1st BULAWAYO (PIONEER) SCOUT GROUP PIONEER TRAIL Magazine (Apr 2004)
Jan - Apr 2004 Quarterly Troop Magazine
The year commenced on a high note in January / February when three members of the Troop, namely Mark, Joseph, and myself, together with four invited friends, headed north by vehicle for Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, on the first external expedition to be undertaken by the Troop since it was resuscitated some five years ago. Besides climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, four making it to the summit and two to Stella Point on the rim of the crater - Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano - the expedition also visited the island of Zanzibar, Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, the world renowned Serengeti National Park, Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi. An article on the expedition is in this edition of Pioneer Trail, whilst the full expedition report is still to be finalized.
My sincere congratulations to you, Mark and Joe, on attaining your Chief Scout Awards, more so as you are among the founding members of the current Troop and had no seniors with their experience to help you. Also, congratulations again to you, Mark, for winning the hiking competition.
The scouting activities of our Scouts account for but a part of the whole individual and so I am very proud to report on their recent non-scouting achievements. In March, their 2003 school "O" level examination results were announced and much to everyone's delight the three who wrote their "O" levels, all passed with flying colours. Accordingly, my hearty congratulations go to Paul Carlsson and Mark Perry who gained the best and second best "O" level results respectively for Petra Secondary School and to Joseph Rose who attended Speciss College for his excellent results. Jonathan de Jong who is in the upper sixth form at Petra and whom is due to write his "A" level examinations this year, was appointed a steward (prefect) as well as Sports Captain for his school. Well done Gumbe, as Jonathan is affectionately known in the Troop and I discovered in his school, for your diligence in your schoolwork and extra curricular activities. To finish off this term's achievements, Joe, who is also a keen yachtsman, won the open class races at this year's sailing school on Lake Chivero, Harare. Sailing is his Enterprise boat against Hobi's, General Purpose 14-foot boats and other Enterprises; Joe won six out of the seven races in the event. A really great achievement Joe, Well done! (Just think - we even have a puddle pirate in the Troop.) It is really fantastic to know that our members are all round achievers.
Towards the end of last year, I was notified by the Cub Scout Leader of the 8th Bulawayo (Hillside) Cub Pack, that four of her Cubs who were due to move up to the Scout Troop, had indicated their desire to transfer to our Troop. In March, as part of their introduction to our Troop, I decided to hold a weekend Scout orientation camp at Gordon Park for them. Dubbed the "Tshongololo Adventure Camp", the four Cubs spent the weekend of 13-14 March in our campsite and participated in a range of activities to give them some idea of what a Scout, as opposed to being a Cub, was like. The camp was to my mind a great success and is reported upon in their words in this edition of Pioneer Trail.
Also a big Thank You to Martin for his campfire yarn and to the more than forty parents and friends for coming on the Parents Camp. As a reminder to you all, it is your Troop and Scouting, with its wide and varied program of activities, will be as exciting, challenging and rewarding as you want it to be so long as you put your effort into it. So, as the saying goes "Just do it" and you can be guaranteed a fantastic range of experiences that you will be able to look upon in the years to come as the most rewarding time of your life.
Now into April, instead of holding the normal monthly hike, the Troop took part in the Matopos Conservation Society's quarterly field day held at Mount Silozwene in the Matopos. The Troop, as a body, are members of this society. As Scout Daniel reports on this outing, all I would like to say is that the society's members, who in the main are of the older generation, appreciated the Troop's participation. My thanks to those Scouts who were able to attend.
Ending off these hectic four months was the holding of our first Troop Training Camp in Gordon Park from 30 April to 2 May. Although of only three days duration - the costs of camping have soared dramatically over the passed few months - our Scouts took part in a good number of activities, passed tests and most importantly, really enjoyed themselves. I would like to thank Mrs. Penny Graham and Di Francis for planning the menus and purchasing the rations on my behalf. We ate exceedingly well.
And now, until the next time, it is back to my hammock beneath my favorite Pseudolachnostylis Maprouneifolia with a floppy hat pulled over my eyes as I dream of our next term's exciting scouting adventures.
KILIMANJARO EXPEDITION 2004
3 January 8 February 2004
Driving through Zambia was a pleasant experience, apart from the police whom we managed to receive a speeding ticket from and pay a few bribes to, all on the first day. Our journey through Zambia took us three days. Luckily for us the roads were quite good and the campsites were all right apart from one night when we had to sleep at a petrol station that was alongside the main road and had bright lights on all night.
Passing through the border post into Tanzania was quite as experience, but to make up for it the countryside was very beautiful. The buildings, however, were shabby as they were poorly maintained. The police roadblocks were not too bad but there were a lot of them all the way to Dar es Salaam (which took us five days of solid driving). At one of our campsites, Baobab Camp, we were Invaded by scorpions which were of a light golden colour and quite vicious. During the evening we killed many and put them in a heap and in the morning we counted our kill - over twenty of them!
In Dar es Salaam we camped at the Headquarters of the Tanzanian Scouts Association and were made very welcome. Being on the coast we found it very humid. Leaving the vehicles at Scout Headquarters we started out for the island of Zanzibar for a two-day sightseeing tour. The trip was fun, but not so for Norm, who got seasick on the ferry.
Arriving in Stone town we were welcomed by the District Scout Commissioner who arranged a tour operator to take us to a guesthouse on the beach about ten kilometres from town. We spent the rest of the day swimming and then went out to a restaurant for dinner, Neville kindly paid for this treat. The meal was pretty good. The next day our tour guide picked us up and took us to a spice farm. On the way there he played us a recording of his that welcomed us on his tour. He had even composed the music and lyrics to his song. The spice tour was amazing. It was a beautiful forested place with all sorts of trees and plants everywhere. We were shown all the spices, how they were collected, dried and what foods they were added to. I recognized a number of them but I had no idea of the type of plant they came from, so it was really great to see them growing. As we walked around a little boy made things out of banana leaves - for me a tie, Mark a top hat, Neville a pair of glasses and Joanne a garland. At the end of our tour we were given various fruits to eat and then it was up a coconut palm yes, a man demonstrated how to climb and as he climbed he sang a song that added to the pleasant atmosphere. It looked so easy, that Mark, Norm and I had a go. It was quite difficult but I managed to get almost half way up before being called to come down as our time had run out.
Leaving the spice farm we went back to Stone town and bought a few things before we had to catch our ferry back to Dar es Salaam. The ferry trip back was much better because it was by a faster craft and the waves weren't so big. Arriving back on the mainland we walked from the harbor back to Scout Headquarters, a distance of three kilometres.
The following day we spent exploring the sea on Coco beach. This was great, apart from the sea urchins. Here I climbed a coconut palm and got myself two coconuts which were the best. Norm didn't come with us to the beach but instead went to Bagamoyo, an old town some 80 kilometres up the coast.
On Wednesday 14 January, we left Dar es Salaam for Mount Kilimajaro. As one of the Tanzanian Scout Commissioners was on his way to Nairobi, Kenya to attend a Scout meeting, we gave him a lift. The six hundred and sixty kilometre journey was pleasant and without incident. On arriving at the Kilmanjaro National Park, our Tanzanian Scout friend arranged for us to stay at the Outward-bound School for two days whilst we organized our Guides and porters for the climb of the mountain. It is obligatory to contract a tour company to climb the mountain. We could see the snow covered mountain top from our accommodation It looked really amazing and even more so, to think that in a few days I would be standing up there.
Two routes were offered to us. One was a five-day route, the Marangu route, "Cocola route" and the second one was the Umbwe that is a four-day route. We decided on the four-day route as it cut our expenses quite considerably.
