiful restaurant. It was a fitting finish to three tiring days of trekking. We relaxed on mats and listened to music before enjoying a filling dinner.
The Village Trek was definitely a great cultural experience and the entire group learnt a lot more about traditional Botswanan village life, as well as how to prepare traditional meals.
The Limpopo River Trek – our ultimate physical challenge
Limpopo River, one of the largest rivers in Africa, was quite a spectacular sight. We travelled by bus from Gaborone for 5 hours to our first campsite at Dovedale, which was quite unique and isolated as people often didn’t stop by there. Our first dinner, beef and vegetable stew, was full of flavour, enhanced by all the hard work we put in to make it. After a good night’s sleep, we were up and ready early in the morning to begin the hardest trek we would do during our four week trip in Africa.
We toiled under the heat, but managed to pull through in the end, after slogging it out through the uneven ground and many thorny plants which provided additional discomfort to our heavy packs. Although things looked tough, we managed to finish the hike two days ahead of schedule, with the last 4km stretch being the most unbearable. It was very hot, and the lack of shade on the trail made the walking tough. It was a real test of endurance, and all of us succeeded. We also attempted to cook some local foods, such as the local ‘papata’ bread. Our guide told us that we were the fastest group to do the hike he has led, which gave our group a huge sense of accomplishment. Luckily there was a small store at the last campsite, where we refreshed ourselves with all the drinks available. It was a good hike and everyone was ecstatic that they had pulled through such tough and demanding times.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the boys’ adventure – An taste of African community life and a safari experience!