I am writing this report from the Fish River Diner overlooking the Great Fish River Mouth. It is a beautiful day, albeit a little breezy, and the Journey Groups are arriving at the Kap River Reserve Campsite, 20 days after leaving Makhanda on 6 November. Tomorrow will see all the groups hiking the last 8km down to the Fish River Mouth where they will gather as groups for the last time, say their thanks, and then dash into the ocean in symbolic completion of each of their individual Journeys, before climbing on the buses and heading back to school.
What a wonderful Journey it has been, on so many levels. We left Makhanda and our school campuses with the shadow of the Covid pandemic ever-present, and the feeling of release once we were out in the beautiful Karoo was quite tangible. The required obsession with protocol around virtually everything when at school, was replaced by an easy, stress-free approach to all that we were doing. This, along with the absence of any devices, created the perfect environment for boys and girls to get to know each other, to share experiences together and to create memorable moments.
Once again we were so very fortunate to be able to experience all that the Eastern Cape has to offer. Through the generosity of the farming community along the route, we were able to enjoy wonderful vistas, see wildlife and productive farming operations close up, stay at a variety of “campsites”, ranging from rocky, thorny hillsides to lush green grass and flowing rivers. We have operated in some of the most spectacularly mountainous areas of the Eastern Cape, have climbed up and down numerous hills, have experienced extreme heat (42 degrees!) and icy cold, have walked across dusty plains and have been caught in sudden rain showers. All this makes for a varied and unique experience for each group, and for each member of the group. Every day presents its own challenges, whether they be physical or emotional. It is the ability to face up to these unpredictable challenges that teaches us important life lessons about independent thinking, character, grit, resilience, patience and tolerance. The groups are like the ultimate team sports in that every member is important and it is only the ability to effectively move and achieve things as a group, that ensures success.
The boys and girls of Journey 2020 can be extremely proud of themselves. They have achieved so much for themselves and for those around them. Many have been stretched beyond their wildest imaginations and have surprised themselves at their own ability to cope and to push through. I am always amazed at some of the raw courage that is shown by boys and girls who are enduring discomfort and pain. We are inevitably stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for, and it is only when faced with real-life challenges that we tap into those unknown areas. The groups have had a wonderfully positive spirit throughout and have an extraordinary ability to recuperate after a hard day out. This process is enabled by having your friends around you and having sufficient time each day to rest, cook, clean and enjoy each other’s company. I would like to congratulate and thank all the boys and girls of Journey 2020 for their positivity and character in ensuring a successful outcome for all concerned.
I would like to offer our grateful thanks to the many staff that have given so much to ensure the success of Journey. To our transport team, our Cycle team, our Rest & Create team, our Solo team, and in particular, our team of group leaders who invest so much of themselves into ensuring that the groups have the best possible experience over the 21 days of Journey. We thank and salute every one of you. It is wonderful to have the support of those who keep things going back at school, whilst so many staff are away. Our Sanatorium staff are always there to assist, whilst Mr Eksteen and his group of willing helpers, do a monumental job of keeping those on Journey well-provisioned. We are fortunate to have two Headmasters who are so supportive of this project and it was great to have them join us for a few days, allowing them to experience The Journey first-hand and to see the value that it adds to our young people’s lives.
Having been involved in The Journey since 2005, this year has been an emotional rollercoaster for me as I have observed and supported the groups in what they have done. Having had the privilege of being a group leader on eight Journey’s and having hiked, run, cycled and canoed every route of Journey, I have been able to enjoy a wonderful insight into the life-changing possibilities that The Journey has provided to over 3000 of our boys and girls over the last 17 years. As the last Journey that I will be overseeing, I would like to thank both the DSG and St Andrew’s College for the incredible outdoor opportunities that I have enjoyed over the years. I feel very privileged to have been a part of something so special. I thank all those that are part of making The Journey happen, and I wish only the best for this amazing expedition going forward.