As the start of our climb was some 70 kilometres from where we were staying, it was not until after 1300 hours that we eventually started on our four-day climb. It was raining when we started off in the thick equatorial forest, so it was a bit of a miserable climb. However, our spirits were high, so it didn't really matter. The forest was really great but the paths were so slippery that most of the time you had to watch where you were walking and so you couldn't look around much. Norm and I went ahead and soon left the others behind. When we got to the first night's camp it was getting late so Norm and I had a rest in a shabby tent the porters had put up. We thought it was our tent until Norm got up and found that they had put our tent in another area, so we hurriedly moved. It was a much nicer tent. The others straggled in much later while Norm and I were drinking hot coffee, Mark was in high spirits but the others were not. Peggy was very ill and exhausted. The coffee did wonders and everyone felt a lot better for it. Later we had a really superb supper that was goulash and it tasted wonderful. There was even some left over. Then it was time for bed. Day two started in fashion with coffee and a fruity breakfast. Once again Norm and I were soon ahead of our party, even the porters and guide. The climb was notably steeper and the scenery was amazing. As the forest thinned out and changed to heather and then moorland, the walk to Barranco Camp, our destination for the second night, was tiring because the low oxygen level of the air, combined with the steepness of the trail, reminded us of our rapid accent. It did not rain the second day but beautiful cumulus clouds had built up by mid afternoon. Norm and I reached the second camp, Barranco, about three hours ahead of the rest. As we were waiting for the others, lying down on our raincoats trying to catch a nap, we heard the rumbling of an avalanche somewhere high up on the mountain, towering over us. Unfortunately the mountain was mostly covered in cloud, so we couldn't see the snow coming down. Although just before sunset we all saw a really fantastic avalanche that lasted for four minutes. Tonnes of snow must have fallen. The camp was 3950 metres up and the summit seemed very close when we could see it through gaps in the cloud cover, but we still had another 2000 metres of altitude to go. When the others arrived we had coffee and popcorn followed a little later by supper which was very good.
Our climb on the third day got off to a challenging start for we had to climb the great Barranco wall which looked pretty much like a cliff face but it wasn't too bad once we were on it. By this stage Peggy was not at all well, so she decided to join another trail and head back down to Mweka gate where we would join her the following evening. The Barranco ridge, and from here on, was barren of vegetation being classed as alpine desert. We did have a good view of the snow-capped top. Once again Norm and I got to Barafu camp, the last campsite, long before anyone else. We went to sleep in the sun with our raincoats pulled over us to protect ourselves from the icy wind and ironically, the burning sun.
Tonight was going to be the final assault to the top, starting at 23.00 hours. We had a small supper and then went to bed but I don't think any body really slept, I certainly did not. After having a last cup of coffee we set off in our layers of warm clothing. In no time our little group of seven plus one guide and two assistant guides, had split into two groups. Our guide then suggested that we split into two groups with Norm, Chris and myself and Wilson our guide going in the faster group while Neville, Mark and Joanne and their two guides making up the second slower group. The walk/climb was hell and it was thoroughly exhausting. We had to stop frequently as our breathing was heavy. I thought I would never make it as I was feeling nauseous and had no energy what so ever. I cannot describe the feeling. It seemed as if the end was just not coming. In the end Chris and I were just collapsing at every stop. At last we got to Stella point, which is on the rim of the crater. The last kilometre or so was a nightmare. When we stopped just before the summit I think I went to sleep and when we moved on I was frozen. We finally submitted a little early, as the sun hadn't risen, so we had to wait some time for it to break over the horizon. It was an amazing sunrise and one I will never forget. I had made it along with Chris and Norm. I really felt great and besides being literally on "Top of the World", I was emotionally as well.
Our goal achieved, Norm and I, together with our guide Wilson, headed for Mweka gate, the end of our climb. We had about 25 kilometres to go and we had already climbed to the top and had no sleep that night. The walk down, although easy as it was a different route to what we had come up, took forever. We went from Artic conditions through alpine desert, alpine moorland and equatorial forest in one day dropping some 2800 metres in the process. It started raining when we got into the forest near the bottom, now I see why they call them "rain" forests.
Nearing the end of the walk I left Norm, and Wilson our guide, behind in my desperation to reach the end. I met Peggy at Mweka base camp where she excitedly showed me some white Columbus monkeys. They were quite amazing. I was so glad to have reached the bottom. When Norm arrived we radioed to the National Park's camps to find out the progress of the others. There was a lot of confusion as to where everyone was. In the end we found out that Neville and Chris had stayed a Barafu Camp, as they were too exhausted to move and that they would only come down the next day. Mark and Joanne were at Millennium camp about 10 kilometres from us but they too would only reach the end the next day as Mark was sick and had already been carried by a porter to the camp.
Our mountain tour operator then took Norm, Peggy and myself back to the Park's Headquarters at Marangu Gate where we had left our vehicles and had spent our first few days on arriving at Kilimanjaro. The next day while Norm and Peggy returned to Mweka Gate in one of our vehicles to fetch the others, I stayed in camp to do my laundry and catch up on lost sleep. It was late in the evening when everyone was back together again and we celebrated with a fine supper and toasted our achievement using our specially engraved expedition glasses that Norm suddenly produced from the depths of his traveling trunk, Hip, Hip, Hooray!!
We spent Wednesday 21 January packing and generally sorting out our kit for the next segment of our expedition. As usual we had a late start and saying good-bye to our mountain yes it was, now that we had stood on the top we left for the city of Arusha. Here Neville emailed the world of our climb, obtained some money and then off we set for Ngorongoro Crater. On leaving Arusha the two vehicles got separated and it wasn't until one and half hours later and 80 kilometres down the road that we regrouped. That night we stayed at a campsite by Lake Manyara in the rift valley. It was really great. The following day we did not go very far as we found a campsite just outside the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area. The decision to stay here was a cost factor as it only cost US$5 per person as opposed to US$40 per person plus entry fees in the Ngorongoro campsite.
Friday 23 January was spent driving around in the Ngorongoro Crater. It was amazingly beautiful and we saw a lot of animals. Back to our campsite for the night.
The next day we had to go back through the Ngorongoro Conservation area - but not the crater - to reach the Serengeti National Park. On our way we saw many Masai Villages and people. We also made a detour to visit the Olduvai Gorge where the skull of the earliest humans, along with other artifacts had been found. Crossing the North Western plains of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area where it adjoined the Serengeti National Park proved exciting for it is very flat, and huge herds of Zebra and Wildebeest were congregating in readiness for the great migration to the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. That night we stayed in a special campsite, Hugo camp, overlooking a large pan on which there were flamingoes.
Leaving the Ngorongoro behind we went down the road to Gababe Gate in the Serengeti National Park, on the way passing within ten metres of three lionesses lying in the short grass. Again we saw many animals in the Park. We spent two nights in the Serengeti before leaving for the town of Mwanza on Lake Victoria. An overnight stop at Kesekete, just outside Mwanza, with a meal to end the day at the Mwanza Sailing Club. Heading due south taking the back roads to Mbeya near the Malawi/Tanzania border. The back roads were mere tracks passing through isolated settlements and virgin forests that are magnificent.
We got stuck several times in the swampy areas and were feasted upon by tsetse flies. This was a magic experience, which will remain one of the many highlights of the trip, and we were truly in darkest Africa.
Nearing Mbeya, the road passed over a mountain range. At the highest point, a signpost indicated that we were at 2455 metres above sea level and that this was the highest point on any national road within Tanzania. Another record height, this time in a vehicle, to be added to our list in our diary. We spent our last night in Tanzania in the Great Rift Valley Hotel, the same hotel we spent our first night.
From Mbeya we decided to go back home through Malawi. This was great because I got to go sailing at Sandy Beach campsite whist the others went scuba diving. We also visited Livingstone, a mission station and small settlement, 1600 metres up on an escarpment over looking Lake Malawi. There were 21 hairpin bends on the narrow dirt road that zigzagged its way up the face of the escarpment. Malawi is a really beautiful country and I will definitely go back there, as our five-day stay was far too short.
