Month: July 2012

Pangaea moors in Saldanha

Pangaea moors in Saldanha, as the Young Explorers and Mike head off on their overland cycling trip through the Cederbergs. In just a few days, the team will be reunited once again with the boat and will start their trip to Cape Town.

Geberit School Project South Africa – DAY 10

The wind is blowing in our faces, the car is bumping, around us bushes and wide planes. The open vehicle we’re sitting in finds its way on tiny little paths through the Shamwari Game Reserve where we will spend the next three days with twenty seven graders of the Fontein School.They are the best students of their grade and will get the possibility to experience wild life and nature in a completely new dimension to learn about it and develop the wish to preserve it.

Our first activity was a game drive and just after ten minutes our guide Graham found a herd of elephants including little cubs. We were amazed by the beauty of this species and how friendly they look like.
Our group was split up into three smaller groups in different vehicles. The guides would show us around individually which gave us the chance to profit from the discovery of the others. When we found the herd of elephants Graham told the others where they were so that they could see these majestic animals.

We even got to see one of the Big 5: the rhino! We were extremely close to a mother and her child which should actually have been scary but we felt completely safe because these massive animals were just calmly eating without taking notice of us. Moreover we were very lucky to see a hippo which is normally were difficult to spot.

The kids enjoyed this first game drive as much as we did and are very much looking forward to the next days which will be fully packed with activities about wild life conservation.

Now we totally understand the advantages of going to a game reserve with a real guide because he knows exactly where to look for a specific animal and can drive off road very close to them.

The excitement didn’t decrease after the first day but grew even bigger as we now know what unique activities will await us in the upcoming days!

YEP 12 Africa Expedition – Day 11

Our day started nice and peaceful, comfortable sailing without anybody getting seasick. We had some amazing food on board, Kate and Oliver made pizza for us which we all enjoyed very much. Today was relaxing day – we were packing our stuff and looking forward to the biking trip.

The next 4 days we will spend biking and exploring the unique nature of Cedeberg mountains. We were told that it will be an exhausting trip through the sand which will push us to our limits.

Both happy and a bit scared we arrived at our camping spot for the night. After a great dinner by the lake we got our equipment for the next days. Now it’s time for us to get some sleep for exhausting days ahead of us.

Geberit School Project South Africa – DAY 9

We finally reached the day everyone has been waiting for: our sports day! The children were positively quivering with excitement as they all kitted up in their shorts and coloured shirts. We had great fun playing soccer, netball, hockey and cricket with kids from all ages! Festive music and lots of laughter could be heard all over.

On the other hand, we got creative and continued our work on the murals. The kids were more than eager to assist with painting, carrying buckets and drawing outlines! After long hours in the warm African sun, we finished three murals and plenty of games on the tarmac. Success! The children continue to impress us every day! If they are not singing and painting, they are beating us in soccer! Saskia had a hard time defending the Young Explorers team, but we ended an eventful day in good spirits.

In the evening we were treated to a traditional Cape Malay curry prepared by two teachers, Taryn and Sheila. We sang and joked as we cooked, discovering more about each other with every minute. It is great to see how these South Africans open their arms and hearts to us!

Geberit School Project South Africa – Day 7

Every day is full of different activities from which we are learning a lot about the culture. Today we continued building the food garden and painting the walls white as preparation for the murals which we will do with the pupils. However, our main part today was poster making and Art. The Young Explorers were divided up into groups of two and went into one class for drawing posters about different topics. The children made posters about South Africa, Hygiene and Sanitation, Pollution and Water. By drawing the posters we realized how creative and passionate the kids are about art and thus we got a lot of amazing and informative posters.

The most passionate and motivated pupils got selected to help design the murals. During our time in the classrooms we sadly realized that the relation between the pupils and the teachers is different from what we are used to. Many pupils don't have any kind of respect for their teachers so the teachers sometimes had to be very strict. Surprisingly, us Young Explorers got along very well with the children and we had a lot of fun and got wonderful results. So we can say that the Art day was a great success!

YEP 12 Africa Expedition – Day 8

Blog written by Robert and Anika

We woke up early next to the Orange River this morning, excited to spend a day on the river that separates Namibia and South Africa. After tightly strapping our gear to two person rafts and getting a brief orientation, we padled off with the current.

The day was broken up by exciting runs thrugh rapids, exotics monkey and bird sightings, and testing the purity of the water in the Orange River. After arriving at our camp, we hiked up to a nearby ridge for  a beautiful view of the river, surrounding rocky mountains, and a family of baboons climbing a nearby mountain.

We can't wait to run more rapids and explore more of this beautiful landscape tomorrow.

Geberit School Project South Africa – DAY 8

This morning was very special as today we would embark on our first day excursion.
We met at  the school to drive to the Maitland Dunes with the eight and nine graders of Fontein Combined School. The kids were shy and quiet, smiling at us but no talking that much. 
But as soon as we arrived and they saw the beach and the sea they started running towards the water, sand everywhere, some falling and getting up again straight away to run further down.

Some of the kids have never been to a beach before and especially for them it was an incredible experience. But even for us Young Explorers it was something special.
When we saw them laughing, running around and playing in the water our hearts smiled. It's so satisfying to watch kids being content and happy.

