First Children’s Camp a Success

Published: 06 September 2009
by Elizabeth reports
The first official Cape Leopard Trust Children’s Camp took place from 28th – 30th August. It was most appropriate that this camp was for the grade 4-6 children of the Dwarsrivier and Eselbank (Cederberg) primary schools, who have been participating on our education programme throughout the year. Because the schools are so small, we held the camp for both classes, so there were fourteen children in all and a mother from each school. They used Dwarsrivier’s Kliphuis campsite, which will be used until the campsite at Matjiesrivier is ready. The camp was sponsored by the Three Cities Group. This was the first time that our new equipment - the tents and mattresses - were used and there was much excitement all round. 
The first challenge for the fourteen children, none of whom have been camping before, was to set up all the tents. Having paid careful attention to Quinton’s demonstration, they set about working together to erect their own tents. First the cross... But how do we hook it on at the top? Oops, pull it down, start over, this time, top first... We’ve done it!  

This was followed closely by an even greater challenge – the Treasure Hunt. The children needed the knowledge they had acquired in their weekly outings as well as quick thinking, to work out the clues that led to the treasure. There were moments of confusion, listlessness, realization, motivation and delight.
In the afternoon we tried to find the leopard ‘Spot’. We had a strong signal but she was high up at the top of a mountain, so we didn’t try to reach her. Instead we went to a place where Spot spent some time. We found the hollow in the reeds where she had been lying, confirmed by a few leopard hairs left behind.

The next morning everyone was up and ready for the serious hike up to the Wolfberg Cracks. Even though half of the children had spent their whole lives on Dwarsrivier farm, none had been up to the Wolfberg Cracks right on their doorstep. Over the past months of outings with the Cape Leopard Trust, these children had shown that they were fit enough to make it up this steep climb. 
It was a trying climb, but despite headaches and racing hearts, there were no complaints, only silent determination. The first achievement is reaching the base of the cliffs and from there the experience changes dramatically. From pure slog it becomes pure adventure. One brave boy volunteered to find the first passage through the dark onto the ledge above. The rest followed his shouts of glee.  

They all squeezed through the narrow opening into the second crack.  
Being inside the crack itself is being in the belly of the mountain. The arches and narrow, towering cliffs, the dim light and the scale and splendour of the place is like being in a natural cathedral, inspiring awe. 
The hardest parts were yet to come, climbing over boulders and through chimneys. Without each other’s help, it would have been impossible.
It was hard to believe, looking back up at the cracks from the campsite, that they had been right up there at the very top! 

The afternoon was by necessity very relaxed, with an introduction to colour perspective in an art exercise. In the late afternoon light, looking towards the west, the mountains were clearly layered, with those in the distance paler and purple-blue, and those closer greener-blue, while right in the foreground the greens were rich and the details clear.

By all accounts the evening was lots of fun and none of the children were tired the next morning (or so they said). Packing up the campsite was done smoothly with Willem overseeing the process and insisting through his impeccable example that all the tents were swept clean, inside and out. Then it was time to say farewell.  

What was their favourite part? The treasure hunt... The walk up Wolfberg Cracks... Putting up my own tent... My friends...I enjoyed everything. And what was the most beautiful? The cracks... The rocks... The flowers... The black eagle...  

What was my favourite part? All those little moments when I saw determination or delight in a face; the way the children helped each other and me in the cracks; watching Willem set a strong and gentle example of how a man can be. This is immensely satisfying work and I am grateful for the part I can play in bringing these sorts of experiences to children. 
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