Leaving Malawi through the Chipota border post, where we had to pay a bribe of US$100 as we had overstayed our transit visa by one day and the official wanted to have us declared prohibited immigrants. We journeyed through Zambia, staying overnight at a campsite on the Luangwa river. Our party re-entered Zimbabwe Home - at Kariba. We stayed the last night there before saying good-bye to Neville, Peggy and Chris in Harare then the four of us headed for Bulawayo.
I'm very glad to be back at home with my family and friends. It was a great experience, one never to be forgotten. Thanks very much to Norman. Without him it would never have happened.
THE CASCADE HIKE 5 6 March 2004
We all arrived at Joe's house where we were meeting at six o'clock for the start of our journey to Cascades. However, we were a bit doubtful as it was threatening to rain. We settled down into the business of waiting and fooled around in Joe's home for a while. Mrs. Rose kindly made us some supper while we were waiting for Norm. It started to rain hard just as Norm arrived and it was really belting down. While Norm was having supper we discussed what we should do. It was decided that we would leave for Gordon Park and stay the night there, and then we would drive down to near Cascades in the morning. When we arrived at Gordon Park it was raining really hard so we rushed under cover with our stuff, and then proceeded with caution to the crew hut, where we set up for the night. Joe, Paul and I then decided to run down to the showers for a needed clean up before falling into bed. When morning came we had some breakfast before packing the Landy and moving out. We got to the site where we were to commence the hike. There was some very interesting game viewing on the road. We were traveling through communal lands - we saw some chickens that looked a lot like vultures along the road.
We got our daypacks sorted out and then started off along the track to the Cascades. Norm soon surged ahead leaving us to our own devices, so we followed along at a more leisurely pace. Later, along the way we stopped to check out the wild mushrooms that had sprung up all over the place in the bush, after the rain.
We eventually got to the Cascades; to see Norm all settled down and comfortable. We did likewise - put our packs down relaxed and went to look at the river. It was my first time of being there and so I was eager to start swimming but the others were not so sure as it was still overcast and chilly. Eventually I persuaded them, and we set off down to the bottom of the falls. It was amazing, because it had been raining so much; the river was really in full flow and the current in the river strong. We got down to the bottom of the falls after a bit of fooling round (I won) and we swam in the pool there. There was a neat bum slide leading down into the pool with a lot of water in it so we had great fun there, wearing out our shorts and under rods.
A while later we decided to go back up for lunch, so Norm went up the way he had come down, while the rest of us decided to try a second trail up the other side of the falls. We all got to the top of the falls eventually and settled in to a welcome lunch. Once again thanks to Mrs. Rose as it was a brilliant meal, enjoyed by a very hungry lot of scouts. We then decided to hike back to the car and come back into town early as we packed up and started off for home. Paul, Joe and I set a hard pace and left Norm and Mark in our dust in a very short space of time and ended up running most of the way back to the Landy, so unfortunately I don't know much about Norm and Mark's trip. Norm and Mark eventually arrived a good 30 minutes after us. Then we set off on our way home. As we had left early and had lots of time we had many stops. Our first stop was to climb a hill with a beacon on top. Joe stayed in the car while the rest of us did our thing. With a little effort all four of us managed to climb on to the beacon at one time, it was cramped but we managed.
Once more we started out for town, only for Mark to tell us 15 minutes back down the road he had lot his hat, so we turned round and went back to find the hat. It was found - right back at the turn off.
Our second stop of the day was when Norm unexpectedly turned off on to a path by the road and then drove on like he knew what he was doing, which he did. We ended up at a beautiful little dam where we stayed for 15 minutes before heading off once again on the homeward journey. Eventually we did get to Joe's home where we were dropped off. It was the end of a wonderful day and to yet another beautiful day and eventful days hike. Thanks Norm for every thing!
13 14 March 2004
We, Christopher, Daniel, Dylan and Chayce met at the 8th Bulawayo (Hillside) Scout hall and waited for Norm to arrive to take us out to Gordon Park for a Cub camp he had arranged for us. On leaving the Scout Hall we went to the shops at Hillside to buy our food for the weekend. Some of the items we bought at the Retreat Shopping center and then off to Gordon Park in his Land Rover, Inguluwane.
On our arrival at the Park, Norm opened the stores where the 1st Bulawayo keep their camping equipment and we loaded the tents, the box of pots and pans and a few other items into the trailer and headed for the camping area.
We put up the National and 1st Bulawayo's flags, Dylan said an opening prayer and then we changed into our camp clothes. Whilst Norm went to see the other Scout Troop in camp and to open a water valve to our campsite, Chris lit the fire and put a kettle of water on and Daniel, Dylan and Chayce pitched the two igloo type tents we were to sleep in. By the time Norm had returned and put up his bivi, the water was boiling, so we had tea, after which we all went to collect firewood which was to have lasted the weekend but didn't. Lunch was hot dogs and cold drink. Having had a great lunch, during which we laughed and talked so much that Norm thought he was in a nut house, we went off on an expedition to the White Rhino Cave paintings, over the top of Everest and down the other side to Mini-Maleme Dam.
At the White Rhino cave, Norm told us all about the paintings. They were really great especially the ones of the White rhino, wildebeest and a very large man. Then it was up to the top of Everest, Whew! What a climb. Dylan was the first to see the dam and so off we raced down the kopje leaving Norm behind. At the dam we splashed around in the shallow area where the rock goes far out into the water. Norm's dog, Emma, joined in the splashing. We didn't swim very much, although the water was clear and warm, but instead spent our time skimming stones across the water; Chayce holds the record of about ten bounces before the stone sank. We also scooped up with our hands tadpoles, platties, a water scorpion and a small fish and put them in a plastic bag with some water. We later set them all free back into the dam. After about an hour of splashing round we woke Norm from his rest and headed off down the river and path to eventually arrive at the 8th's campsite. Then off back to the 1st's campsite further along the road. We then went for a shower whilst Norm went to fetch some paraffin lamps from the 1st's stores at headquarters, which we had forgotten when we arrived in the morning.
We all joined in making supper of roasted mealies, mince, potatoes, carrots and green beans. During super two Scouts came from the other camp and invited us to their campfire, so we hurriedly ate our meal and went to join the campfire. We were asked to put on a skit so we had to think of one in a hurry. Back in our camp we had Milo before going to bed. We didn't sleep very much as we kept talking and laughing for a long time. Emma guarded us and barked at something during the night, which quite possibly could have been a leopard.
We must have woken up at about five o'clock, collected some firewood in the semi dark and had a fire going by six o'clock when Norm joined us at the fire and said that our first activity of the day was to climb Mount Shumba Shaba. We all raced for Norm's landy, Emma included, and off we went to Shumba. It was great climbing so early in the morning, even more so because a light drizzle started before we got to the top. As it was misty we didn't see very much and nobody splashed in the pools because it was too cold.
It was eight o'clock when we got back to camp. We made oatmeal and mealie meal porridge, had toast and tea and then headed back to Park Headquarters to do our voluntary service by sweeping the leaves out of the open air chapel. The monthly church service was at twelve noon, so just before it, we changed into our Cub Scout uniforms. After the church service, which was attended by lots of other people who had come from town (Bulawayo), we had a braai lunch at Headquarters.
After the braai, Norm took us all abseiling off Gordon Park Rock. As none of us had abseiled before, he showed us the equipment and volunteered Chris to go first because he is the most daring of us all. We all went twice. It was a new but really scary at first but we had plenty of people watching us from the bottom who encouraged us in this new experience and clapped when we each finally reached the bottom. None of us knew that 20 metres could be so long, but hey it was really great and we want to do it again. Please, please Norm!
Two Girl Guides who had come out for the Church service also abseiled. It was their first time also. I bet they felt more scared than we did.
