Our art competition this year took on a different look, and instead of drawing or painting, we decided to centre the theme around poetry. Poetry is of course a form of art, and offers an opportunity to those who are more adept at writing. Our question or theme for the 2016 competition was “Is Nature Calling You?” The winning poets were all taken on an environmental wilderness camp in the Cederberg, sponsored by Bridgestone.
On the morning of the 11 th November 2016, I proceeded to pick up 15 very excited and nervous poets and their friends from three pick up points. We left the city (and a few concerned parents) behind and headed off. After a very long drive (and lots of “are we there yets?”), we were welcomed by the beautiful hills, mountains and valleys of the Cederberg.
We arrived, with great excitement, at the Toktokkie camp site where we were met by Michael, our intern, and later by two more of our prize-winning poets and their friends. Michael wasted no time in instructing everyone how to setup their tents and get settled in. Once everyone’s temporary homes were set up, we started off with the introduction and ran through the guidelines of the camp. All of which revolve around respect. The children still seemed fairly nervous to speak to anyone other than their own friends, so following a quick ice-breaker and a little encouragement not to be “socially awkward” like many poets are, everyone started to relax. We ran through a quick presentation on The Cape Leopard Trust, leopard research and the plants and animals that may be seen.
We started off the following day with a trip to Stadsaal where the group was shown some historic rock art of the San and learnt about the heritage of the San, Khoi-Khoi and even the historic farmers of the area. A moment of silence was held whilst everyone looked out at the vast and beautiful wilderness area where the San would’ve lived off the land. The children were excited to have the opportunity to explore the caves and climb into “Sputnik” the Stadsaal space-rocket. When given the opportunity, many of the children thoroughly enjoyed the chance to climb some rocks. The Stadsaal exploration was followed by a lovely walk along the river near the Welbedacht parking, to the Uilsgat pools. This involved jumping across small streams, learning about the Fynbos and the uses of some of the trees and observing some of the smaller, hairy, multi-legged creatures along the path. Great excitement ensued when we reached the little splash pool where everyone took up the opportunity to have a dip. Whilst splashing around enthusiastically in the pools, we found a little crab and a few tadpoles and these small creatures were admired by the children. After cooling off, the children relaxed and enjoyed a snack whilst taking in the splendor of the Cederberg. We then filled our bottles at the running stream and headed back to the bus.
Later that afternoon, I instructed everyone to put on their imagination caps as we entered Truitjieskraal where many things, including Barney the dinosaur, can be seen in the amazing rock formations. Michael gave another quick lesson on the rock art and pointed out some of the Khoi-Khoi paintings on the sandstone walls alongside that of the San’s. The children were given some time to admire the art work and were then taken through caves and climbing adventures. The young poets were then given an opportunity to stand on the rock-shaped stage and read aloud their winning poem in front of their friends and fellow poets at the Truitjieskraal Amphitheatre. This was one of the many special moments on this camp for me; hearing the passion and emotion behind the poems as they were read out made me realize that they are truly talented poets. The children were then given the chance to reflect on the experiences they’d had on the camp so far whilst doing a solo walk along the path back to the bus.
As it was very close to full moon, we couldn’t see the gorgeous starry sky as usual on our night walk, but we did observe the very bright (almost) super-moon reflecting the sun’s light from space... The scorpions also decided that it was safer for them “indoors” (underground) on the moonlit night, so we unfortunately didn’t get to see any that night.
At the conclusion of the camp, the children were encouraged to remember my favorite motto, “Just Try” and everyone was duly congratulated for everything that they had achieved, and for challenges that they had overcome. It was evident that the previously shy children had made a few new friends and so many wonderful experiences were had by all. As with any great outdoor experience, these participants accomplished things they never imagined they ever could.
The children were instructed to find a nice quiet place where they could reflect alone on the weekend’s adventures. We then packed up the bus and off we went, stopping briefly at a fossil site, where some enthusiastic young archeologists found some ancient fossils of sea creatures and, with very big smiles, had their pictures taken with them. It was with sadness but also with great satisfaction at the amazing experience, that we began the long journey home.
For many of the children, this was not only their first time in the Cederberg, but also their first time camping, their first time exploring caves, their first time swimming in a river; the list is endless. This is what makes our camps so worthwhile and we would like to use this story to thank our sponsor, Bridgestone, for their generous donation which granted the children and some of the adults too, such an amazing experience! I would also like to thank Amanda, Ben, Peter and Sharl (The A Team) for assisting with supervision, cooking and support throughout the camp. We look forward to the Bridgestone-sponsored calendars which will be available in January next year. Thank you Bridgestone!