This year’s annual 𝗚𝗥𝗔𝗗𝗘 𝟭𝟬 𝗢𝗗𝗬𝗦𝗦𝗘𝗬 was impacted by weather warnings from the outset as the event was brought forward by a day due to impending inclement weather.
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘦 10𝘴 𝘵𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘴, 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘰𝘳𝘨𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘻𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘧𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘩𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘥𝘢𝘺, 𝘥𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘕𝘪𝘦𝘶-𝘉𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘥𝘢 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴.
The first day’s 20km hike was challenging. The Gats River was flowing well and many suffered with blisters due to walking in wet shoes after crossing the river. 𝗧𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿’𝘀 𝗚𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗲 𝟭𝟬𝘀 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗽𝗵𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗮𝗹. They worked together as a team from the get-go and encouraged one another when the going got tough. It was heartening to see stronger hikers assisting their friends with packs when their feet were literally covered in painful blisters. That evening they set up camp at Riverdene farm on a beautiful beach and as they sang and ate around the fire, life was good!
The hike to Schoonberg pools the next day was much shorter, which gave ample time to set up camp and enjoy the pristine pools. The route was changed slightly this year, so the group stayed at the pools for two nights, which gave everyone more time to get to know one another. 𝙈𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙨 𝙘𝙖𝙢𝙚 𝙞𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙬𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙘𝙡𝙤𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙣, 𝙨𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙧𝙜𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙯𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙦𝙪𝙞𝙘𝙠𝙡𝙮 𝙥𝙪𝙩 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙮 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙤 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙚. The following day began with an exercise in Solitude where everyone was woken before dawn and placed in isolation in the landscape. Here they read special letters and wrote to their future selves. That evening everyone was taught to cook a chicken on the open fire and to bake a loaf of camp bread by Mr and Mrs Langmead. A few drops of rain warned of what was to come, and everyone was given a safety talk regarding what to do if the river came down.
At midnight, the rain began! For those who have not been in the canyon, it is difficult to comprehend what an impact the weather can make and the dangers that it brings. One support vehicle was packed up at 2am to ensure that it got across the river with the possibility of flooding. The decision was made to evacuate early the following morning.
𝘼𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙛𝙪𝙣 𝙗𝙚𝙜𝙖𝙣. This day required much grit, determination, endurance from the Grade 10s and support team. Wet tents were packed up and the journey back to Riverdene under inclement conditions began. Everyone was drenched. The tracks took on the consistency of peanut butter which stuck to the bottom of boots and rendered the roads a slippery mess. The backup vehicles used winches to get across the rivers which were now soaking sand and mud, another vehicle slid off the road and nearly rolled into the river. While some adults stayed to attempt to get the vehicle unstuck, others had to continue with the grade 10s as we feared the rivers coming down and being stuck on the wrong side. There is no reception in the canyon, so as we arrived at the farmhouse, messages were dispatched for rescue. Taking shelter in a garage, the freezing, wet group cheerfully got their stoves going and began to eat two minute noodles to keep warm from the inside! Spirits were never dampened!
In the meanwhile, unbeknown to the group, the buses had had an epic time trying to get to them! The district roads had also become treacherous. Eventually, as they spotted them driving down the mountain, they also saw the backup vehicles arriving from the canyon, which four adults had miraculously managed to retrieve by practically digging a new road!
The sense of relief was, however, short lived. Everyone piled into the buses and off they drove, only to be rendered helpless as they slid off the clay road 8kms from the tar. It was at this point that everyone had to really dig deep.
𝘛𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘥, 𝘥𝘪𝘳𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘥, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘯- 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯- 𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘎𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘦 10𝘴 𝘱𝘶𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘨𝘮𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮. 𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘯 𝘖𝘥𝘺𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥!
While the Grade 10s expressed extreme disappointment at not being able to complete the last day of Odyssey at the waterfall, they can take with them the fact that this was the most challenging Odyssey to date and that their perseverance, determination and grit, got them out the other side stronger and more united than ever.
𝗢𝗱𝘆𝘀𝘀𝗲𝘆 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝗼 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆. Grateful thanks go to landowners Dale and Kelly Jackson, Peter Plumstead and Julian Murray. This year’s support team was incredible through trying conditions and the school is grateful to Sean Jacobs, Jason Marais, Dolan Cochrane, Ross Hulleman, Jacques Ferreira, Jennifer Rubidge, Zakkiya Mahomed, Tess Neill and Dave Neill. Thank you to the bus drivers and secretaries who do so much to keep Odyssey going. We are grateful to Kevin and Lisa Watermeyer for their trailer and assistance. And lastly, eternal gratitude goes to Mr David Langmead for his indomitable hard-work, vision and love for the school, that makes this incredible journey what it is.
Odyssey photos are available to download at the following link: https://theunionschools.pixieset.com/odyssey2023/