All too soon it was time to take down the tents and pack all the equipment back into the stores. We went home with Chayce's mother at five o'clock. Norm was to have taken us home but a group of Girl Guides, who were walking the four kilometres from the Guide camp, had not arrived, so Norm was asked to help look for them.
Daniel Francis, Christopher McKenzie, Dylan Sandwith and Chayce Zangle
27 28 March 2004
We headed out on a Sunny day around about 12 noon, to Gordon Park, Matopos, and went straight to the 1st Pioneer Camp, where we were greeted by the early arrivals, I was just about to park my car in the turning circle when two young lads came across to me to say, " don't park there Norman will get cross," to I promptly moved. Greeting everyone, being all the parents from the group of boys that came to Norman from the 8th Bulawayo Hillside Cub group, we basically just watched Norman and the boys set up camp. After a small lunch of hot dogs, we went to the cottage to put our belongings there, being "brats" I and clan were not going to sleep in tents. We have gotten far too used to our home creature comforts, and are not in possession of a tent. All the young at heart or brave went with Norman for a bit of abseiling. All the youngsters went and only two very brave dads, I was tempted but it was getting late, so I decided not to go (its my excuse and I'm sticking to it). All the boys seemed to really enjoy it.
Back at the 1st Pioneer Camp site, the Scouts needed to set up the fires for the braai and also the campfire. Norman did ask me to supervise the making of the pancake mix, (flapjacks) I just hope they were edible, with 6 eggs a whole lot of flour, milk and don't forget the sugar I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I was told afterwards it was for the snack after the campfire. Well nobody was sick the next day. It got dark very quickly, and we were soon cooking our meat on the braai's, had a good chin wag, ate, and then the boys were all hustled away to get changed into their Scout uniforms. The lights were all put out and we had to make our way in darkness to the area were the campfire was set up, where we sat in a circle around it. One of the older Scouts introduced himself as Mark and asked us to all rub our hands together so that the heat from our hands would light the campfire.
After the fourth attempt the fire suddenly burst into flame, let me tell you I think my hands we on fire by the 4th time. We then sang a few songs - well Norman & the boys did. I do say they have lovely voice - I think the parents were a bit shy!
After a few songs Norman invested Joe as Patrol Leader and Jonathan as Assistant Patrol Leader of the newly formed Cheetah Patrol. Then Joe took over as campfire leader. We were then entertained with a yarn on how sound was recorded by Mr Martin Sanderson. It was very interesting and to see such old equipment still in good working order was brilliant.
The time had come for our boys to be invested into the 1st Pioneer Scout Group, a very proud moment for all parents, as each young man was called up individually, and asked if he would like to be a Scout, then he had to repeat the Scout Promise, after his Patrol Leader. Norman presented him with his Troop scarf and Norman then asked the mother or father of each son to come and present them with their Troop and Provincial badges. Norman likes his parents to take an active part in all activities. After all were invested, Joe thanked us for taking the time to come, and asked all to stay for coffee & pancakes. As I had younger children with me we declined and headed back to the cottage - it had also started to drizzle.
We woke up to some lovely rain, and wondered how the other campers were enjoying the weather. Let me tell you we were grateful we were inside. At the cottage we waited around for a while to see if the rain would let up. We gave up after a while and drove down to the 1st Pioneer Camp site, to see a lot of "drowned rats". Everything was soaked through, and everyone was packing up, Oh yes, again I parked in the wrong place this time - not in the circle - and Norman came to me and asked me not to park in his place especially when he has the trailer, so people please, PLEASE be aware - don't park were Norman parks, ask if you are unsure!!!! (Sorry Norman, I had to pick on you.)
The rest of the plans of the Parents camp were cancelled due to the rain.
3 4 April 2004
We were all dropped off at Christ the King Church at about 1900 hours to meet Norman, who was going to take us out to Gordon Park, Matopos. There were only six of us, Kieran, Connor, Dylan, Christopher, Chayce and myself Daniel, 7 including Norman. Soon after passing Gordon Park gates we spotted a herd of some sort of animals. I am unsure what they were because it was very dark. We arrived at the lodge, and Norman said us boys could sleep in there, so we rushed in to set up for the nights sleep, we did not to seem to sleep very much that night as we were all too excited.
It was very early in the morning when Christopher and Dylan woke us up to help them with the fire for breakfast, Not too long afterwards Norman, Connor & Kieran got into the Land Rover to go up Shumba Shaba, the rest of us decided to stay to make breakfast and eat. When Norman, Connor, and Kieran got back from Shumba Shaba, they had their breakfast; and then everybody decided to go up Piglets cave except for Norman and I. We all got into the Land Rover and set off for Silozwene area. Norman parked the Landy, and we jumped out, we then went on a small adventure walk around the area, climbing a large hill (it felt like a mountain) and saw very fascinating pictures from the past (Cave Paintings). We then joined other people to hear a very interesting talk on Butterflies and Moths given by Mr Mike Gardner. Then we had lunch. It started to rain so we headed back to Gordon Park. Kieran was sitting on the bonnet of the Landy and slipped off, thankfully he was not hurt. Back at Gordon Park Norman allowed us to use his pellet gun. We all had 3 practice shots then 3 more. All too soon it was time to go home again.
24 27 April 2004
At about 6.15 Paul came frantically racing into my room to see what the time was, waking me from my slumber, only to find we were already 15 minutes late. I climbed out of bed and got dressed while Paul started doing a few of the things that we had listed the night before. We had gone to bed at around 11.30 after getting as much prepared as possible for our great expedition. Paul had spent the night at my house, since we were going out in the morning instead of on Friday night after scouts, and we had left a few things like collecting worms and packing everything into large dustbin bags (a vital precaution as they could easy get wet), which needed either something from the house or daylight to be done. Soon I joined Paul in the last preparations in the house (my dad was surprised to see us up so early), but the time flew by. At around 7.15 Dad and Paul set off to fetch the kayak and lifejackets from Joes house (which I didn't have time to do the night before) while I carried on sorting stuff out, but they had to go again as soon as they got back because the oars had been forgotten. Unfortunately there was a small hole in the kayak which Paul had spotted so I looked for the two-component glue (in vain), but our initiative saved us and we simply patched it up with sticky-stuff and covered the makeshift patch with parcel tape (Our 'temporary' patch lasted throughout the trip).
