Students at De Aston School have been looking back on a summer adventure taking part in a World Challenge trip to Botswana and Zambia.
Here Megan Bird gives her personal view.
If someone had told me in Year 7 that I would be flying out to Botswana and Zambia in Year 11 I wouldn’t have believed them. But back in February 2014 when I joined forces with a previous world challenger, who had visited Rwanda and Uganda in 2013, to write an article for the school newspaper about her experience and my expectations for my experience to come, it made it all seem real.
I think it is safe to say that the time from February 2014 to July 2015 went extremely fast. As a group we continued with our fundraising, pushing up until the last weekend in June…2 weeks before our departure date.
Our expedition began on 16th July where we spent the night at the High Ropes Adventure Centre.
We all arrived carrying our rucksacks filled to the brim, and there were a lot of tears and I love yous exchanged, but eventually our parents left.
As a group, we met our new leader who we would be spending the next month with. He spent the whole evening briefing us on what to expect and what he expected of us.
In the morning we drove down to Heathrow and at 7pm we boarded our first flight to South Africa.
When we finally arrived in Botswana, after a total of 13 hours flying, we were met by the in-country agent and taken to our accommodation.
Whist we were in Mokolodi Backpackers we cooked a traditional meal with the owner who was South African, we visited a game reserve and went to the local shopping mall.
The second planned trip on our itinerary was to visit the Kalahari desert.
We all crammed into a tiny combi van ready for the five hour drive ahead. After a long and tiring drive we finally arrived at the designated place to meet our guides for the next three days, but we were informed that there was a change of plan. Martin (our leader) ushered us into the minibus and said we had to leave. So we had another five hour drive back to Gaborone. By the time we got back we were all shattered as we had travelled for ten hours in total.
The next activity on our itinerary was the project phase, so we bundled all of our things together and headed for Kharma Rhino Sanctuary.
When we arrived we were greeted by the head warden who escorted us down to our campsite on 4X4 safari trucks.
Whilst we were there, we completed tasks such as litter picking and clearing trees. Towards the end of the project we constructed benches for the sanctuary’s education centre; we painted them green and brown so that it would not frighten the animals as they are free to roam the sanctuary.
After spending a week on project we then went on to the Limpopo River trek.
As we drove to the first campsite, the minivan kept getting stuck in the rocky terrain, so we arrived late that night so had to put up our tents in the dark.
The next morning we packed up our tents and walked to our next designated camp. This camp had a shower where you had to start a fire in order to heat the water, but the shower was surrounded by thin material walls. The toilets were holes in the ground with wooden seats. They were surrounded by green hessian so you could be seen from the outside. The girls were worried about using them but the boys weren’t bothered.
The next day we walked around 20km to the village where we first started, and we spent the night camping behind the village shop.
The community surrounding us had children running around and goats on the road.
The next day we took a long trip to Francistown to get supplies for our next couple of days at Kuminda Farm.
We then spent the next two days at this lovely farm and the staff cooked us a banquet of traditional African food when we arrived which was delicious
The second day we were there we visited the local village called Marobella. We went to the primary school there and it was wonderful! The children were all smartly dressed in their school uniform and were all wearing a huge smile. We did a massive ‘hokey cokey’ with Reception-Year 3 pupils, which filled the school yard. We also sang songs including ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’.
As we came to leave the school, the children sang and danced for us, then we went to get back into the minibus and they were all waving and screaming goodbye.
For most members of the team this was one of the highlights of the trip because we knew that we had made their day.
Then we moved on to the ‘heart of the community’ where a new library was in the process of being built. We met the builders who were working on this project and we decided that as a World Challenge group we would help support them by doing a book collection in school and sending them out to Africa for other children to enjoy.
After the couple of days at Kuminda Farm, we made our way to Audi Camp where we would be spending a night before our Mokoro trip in the Okovango Delta.
Audi camp was quite touristy, well, more touristy than we had been used to. The showers there were actually hot and we even had a meal in their à la carte restaurant, which was delicious.
