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South Africa 2019

11 September 2019 | Tagged: Senior School, Sports, Trips

High School hockey and rugby tourists took part in the first ever High School tour of South Africa back in July. PE teacher Mr FitzGerald has kindly shared his thoughts on the experience of a lifetime.

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Sixty four pupils and seven staff all met at Glasgow Airport in July to begin The High School’s first ever tour to South Africa. After flying with Emirates via Dubai we landed In Johannesburg in the early evening. The girls made their way to the High Performance Centre in Pretoria and the boys travelled to a more rustic accommodation set up at Konka Camp near Rustenburg.

After a morning practising, the Under 18s were first to take the field against Botoka High School. We started very strongly and raced into a comfortable lead. However, the shock of playing at altitude caught up with the boys and allowed the opposition to score a number of tries towards the end of the game. Luckily enough we had run up a few points before the altitude kicked in to win The High School’s first victory in South Africa. The Under 16 game followed a similar pattern and it was good to finish the first set of matches with victories and all the players in one piece. We then spent time socialising with the opposition, learning about how little they actually had with regard to equipment. As a result we have decided to collect any unused boots to send them to the young players of Botoka. (If you have old boots which aren't being used, please drop them off for the PE Department to forward on). Meanwhile the girls were playing in Pretoria against The High School for Girls. The 1st XI ran out very comfortable winners but unfortunately the 2nd XI lost a close game.

The next morning the whole tour party came together at the Lesedi Cultural village to enjoy some of the rich African culture first hand. The people of Lesedi have created an African ambiance that you won’t find elsewhere! We enjoyed a tour of five traditional villages, listened to the local music and even ate some local delicacies, mopane worms, and finally witnessed a superb dance performance, before arriving at Randburg High School in Johannesburg. Many of the pupils were understandably nervous about what was going to happen to them when they were being hosted. They needn’t have worried. They all came back the next day saying what a fantastic experience they had had with their host families, which included some of them receiving a breakfast of two big steaks. It would be very hard to be a vegetarian in South Africa!

While in Johannesburg we visited the Apartheid Museum where we learnt about the rise and fall of Apartheid in the history of South Africa, followed by a tour through Soweto. There were certainly some strange sights and the Physics Department would have been very interested in how the locals acquired their electricity. We then returned to Randburg to play against our hosts. The Under 18s put on an excellent performance and won. The Under 16s played well but were on the wrong end of the result. The score-lines in both games flattered the winners. The 1st XI again had a very comfortable victory and the 2nd XI registered a victory on running penalties after the hosts suggested that this would be a good way to round off the match that was drawn.

After attending morning assembly the next day, which was outside in the middle of winter, we transferred to the Mabula Game Lodge. Everybody was looking forward to our sunset game drive for a chance to spot 'The Big 5'. It didn’t disappoint. After an early start the next morning we then went on our sunrise game drive. There was certainly a big difference in the temperature between the two drives and those that were not wrapped up warm enough were praying for the sun to get higher in the sky. Between the two drives we got to see lions, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras and cheetahs in their natural habitat, along with a host of smaller animals. This was the end of the first half of our tour, and we returned to Johannesburg airport to fly to Cape Town.

Upon arrival in Cape Town we saw some green grass. The pleasantly warm days and cold nights of Johannesburg and its surrounding areas had given way to almost typical Scottish summer weather: wet, windy and occasional glimpses of the sun.

Our first full day in Cape Town saw us visit the Goedgedacht Trust, whose focus is on helping rural children and youth in West Coast and Boland towns to break free from the cycle of generational poverty. The 'Path Out of Poverty' or “POP” program seeks to transform rural communities by offering the next generation of children the opportunity to become healthy, self-confident, educated young people. The trust feel that they have made excellent progress and have now moved on to call their scheme 'Path onto Prosperity'. After a short presentation on what the Trust does, we then met 50 local children and took part in various team-building exercises before leading some hockey and rugby training sessions. The evening was spent on the V&A Waterfront, having dinner and celebrating two birthdays.

Unfortunately, poor visibility meant that we were unable to make the trip to Robben Island by boat the next morning, so a quick change of plan meant that we visited a penguin colony before we played our next set of fixtures against local township sides. The girls won both games against Langa. Unfortunately, the boys lost both games against Connect Sports Academy. It was certainly an eye-opening experience, especially for the girls who played in the Langa township. The rugby matches were moved to a local rugby club as the pitches in Langa were being used for a massive football tournament.

After a night in Stellenbosch, our final rest day meant a visit to the Cape Canopy Tour, to experience an exhilarating zip-wire journey surrounded by stunning panoramic views of the beautiful Western Cape. We had to navigate 11 zip lines in total, with the final one being over 300m in length, as well as a suspension bridge, before moving on to our second set of hosts at Strand High School.

Our final match day started by travelling to Muizenburg for a fantastic surf lesson on the South African waves before returning to Strand to play our final fixtures on tour. This was the only time the boys and girls played next to each other, with all teams winning - A fitting climax to a very successful tour.

Our last morning in South Africa was spent at the Cheetah Sanctuary, where we learnt how farmers are given dogs to protect their livestock from the cheetahs rather than using guns. This was in order to try and protect the cheetah numbers in the wild. The cheetahs are too scared to attack the dogs because of their size but have plenty of speed to get away from the dogs on patrol around the farms.

When we arrived back in Glasgow after a slight delay there were certainly some tired tourists. However, they had really appreciated what South Africa had to offer in terms of culture, history, natural beauty and, most of all, the friendship. I’m sure we will be back.

As well as collecting boots, we have decided to leave a legacy in South Africa by making donations to the work of the Goedgedacht Trust and Connect Sports. More information on what these charities do can be found at www.goedgedacht.org and www.connectsportsacademy.co.za

South Africa 2019
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