A smile is the same in every language. :)

 Before our group of 50 people took a walk along the beach the kids were introduced to the environment and nature around them by three guides who had prepared workshops. The kids were digging for snails and mussels in the sand and learned about their names and habits. 

After the workshops the kids started playing again, went into their water fully dressed and got wet all over. But they didn't care about it, probably didn't even recognize it. 
These kids are full of energy when they get the chance to become active and do what they like.

This morning has shown us that it doesn't need much to make a child happy. Just take them out into nature which is the biggest playground you can find in this world. 
Nature is powerful – it can bring a smile on every face!

The day started bright and early for us, we still need to do lots at the school and the time is running out. As today was Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday the whole school gathered and sang for the former president. It was also a sad day for the team as Quinton and Kevin departed to go back home. We enjoyed their stay very much and hope that they learned a lot about the different languages and cultures in our diverse country.

After the assembly Livio and Stefan cleaned the steps up to the food garden, making it easier for the workers to get up to the garden and then with the help of some students we moved the cement blocks to the bottom of the steps for use later in the garden, after we have received some topsoil. Lani and Becci had loads of fun with some of the school kids as they started to paint the murals on to the walls and gave the other walls a second coat of white paint. Robin, meanwhile started painting the games on to the cement floors, the kids excitedly starting to play the games even before the paint was dry.

With the help of some of the workers Stefan and Livio moved the 15 dustbins weighing 250kg each to their specific resting places. There will be some sore backs all over Port Elizabeth tonight. Hopefully the kids will take pride in their school and use these bins to keep the playground clean.

On the way back to the backpacker the Young Explorers decided to take a drive through the schools neighborhood. It was interesting to see how all the people were outside talking in little groups and the kids playing with balls in the roads. With some sunlight left in the day, we spontaneously decided to take a swim before dark. The water temperature was actually not too bad for this time of the year in South Africa. With the sun setting and the water quite murky some of us decided not to tempt fate and removed ourselves from the water.

YEP 12 Africa Expedition – Day 10

The first challenge of the day was a portage. The river dropped down into a gorge, so we jumped out, hauled the boats to the cliff edge and prepared to abseil them down. Ant, our guide, lowered the boats and then we formed a chain to pass them into the water. I think he was quite impressed at how we worked together to complete the process so quickly and efficiently. The whole trip has been full of valuable lessons on working together, communicating effectively, trusting each other, reading the situation and planning ahead!

The next challenge the river threw at us required us to use the skills we’d been honing so far, and remember those lessons. Big Bunny; the swiftest, deadliest rapid of the river. We all climbed the cliff beside the river to assess what lay before us. The water ran wildly, rocks and waves forming dangerous obstacles which we had to plan a route through, so that once we were in the water and could no longer see what was coming and had little time to react, we could come through without ending up in the water! Ant showed us the route and then it was our turn. The waves and current challenged our well laid plans, but other than a few 360s, we came through beautifully and no one capsized, although everyone was very wet and Ant had expected that we were going to swim!

The rest of the paddling was quite easy and we finished much sooner than expected, so some people swam a bit and then the Young Explorers climbed up a rocky mountain to get a photo of us on top. It was a decent scramble to get up, and by the colour and shape of the rocks we could see how high the river rose when flooded – it was so high it was hard to comprehend. It also brought home how low the river is now: due to irrigation pressure the river runs at only half its natural level.

At the end we met two local shepherds and Nadja and Seb gave their Wenger Swiss Army Knives to them which made them very happy. And now it’s back to PANGAEA for our next adventure and hopefully calmer waters!

Geberit School Project SA – Day 4&5

Blog written by Lani, Saskia, Rebecca and Leni

Friday morning greeted us with torrential downpour and chilly winds! We went to the school to meet up with a journalist and to play with the kids. We had a lot of fun chasing each other in the rain! It is amazing to see how people from different cultures can bond through games and sports. After a while we left to buy some supplies that we could use for our work in the coming weeks.

For the weekend we drove to Addo Elephant National Park, where we were overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. We only drove 20 meters into the park and suddenly an elephant emerged from the bushes, how exciting! We were so lucky to come within three meters of a large elephant bull! It was exhilarating to see his massive body moving so quietly next to us – a really special moment for all the European Young Explorers as they have never seen an elephant in its natural surrounds! Even though it was so cold, we saw many other animals: red hartebeest, Kudu, Vervet Monkeys, Eland, many warthogs, foxes, a buffolo and (to Saskia´s delight) we saw several herds of zebra. All of the Young Explorers were in awe of the amazing showcase of nature!

In the morning the rain was pouring down and we would never have guessed that the sun would come out! Before we had to leave the sky cleared up and we had a spectacular view with the sun breaking through the clouds, the blue of the sky ranging from bright blue to almost black, the ocean in the far distance. The grass seeds were illuminated and contrasted strongly with the dark clouds looming overhead. It truly was a magical experience!

The highlight of Sunday was definitely a big herd of elephants counting at least eleven adults and six calves. They walked in a row holding their tales just a few hundred meters in front of our cars and disappeared into the bushes just after Simon had taken some nice photos of them.

Although we didn’t see the king of the jungle, the lion, this excursion was such an extraordinary experience and much more than we had expected. We saw two of the Big 5! Moreover, it really helped us to bond as a team and gives us new energy to continue with our work at the school.

Mike is in a constant state of travel and adventure , so keep up to date on all his expeditions !