The next morning we set off very early in a huge over lander truck into the marshy delta.
After two hours of feeling very cold on the truck, we then arrived at the Mokoro station and then got into the Mokoros.
After around two hours we arrived at our wild camp; we set up our tents and had lunch, then we took a short walk out to collect fire wood so that we could cook our dinner later.
In the evening we all sat around the campfire and the polers from the Mokoros all sang traditional African songs to us and we played games. I know at this point it was very real to everyone that we were in Africa!
During the night, you could hear lions roaring and hippos grunting – that was very surreal.
The next morning we all woke up very early in order to go on a sunrise bush walk. We saw a herd of zebras, elephants, buffalos, hippos, giraffes and honey badger prints. We walked through a village and bought local pies, which were delicious!
Because our whole team had split into two we thought that the other team would go the same route as us, but when we got back to the campsite, we told them about the pies and they were very annoyed as everyone was hungry and tired.
The next morning we left very early to get to Chobe; it was a six hour drive and we had planned to go on safari there in the evening. After hours of travelling it got to 3:30 pm and we had to be at Chobe for 3pm so that we could go on the boat safari so we decided to do the boat safari the next day.
We went to ‘Choppies’ and bought food for the evening and next night. When we finally arrived at Chobe we set up camp, then realised there was a swimming pool. So some of us decided it would be a good idea to go in. IT WAS FREEZING! We were all grateful for the hot showers that followed! We cooked dinner and relaxed in the bar watching the South African visitors cheering on their team in the rugby. At 4am the next morning we were climbing on to a safari truck to go on an early morning game drive.
When we were driving from the campsite into the safari park it was very chilly! The game drive was amazing; we got to see the perfect sunrise with the baby hippos running around playing. (Yes! Hippos running!)
At sundown we went on a boat trip and saw elephants drinking and eating. There were crocodiles swimming and sunbathing catching the last of the African sun.
The next morning we packed all of our things ready to cross the border into Zambia, where we would spend the last few days of our trip. The first full day in Zambia we went white water rafting in the Zambezi River. We had two rafts of seven and each raft had one guide. I must admit I was very nervous about it, but it was very amusing. When George fell out of our raft it was hilarious, I could not stop laughing! When we got to the last rapid we were allowed to jump out and swim it, I was very apprehensive to as there were crocodiles in the water.
The next day we had booked an elephant encounter, we got to hand feed elephants; there were big ones, small ones, old ones and young ones! They were all well trained and it was an amazing experience!
Then we went to Victoria Falls, it was beautiful. Everywhere you walked you were sprayed from the powerful flow of water in front of you.
Outside the entrance to the falls there were baboons stealing food and jumping on cars.
Then we spent an hour looking around the famous markets.
We then returned to ‘Jolly Boys Backpackers’ where we all had showers and went out for dinner at Café Zambezi! Our team ordered many weird and wonderful things, ranging from crocodile pizza to fried caterpillars.
When we got back to the hostel, we had a presentation and ate ice cream and cake, then the majority of the team stayed up all night talking and laughing at Luke sleep talking.
The next morning we packed up everything and headed for the airport! We had a long 24 hours ahead of us travelling back to the UK!
We waited at Zambia airport for a couple of hours where the Year 12s found out their AS results, everyone seemed pretty happy with them.
We then flew back to South Africa where we had a six hour overlay time.
At 7:30pm we then boarded the plane which would take us back to Heathrow.
When we eventually landed it seemed strange to be surrounded by high rise buildings and commercial shops. We even got to use clean toilets and sinks in the airport!
When we arrived back to school there were lots of tears and hugs; everyone was relieved to be back on home turf but we all missed Africa immediately.
It was very strange to wake up the next morning in a bed and without being surrounded with people that you had spent the last month with, as we all became very close.
All in all I would recommend for anyone to go on World Challenge, as it was 100% worth it. I enjoyed every moment of it, and even though it was very emotional it was one of the best things I have ever done.