It was already 5 to 8 when we finally sat down to breakfast (we were supposed to be picked up at 8.00) but luckily Norm had the foresight and had anticipated this delay, so he only arrived at about 8.15 and joined us for a cup of coffee, and we discussed the trip. Norm put forward the idea of getting porters to help us carry the boats down by the Mashashasha falls. The original plan was this but seeing as we were now going in two boats it would be a bit much to carry them all the way down. That would have been a lot more of an adventure and it would've saved Norm many kilometres of traveling, but my dad didn't like the idea because we had no experience with the canoe and kayak so if anything went wrong we would've been stranded. Paul and I frantically ran about tying up the loose ends, then loaded them into the back of the Landy before Norm helped us tie the kayak securely to the trailer. We set off at approximately 9.00, went to pay the caretaker at Mabukuwene, then made our way out to the Matopos road. The journey out to G.P. went quickly and smoothly (no roadblocks) and the guy at the National Parks gate was still hampering Norm for drums, while our excitement and anticipation rose high. On arrival at G.P. we collected the canoe (a lot longer and heavier than the kayak, we noted) and tied it to the trailer in much the same way as we had done the kayak, which still could not be budged, in preparation for the notorious Fort Usher road. We threw in a few extras (e.g. another lifejacket) and after the guides made their presence known to us, we had to be off at 10.00. On the way out Norm gave the guy at the gate his long-sought-after drum before taking a right turn onto the terrible Fort Usher road. After what seemed an age of being thrown about and worriedly watching the boats on the trailer bounce up and down, we finally reached the Old Gwanda road, like a breathe of fresh air, but still not exactly desirable. The long and dusty road was made interesting by a lesson from Norm about the beautiful granite hills in the area, one of them opposite the Matopos mission school being the highest point in Matabeleland. Shortly after passing the turnoff to Shumba Shaba lodge and Morning Glory farm, we took a diversion onto a longer, less used and therefore better road, but even it was being attacked by erosion. This little track took us through almost familiar ground, as we had hiked in the area before, and there were many interesting river crossings (which were just old cement sections crossing the river, now underwater as the rivers were in full flow) which gave me even more of a longing to be on the water again, in a kayak after almost four painful years of waiting. Soon we came to the great Isotcha ridge, a massive, vertical wall of granite rising firmly and majestically in front of us, forcing the road to make a sharp turn to the right, which we followed for many kilometres before reaching a point where the road dared cross the great barrier (in fact it was exactly the same saddle through which we had walked many moons ago on a long, wet hike). There was a sudden and obvious deterioration in road quality when we reached the Old Gwanda road again, and presently we experienced a change in rock type, indicated by a change in vegetation as we entered the territory of some majestic mountain acacias. We were zooming along a nice, smooth bit of open road, unsuspecting of any disturbance, when Norm warned us that we would get the fright of our lives, and he was right, for all of a sudden we were heading for a river crossing with a washed away bridge down a steep, poorly cemented approach. This could be lethal to any uninformed driver as there is absolutely no warning of this oversize gully with a river in the bottom springing up from nowhere. Luckily it was only a few kilometres of the corrugated Old Gwanda Road [Map] (Zoom 1 smaller) that we had to put up with before turning off onto the road leading to the dam wall
(which seemed like a tarred highway after what we'd come along). When we had the towering dam wall in sight we turned off to the right along a road leading to the spillway. If we thought we'd seen the worst of roads we were terribly mistaken, as the track to the spillway was a nightmare for any driver, even one in a land rover! Nevertheless, Norm with all his bundu-bashing experience and good ole Nguluvane handled the steep ascents and sharp, rocky turns perfectly well, but he put his foot down (not on the accelerator) when the road crossed the washed out boulder strewn river a couple of hundred metres from the spillway (not that it was a challenge at all, but because he was in a rush). We unpacked all our katunda and both vessels, asked if we could borrow a bivouac (bivi) and some rope, and I said 'thank you' and goodbye to Norm (though we still feel in debt to him for taking us 110km out of town and forfeiting some work that needed doing at G.P) and asking him to give my dad clear instructions on how to get to the spillway, and with that Norm was off (at 12.30) after reversing over some small boulders.
It was slightly overcast and the fresh breeze and utter freedom instilled in us a sense of adventure and eagerness to tackle our first challenge getting our boats and bags past the spillway which proved rather difficult. Reluctantly leaving our luggage and boats, we went to see the spillway and found that even walking over the rocks was difficult enough, let alone drive or carry canoes over them. Paul spotted swarms of bass in a little pool at the bottom of the spillway, a two-metre high inclined wall with water gushing over it, and we didn't have to the think twice about pushing the canoe and kayak, fully loaded over it. So we returned to our luggage and, packing some of it into the canoe, we reluctantly lifted the heavy load and set off across the river. It was an extremely difficult and tricky exercise, as the back didn't know what the front was doing when we had to cross-strong, gushing sections of the rocky river. Depositing the canoe on the other side, in sight of the rest of out baggage, we collected the kayak (featherweight compared to the canoe) and our heavy tog bags. Thinking that the worst was over and that it was plain sailing now, we set off up the road with the canoe. Soon it was made very clear to us that the hard work was certainly not over, as the heavy canoe seemed to drag us backwards, while the lighter kayak attacked us with fiberglass splinters. At last, after the long and extremely tiring journey of shifting one load at a time, we saw the glorious sight of the water's edge and pushed on for the last section. When we finally dropped our heavy loads at the water's edge, our arms and backs were aching and we were shaking and hungry from the strenuous exercise. So we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch of delicious pizza cooked by my mum. After lunch, we rigged up our fishing rods and tried out our future mode of transport. The kayak was pretty unstable (we both almost capsized it before we were even rowing), and it felt a bit scratchy because it had no seat and the fiberglass didn't have a smooth finish. The two-man canoe seemed as stable as solid earth compared to the single man kayak, but it was tricky to handle. Before we set off Paul fished a bit (he actually hooked a fish, but it soon realized that the bait was fake) and packed the boats, with our two large tog bags in the canoe and all the little extras in the kayak, as the bags wouldn't fit in it. I had chosen to use the kayak as I didn't mind the balancing act, and Paul preferred a proper, stable seat even with the hard work. When we finally set off (we'd decided to camp the night on the other side) we were excited to be on the water at last, with a great adventure ahead of us.
Although Paul's paddling was a lot harder and therefore slower than mine, we were moving forward equally because even with the proper kayak double-oar I was zigzagging all over the place, finding it extremely difficult to row in a straight line, as the kayak lacked a guiding rudder (the kayaks which I had enjoyed so much four years ago had rudders at the back which were controlled by foot pedals). When we reached the middle of the dam about 20 minutes later, we came alongside each other and joined our two vessels, each holding the other boat to absorb the absolute beauty of the awesome mTshabezi dam. On either side of us steep rocky mountains towered majestically, strewn with great gray granite boulders in a green sea of foliage. The beautiful landscape dominated by trees, boulders and water was lit up in a few places by beams of sunlight penetrating the slowly disappearing layers of cloud. Refreshed and inspired by such splendor, we pushed on to find a campsite, as the sun was sinking quite low and was now close to the horizon. As soon as we got to the other side, we started scanning the bank for a flat spot, but flat spots were like hen's teeth because the valley was so steep-sided. Soon Paul started fishing so I went ashore to scout about a bit (it wasn't as easy as it seemed because I had to maneuver the kayak through lots of dead trees to get there). I found the land riddled with footpaths and, following one, found a beautiful campsite with the ashes from an old fire in it. Having a look around at the lovely flat ground under tall mountain acacias, I noticed that one tree had a section that seemed flaming orange in the last sunlight but, at a closer look, I discovered that it was covered in massive, orange hairy caterpillars. Returning to the water, I decided that that site was too far from the shoreline, and hidden behind a rock so we wouldn't see the boats. When I reached the bank, Paul was bringing in a fish that he had just hooked, but as he was about to grab it, it spat out his hook. By the water's edge I noticed a flat, grassy area but there were not enough trees around and it was inaccessible to even a kayak, so I followed the flat region upstream a bit, following along a path on which I saw fresh footprints. The path curved away from the water a little, and seeing as it was getting late, I was getting desperate so I prayed for a suitable site, and presently found myself in a large, open, flat grassy area. My hopes rose as I followed the grass down to the water and saw a clear passage through the dead trees in the water ending to the open dam. So I hurried back to my kayak and led Paul to the chosen spot where we carried the boats up about 25m to where we would sleep. After setting up a bivi we maneuvered the boats around to where we wanted them and started warming up some precooked stew (by my mum) which we ate with rolls (a nice supper). Washing it down with a cup of rooibos tea, we listened to a roaring waterfall. We washed our mess tins down by the water where crabs soon appeared for the scraps of food. After clearing our campsite a bit and shoving our bags under cover of the canoe and kayak, we laid our weary bodies down to rest. Unfortunately we had chosen our sleeping spot badly, so it was quite lumpy, but despite the fact that Paul was bothered by mozzies he slept well, while I woke up many times in the night because I was too uncomfortable.
