The Grade 10s of 2020 were terribly disappointed when their Odyssey was scuppered thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
So it was with great excitement that it was rescheduled and they finally set off for a 3-day journey of discovery this past Saturday, 15 May.
As it was a sporting Saturday, only half the group set off in the morning. After hiking for 9km they proceeded to set up a fantastic camp for their sport-playing classmates who would arrive a little bit later on.
It was heartwarming to see some of the Grade 11s tirelessly putting up tent after tent for the latecomers. A true act of service that probably went unnoticed by many, but polished the souls of those involved.
At around 18:00, in the dark, the rest of the grade arrived, singing with excitement. A delicious meal was followed by singing around the campfire – the night was not an early one!
As dawn broke on Sunday, the early birds could be heard getting the morning kettles going, and everyone slowly emerged from their tents into an unfamiliar world for many.
After breakfast, the group was joined by headmaster Mr William Pringle, accompanied by Mrs Cathy Pringle, before heading off for a hike down the Gats River Canyon to the incredible fossilized waterfall. After clambering down to the base, some swimming in the bottomless pool was enjoyed before Mr Pringle delivered a poignant speech in this magnificent place of wonder as black eagles circled overhead. One could not have wished for a more perfect outdoor classroom.
Mr David Langmead then offered a few seasoned hikers a different route over the mountains, while the rest of the group returned upstream. Some took great pride in making it over the more challenging route.
Back at camp, everyone regrouped for chicken roasting and breadmaking. The Grade 11s were put into arbitrary groups of 4, juggling friends. Mr Langmead then taught everyone how to cook a whole roast chicken over the open fire, and Mrs Bronwen Langmead taught everyone to make a loaf of bread out in the wilds. Pure magic followed as new friendships were forged and expert cooks emerged!
After a superb repertoire of songs around the campfire, Mr Langmead spoke to the group on the importance of reflection and time alone to appreciate the space that they had become a part of. He spoke on how much of modern life is consumed by the distractions of the age of technology where we connect less and less with our natural environment and the people around us… not to mention getting to know ourselves.
He then briefed them for the Solitaire exercise, where for a few hours everyone would be in a place of quiet reflection and contemplation.
Sleep came easy that night. At dawn, the adults led the group out into the wilderness where they were positioned in solitude in the magnificent Karoo. They were given letters from their loved ones and were asked to write a letter to themselves which would be sealed and opened at their valedictory.
On return to camp a few hours later, an air of quiet contemplation enveloped the group. A sense of elation was prevalent, but also a nostalgia that the time had come to an end.
Everyone worked together to strike camp and no trace was left behind. A 10km hike took the group to the buses who drove them back to reality after an incredible few days.
• This Odyssey would not have been realised without the generosity of landowners Julian Murray and Dale and Kelly Jackson who so kindly let the learners hike and camp on their property. Grateful thanks must also go to David Langmead who never fails to give of his time and expertise. Kevin and Lisa Watermeyer are indispensable in terms of logistic and moral support. We are also grateful to Joan McNaughton, Kiki and Fanus Nell, Brenda James, Cheryl and Peter Waddelow and William and Cathy Pringle who were incredible backup support.
With sport being locked down 2 days after Odyssey, we are so grateful that this essential event in the development of these young lives in these trying times was able to take place.
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