When I woke, Paul was already up and about, and the sun was almost shining over the mountains. Paul told of all the mist and fog he had seen rising from the water and rolling in over the hills, so we went down to the water and found we couldn't even see the dam wall because it was shrouded in thick mist. Paul started cooking pap (mealie meal porridge) while I took down the bivi and rolled up my sleeping bag, and we soon had a hot filling breakfast. After washing our mess tins and packing up camp, Paul was ready and eager to go so he fished a bit while I paid my morning visit to the toilet. Paul returned just when I was ready to go, so he helped me carry the kayak to the water and we set off for the eastern side together.
The waterfall looked massive at least 30 meters high and made a great roaring sound, but when we reached it there was no spectacular torrent plunging into the water, only a quite stream skipping over the rocks to join the giant mass of water we were floating on. Passing two boulders that formed an island, we carried on up the dam, fishing every now and then and finding it extremely difficult to find a place to beach (because there were no beaches) for a break. Eventually we found a beautiful spot in the shade of some towering mountain acacias forming a full-bodied canopy high above our heads where we stopped off and had some cold boerewors, which we had pre-cooked at home. When I went to fetch something from the kayak I found that in was sitting deeper at the front than at the back, so I tried to repack it but decided against it because it would've taken too long. Watching a plane fly overhead, we realized how lucky we were to be the only people from technological society to be here in the raw nature whose splendor is too much for words and where peace is abundant and unending.
After a relaxing break we rowed on a bit and fished a little but when we realized that the fish weren't biting we decided to try the next clump of dead trees in the distance (the dam wall was also pretty distant now). On the way we heard another waterfall in a lovely little bay and decided to go and investigate. As we glided in, Paul spotted a rather peculiar looking white log which, on closed inspection proved to be a massive barbell caught in a vast, abandoned net. Despite the putrefying stench Paul tried to pull the net up while I looked for more fish caught in it, only to find another dead barbell.
Finding we couldn't remove the net (we were tempted to cut it to prevent more fish dying in it) we moved on and found the bay to be really spectacular, with clear water and fish swimming fearlessly under our vessels. While Paul fished a bit I did some tricky maneuvering to nose my kayak in between huge rocks to find the waterfall and was rather disappointed to find only a little stream making a noisy entrance. So I decided to join Paul for a swim-come-bath but in hesitating to jump in, I discovered a little black dot on my skin, scratched it and when it came off realized that it was a pepper tick. We both promptly climbed back onto the rock which we had landed on for a tick-removing frenzy, and when we were happy that we could find no more and worried that some might find their way back onto us we hoped in our boats and paddled on. Shortly we decided that we had come far enough for the morning, so we pulled in for a lunch stop under yet another mountain acacia (though they were becoming less common and there were also some kirkia around) on a bit of a sandbank, which wasn't too difficult to find as the valley was by then opening up a bit. Lunch was scrumptious egg rolls, some with chips on them for an interesting variation, but apparently the ants also appreciated our food; they made their presence well known to us. When we were almost finished eating our rolls two little local boys came and fished very near us, seeming very interested in us probably because it was an extremely rare event that foreigners visit their homeland, especially in a canoe and kayak. So as soon as we'd finished our lunch we moved on.
Deciding there were too many people on the eastern side, we crossed the dam again to do some more fishing but after a few casts I got tired of it so I beached the kayak to change my rigging while Paul fished a little bay. Before moving on, Paul kindly shared his lunch bar with me, and naturally he was finished before me. We were soon to be found fishing again, moving slowly up the dam. Rounding a corner, I found that Paul was snagged so we tried to unhook the line by maneuvering both boats so as to pull it out, but broke the line.
I offered to swim down and look for it, as I didn't mind the idea of a challenging dive, but Paul said the tree it was hooked on was too deep. So we paddled on, Paul being extremely annoyed about losing his best rapala, until we reached some more dead trees where Paul fished a bit. I moved on, heading for a flat, grassy patch of land (surrounded by dead trees protruding from the water), which was actually a little promontory. Paul soon joined me in nosing our vessels amongst the trees and up to the grass (the ground was so flat that the water was only ankle-deep). Before exploring the area for a suitable sleeping spot we made some coffee and had it with rusks (delicious), and while we waited for the water to boil we spotted a fisherman.
Two others soon accompanied him because he had called as they came down the mountain. We found it quite amusing watching them fish, for that entailed splashing about in the shallows to chase shoals of baby fish into a wire net. After reinforcing our decision that the eastern side was too populated, we moved on (we had to go in a large semi circle to get around the trees). Paddling on for about half a kilometre, I looked for another good camping site while Paul fished, working on the theory that large areas of dead trees indicate a flat promontory as the dam was starting to meander. Heading for the next dense patch of trees, I found another flat, grassy bit not as flat and large as the first but it had to do which I decided would be tonight's resting place. While Paul carried on fishing, every cast giving him a thrill as he waited in anticipation of a bite, I took the kayak upstream a bit because I was convinced that the top of the dam was near, as it was so narrow. When I returned (after not long) Paul was retrieving his rubber worm from a clump of reeds, when he hooked a fish. It gave him a good fight but he finally landed it and was overjoyed, holding his prize above his head to show me. Now that he had succeeded in catching a fish, we landed our boats and set about making camp. Our flat bit of turf had obviously been used before, as there were ashes in a fireplace and a few scales lying about. The vegetation was no longer dominated by mountain acacias (maybe because it wasn't mountainous any more), but there were quite a few Terminalia trees, real acacias (mountain acacias aren't really acacias), lantana camera and other shrubs. After dragging our vessels up onto the grass, we set about looking for firewood, which wasn't too easy as it was getting dark (despite the fact that we had started looking for a campsite much earlier than yesterday to avoid this), but we soon had a fair pile. While Paul got a fire going I set up my experimental bivi. I wanted to see if I could set up a bivi with only one tree and an old tree stump that was in the water, and only one out of four corner shrubs. The centerline went from the wet stump to the tree, and two of the corners were tied down to a log and a shrub, while the other two were tied around the ends of the canoe. The idea of using the canoe instead of pegs (or shrubs) worked well but all in all it was a very low-lying bivi. Paul did a good job of making a fire, and we were soon boiling our rice while Paul's clean and gutted fish roasted merrily away. We ate our rice (massive portion of it) with ham and peas, and after that 'starter' Paul moved on to the fish, which tasted absolutely scrumptious with salt and lemon. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling too well (I was sure we weren't heating the water long enough; it never really boiled) and was struggling to finish my rice; otherwise I would have had more of the glorious fish. Paul claimed it was the best fish he had ever tasted, and from the little I had I also realized that it tasted absolutely divine. By the time we were finished and ready for bed, it had already been dark for quite a while, and because I took a lot longer than Paul to eat, he was almost asleep when I finally retired to bed. Because we had a soft, flat spot Paul slept like a log, but I woke up often in the night.
Paul was up bright (except for his toothache) and early (before the sun) to see the spectacular mist rising off the water. I got up just before the sun peaked over the mountains, just in time to see the mist before it all disappeared. We stayed in our sleeping tracksuits until the sun warmed us because it was too cold, overcast, and windy making the thought of rowing all the way back a miserable one. This time it was my turn to cook the breakfast (oats) while Paul broke camp and started packing up. We hurried through breakfast because we had a long way to row today (our aim was the dam wall, just in case anything went wrong tomorrow, at least we'd be at our pick-up point). While Paul went out to fish I went to the toilet and packed up my stuff, but soon Paul was back because it was too darn windy to fish! After consciously packing my kayak heavier at the front (I was back-heavy yesterday) we set off upstream in search of the top of the dam, fishing a bit along the way. When we realized that the fish weren't biting so we decided to pull in. I found Paul emerging from the bush after his morning visit to the toilet. I nosed in to Paul's rocky spot and we put some water on the boil for coffee and rusks (extremely nice). Over our short break we decided that even though the dam was very narrow (only 5-10 meters wide) it was like a mountain one thinks each peak is the top but there's always one behind it and one only finds the top when one gets there. So, after packing up our rods and having a glucose tablet, we set off for the wall. After passing our campsite, the dam widened and I agreed to swap oars for a little while! As we approached open water, the wind was picking up and we saw big waves coming through the dead trees. As soon as we rounded the last corner, the waves met us in full force and the wind blew us back. After about 150-200 metres battling we pulled in for a serious talk about our situation and progress. After a packet of chips each, I managed to convince Paul that the waves weren't too bad and we could continue, but when we set out, the waves had increased to almost mammoth size (50cm is huge when you're in a vulnerable little kayak) and the howling wind was almost unbearable. Our goal was a thin line in the distance but we slogged on to our chosen point on the other side. We were being thrown about, the noses of our boats going under every time as we rode the waves, and the spray in combination with the occasional wave which came into our boats soaked us. But we soon found that as long as we nosed directly into the waves and didn't let them hit us side-on, they were no problem. After a short rest with cows grazing around us, and two glucose tablets each, we set off again and pushed until the awkward canoe oar tired me out, so we stopped for lunch on some rocks. We attempted to dry our clothes out but when they were almost dry, Paul's shorts were blown in. After picking off pepper ticks in the sun and letting them blow away in the gale and drown in the rolling waves, we had pilchards and breadcrumbs for lunch. Just before leaving I spotted another one of the orange hairy caterpillars so, calling Paul, we took a closer look. He soon spotted a whole group of them completely covering a large area on a nearby tree trunk with bright orange, spiky fur with black tips adding a touch of punk. After collecting some orange hairs from the ground (it must have come from caterpillars which had already metamorphosed), we pushed on to the wall which we could see quite clearly now. By now the waves had died down to a light swell, which was actually really enjoyable, made even better by the beautiful scenery. We soon concluded that this was one of the most beautifully set dams in the world. Nestled in amongst majestic, towering hills of granite boulders peppered by a wide variety of vegetation, in places carpeted with the green canopy of lush mountain acacias and in others lined with the tall, white trunks of some ghastly, mysterious trees.
Instead of resting on the banks, we just rowed up next to each other and joined up for a mid-water rest and chat, playing around pulling each other backwards generally messing about and having lots of fun (Paul still had the kayak oars). We passed the tall waterfall opposite our first campsite, and then entered some more unknown territory as we rowed towards the dam wall instead of to the spillway. Passing the last bay before the wall, in which we were convinced that we would find a waterfall, but found none, we finally reached our goal. Finding a place to beach our vessels was no easy job as the banks were sheer drops with only rocks onto which we could climb, but we were soon on the wall gazing upon the magnificent mTshabezi dam stretching into the distance, almost as still as glass with barely a breath of wind. It was with a certain sense of achievement and pride that we stared into the blue distance from where we had come that day, our last night's campsite hidden behind the blue-gray hills on the horizon. We fantasized about what it would be like to camp on the wall which was flat as a billiard table, protected somewhat from the wind, and it even had perfect bits of metal sticking out onto which we could tie our bivis (we ignored the fact that it was hard as rock and that it would be a mission to get the canoes there). After giving up the idea of jumping into the water 3-4 meters below us, we scrambled down to the water again and rowed around to the depth meters, which read about 100.1%. Leaving Paul to a bit of fishing, I walked up a little path I spotted which followed the pipeline up, in hope of finding the car park at the bottom of the wall. After making a few quick decisions, I had the car park in site, a clear patch through the trees below me. On my way back I formulated a plan of how to get our canoe, kayak and our entire luggage without leaving either bit alone for too long, down to the car park. As the sun was about to dip below the hills, we hastened back to the spillway where we intended to sleep, but it was further than we expected, so we arrived there tired. Even though it was a lovely flat bit of ground (a rare thing when you're surrounded by rocky cliffs) with grass, it was difficult to find a suitable bivi spot. Paul found a possible site, with trees onto which to tie the bivi, but the ground was so rocky and we were so tired that we decided to take a chance and sleep under the stars tonight (we didn't mind that there were none it was overcast), seeing as it hadn't rained the last two nights we had gone to the trouble of setting up a shelter. After convincing Paul that we wouldn't eat a whole 500g packet of spaghetti, we put some on the boil. While it was heating up, I proposed my plan of carrying our stuff over by the wall instead of the long way round the spill way, because it might be easier (even if it wasn't, we had until 3o'clock), and it would save my Dad the hassle of the terrible road to the spillway. Luckily he agreed. We threw in the tuna, peas and cheese, then had a delicious well-deserved supper after which I was full, but Paul carried on with more spaghetti despite his toothache. After much discussion about Paul's allergy to disprin, he took one anyway because it was the only painkiller I had and Paul couldn't sleep with such pain. We laid down my groundsheet and set out our sleeping bags, then covered all with the bivi to ward off any dew. I stuffed my kit under the kayak and hit the sack, later than I would've liked to after all the rowing we'd done that day.
I was woken by the sound of rain, at first a light drizzle which soon got heavier then stopped, but the sky was so clouded over we couldn't see the moon. Paul woke just after me, his toothache still persisting (he took another Disprin for it),
and my stomach still wasn't feeling spot on. After some discussion we trudged off with torches to find a better bivi site but we couldn't do any better than Paul's old one so we returned. Our improvised rain cover was soaked and our sleeping bags were wet, so we decided to put up the bivi anyway. We tied up a center rope then tried to tie the cover on, but soon gave up. We lay under my rain cape hoping it wouldn't rain again but it soon did, so we huddled up underneath it. Our clothes and sleeping bags were wet and cold, and Paul's torch batteries ran flat so we shuffled batteries around (after introducing two 'new' ones) and started on the bivi again. Soon both torches were dead so we were left to set up our shelter in the cold, wet dark.
Paul slept well (after a 3rd Disprin) but I didn't because we were so cramped the wet cover was sagging down onto me.
By morning I was dead tired and it was still raining a bit so I didn't bother getting up, but as soon as Paul woke up he snapped up (as usual) and started cooking pap. I reluctantly emerged from my warm, almost dry sleeping bag and had some breakfast with Paul, made tea and then relaxed, put things out to dry and washed my dishes while Paul fished in the little pool on the other side of the spillway which was teaming with bass (he caught one). I tried bream fishing with Paul when he came back but we had no luck. I went to the toilet while Paul took down the bivi, then we packed up and Paul set off while I packed the kayak. A little boy helped me carry the kayak to the water and push me off (without being asked really nice of him) so we gave him a little bonsella. We rowed round to the depth meters, which was long and tiring. When we got there I spotted an extremely efficient little fish trap swarming with baby bream, so Paul took one for bass bait. We had a packet of chips each before checking out the path properly before hiding all our bags in a cave so that we could leave them undetected while we carried the canoe and kayak down to the bottom (difficult, but not as bad as on the first day). That done we took it in turns to guard the stuff while the other went up to get some bags. Soon the job was done and Paul did some fishing while I sat writing my diary in the rain. Paul climbed down the stepladder on the dam wall (tricky because one hand was holding his fishing rod), took a look at the plaque at the bottom and returned for lunch (spaghetti with pilchards followed up by a packet of chips). Paul was feeling cold and restless so, feeling it must be just after 1 o'clock, I sent him for a jog to see how far the turn off to the spillway was, but he returned a while later looking dismayed because it was a long way and there were fresh tracks going towards the spillway. I went to investigate, see if I could recognize the tracks (they looked horribly familiar) and to my distress I found out from an old man that a blue pickup had gone that way earlier today. So I jogged back to Paul who volunteered to jog to my dad seeing as he was the faster out of us, but he didn't realize that he was setting off on a long (at least 3km), hard run. My dad and Paul, in the blue truck found me sitting writing up my diary, and we got cracking on tying the boats to the truck and packing in all the stuff (though soaked on the outside, still dry on the inside) while my Dad happily snapped away with his camera. We had tea and birthday cake (it was my Mums birthday) then changed into dry clothes which Dad had thoughtfully brought before setting off on the brilliant road for home. We watched the sunset on the way and experienced a large amount of traffic on the Jo'burg road. We were both exceedingly happy to be home after our wonderful, adventurous expedition.
I'm extremely glad I got down and planned and carried out this expedition because it was such great fun and we learnt a lot from it, eg it'll make us appreciate everyday luxuries which we just take for granted such as running water, electricity, a permanent shelter, etc. There were hard times both physically and emotionally, for example carrying the canoes fully loaded around the spillway, rowing against the wind for almost a day, etc, and we also had some bitter arguments but it was all in all character building for both of us. It also taught us invaluable lessons about camping which we'll never forget like, most importantly, if there's any hint of moisture always put up some form of shelter, not only cater but agree on amounts together because it's hard to judge how little or how much the other guy eats; we often had too much or too little. Another valuable lesson we learnt is not to change plans, because even though we tried to make it easier for my Dad we actually made it harder because we sent him a message back with Norm to meet us at the spillway, where he went at about 1 o'clock. It would've also been a great help to have a watch so that we could at least have an accurate idea of what the time is. We also found it difficult to judge distances because we're used to hiking where one has land behind one, but with water it's not the same. We should've also tried out the boats before hand because then we would've been confident enough to go from cascades (or Mashashasha falls), which would've been more of an adventure, but that was tricky because the canoe was at G.P. Another lesson we learnt the hard way is to watch out for pepper ticks, and if one finds any, make sure one gets rid of them all because now, almost two weeks down the line I still look like I'm recovering from chicken pox and I'm still as itchy as ever. It was also interesting to note our differences in interests; I was treating this as a nice, relaxing break from the normal world, so I wasn't bothered to get going quickly in the mornings but Paul was always pushing to get out early (and rightly so) to go places and fish. Quite the opposite, in the late afternoons I was concerned about finding a suitable place to camp but Paul was interested in the evening fishing (again he was justified because that earned us a delicious addition to Sunday supper).
30 April 2 May 2004
At Seven Thirty in the morning on Friday the 30th April, Norm picked up Tim Chadwick. After that he picked up Kieran and I at seven thirty eight. We picked up Mark Perry on our way to the Shell Garage, Retreat. At eight fifteen we arrived at Shell Garage, Retreat. There we picked up Chris Mackenzie, Dylan Sandwith, Chayce Zangel, Daniel Francis & Edwin Swannack. About one third of the way to Gordon Park we saw impala and about half way there we saw wildebeest. When we finally got to G.P. we opened up, set up camp and unpacked. Chris got the fire started with the help of Dylan, the rest collected firewood while Mark and I sorted out the food, Chayce and Tim set up the food tent. Mark started his homework while the rest of us learnt some whippings in the sleeping bivi in order for Mark to get some peace and quiet. Once we did that, some of us were tested on our whippings while others cooked lunch. For lunch we had egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Then we played about until dinner time. For dinner we had spaghetti - it was quite a feat. Later we laid out our sleeping bags and went to sleep.
The Second day of camp
The second day I woke up from my freezing cold sleep to the comforting sight of the cooking fire. I waddled over to the fire in PJ.'s to a seat that was already taken. For breakfast we made oats and porridge; but the consistency of the porridge was like slop. That day we did some work on hand axes. We were told how to use a hand axe and all the features of the axe. We then got back to camp for tea and a little rest. From there we drove down to Head quarters where we worked with maps. Norman also showed us a real hand chain saw; Dylan and Connor demonstrated how to use it on a dead branch. After that we went back to camp for lunch, we had delicious meatballs watch out for the bite! After lunch we then went out to climb Shumba Shaba to learn to orientate a map with out using a compass, instead we used the surrounding features. We also played in the pools up on the mountain. We then went down the steep but shorter route to the Landy. For supper we had lovely bacon-burgers that had grit or sand in them because someone had dropped sand into the pan. After supper we played a fun stalking game in the dark, were one of us would sit on a rock with a torch and listen for movement, and would try to zap the other players with the torch. The other player's ambition was to get to touch the lantern with out getting zapped. That night I was freezing cold except for the early morning when I found my spare blanket and put it over my cold head.
The Third day of camp
4:00 in the morning and Christopher decides to make the fire; every one goes except Tim, Dylan and I, as we decide to sleep in for a bit. 5:00 am and we three get up to discover that we had moved during the night because we were sleeping on a hill. I cooked the bacon for breakfast but before doing so, I had to wash it as Kieran had dropped it on the ground. YUK! 20 slices of bacon had to be cooked. Kieran took over and cooked the eggs in the pan filled with bubbling bacon fat 20 eggs and 10 pieces of toast just to feed 10 mouths. After breakfast we dug a hole in order to cook the lunch using a backwoods method that Norman said we had to do. We lit a fire in the hole then waited for the fire to burn down to coals. Tim and I seasoned the chicken and wrapped it in tin foil. We put it into the hole and covered the chicken with red-hot coals and then covered the coals with soil. It was left to cook for 2½ hours. In the meantime we were tested on the use of the hand axe. For the Link badge we were tested on knots; what to do in an emergency; first aid kits and the stuff in them; how to use a cell phone and whipping. Norman tested us. We all passed but one person was not tested. Before we get our Link Badge we must show Norman our Fist Aid Kits. We had lunch at 2 o'clock. After lunch we packed our kit. Norman told Tim, Connor, Kieran, Chris and I to empty out the dustbin. We each took turns in carrying it. We had gone all around Gordon Park looking for the incinerator pit that was nowhere to be found. Norman had told us the way to it, but we got lost! When we got back it was time for a nice cold shower! Tim, Connor, Chris and I love to shower because we always run back to camp stark naked and dry off on the way! The others are whimps! We changed into our uniform, closed camp and then went down to Head Quarters where we ate our pudding. On the way home we played the "Sweet and Sour" game. We wave at some one and if they wave back they are sweet and if they don't wave back they are sour. All of us were dropped off at Daniel's house and were picked up by our parents and taken home. It was the best camp I have had in my short scouting career.
TROOP PROGRAMME OF ACTIVITIES FOR MAY TO AUGUST 2004
APRIL30 Troop Training Camp Gordon Park
MAY1 2 Troop Training Camp Gordon Park
4 School Opens
7 8 Monthly Hike
9 Gordon Park Service: 12:00 noon
14 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
15 Adult Skills Course at Gordon Park (Troop participation)
21 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
25 Africa Day
28 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
JUNE4 - 5 Monthly Hike
11 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
13 Gordon Park Service: 12:00
18 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
19 20 Collin Turner Pioneering Competition
25 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene (Sausage Sizzle)
JULY2 -3 Monthly Hike
9 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
10 11 Parent's Camp
11 Gordon Park Service: 12:00 noon
16 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
23 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
30 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
31 William Arnold Carnegie Assegai Competition
AUGUST1 William Arnold Carnegie Assegai Competition
5 School Closes
8 Gordon Park Service: 12:00 noon
13 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
20 Troop Meeting: Mabukuwene
27 Troop Meeting Mabukuwene
Additional activities may be included during the term.
THE WORLD IS ROUND
His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry from a near by bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.
The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.
"I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life."
"No. I can't accept a payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel.
"Is this your son?" the nobleman asked.
"Yes." The farmer replied proudly.
"I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of." And that he did. Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.
Years afterward, the same nobleman who's son was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time?
The nobleman's name? - Lord Randolph Churchill.
His son's name? - Sir Winston Churchill.
Someone once said:
What goes around comes around.
Work like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody's watching.
Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's Heaven on Earth.