9 Cadets and 5 Cadet Force Adult Volunteers from the Air Training Corps (ATC) have just returned from a three week trip to South Africa and Namibia. The team came from 6 Wings, representing 3 Regions of the ATC. The main purpose of the trip was to complete the Fish River Canyon trek but also give a new experience and a clear insight into the lifestyles and history of a very different and diverse culture.
The venture in total included five days and nights on a foot trek through the Fish River Canyon, largest canyon in Africa and second largest in the world, being the first Air Cadets to complete the trek, if not the first UK Cadets to complete. Two days canoeing and camping along the Orange River. Two days project work in the Riemvasmaak community (a Nama community). The trip was rounded off by sightseeing around Cape Town and Cape of Good Hope.
The Ulysses Trust Grant of £5,000 was much needed and appreciated and it helped to pay off part of the cost for the Cadets and the increase in payment for the flights. This saved us a considerable amount of fund raising and being able to close out these payments in June.
The expedition was planned to be the trip of a lifetime for the Cadets, for those who had not been outside of the UK before, it was a life changing experience both from the physical challenge of the Fish River Canyon and the opportunity to witness Nama culture.
The Fish River Canyon trek was an awesome experience, living for 5 days and nights with only essential equipment, no modern electronics apart from cameras, was an experience, almost a sense of freedom, working just by the sunrise and sunset. The team sleeping on the canyon floor without tents (zero rain) each night which added to the experience of the venture, which everybody enjoyed.
Carrying heavy rucksacks in the heat was really hard and the expedition experienced really good weather (perhaps too good) and combined with the underfoot conditions ranging from bolder fields, loose sand to hard earth. For some it was their first experience with this mix of terrain. Everyone found this expedition a really challenging time (especially when the sun was at its peak) and made us respect our Guides even more for their knowledge and dedication to making our expedition safe and enjoyable.
While camping and trekking in the canyon and on the canoe expedition the group soon realised that animals have a lot more character in their natural habitat and seeing a wide range of animals grazing in the same area. These phases of the venture provided a chance to be completely at one with nature and learn to appreciate life with only the bare essentials, no modern technology and with people who had become good friends. The party practiced ‘minimal impact and leave no trace’ and were constantly learning about environmental issues.
Working at the Riemvasmaak community gave an insight into the lives of those from a different culture and at the end the children would appear and a football games was held, which we lost in true tradition. Seeing how the Nama are able to live happily without modern commercialisation made everyone appreciate the simple things in life. At the end a donation of football outfits and training equipment was made as well as the donation of calculators to the local school.
“I think volunteering at the school and with the community of Riemvasmaak was truly one of the most rewarding things – to play football, donate kit to the school and to just witness the sheer gratitude of the pupils was really something to cherish.” Cdt Maddie Ashworth, West Mercian Wing.
In the end it all comes down to team work and self-confidence. By the end of the venture everybody had gained more respect for the simplicity of nature and also the animals after seeing them roaming free and wild in an untouched unspoilt environment. It was inspiring to see how individuals supported each other throughout the expedition. In conclusion we consider this expedition a great success with many of the group wanting to travel again further broadening their horizons and opening their minds to new opportunities.
“How to describe the trip of a lifetime; I’m still amazed that I and my friends have completed the trek. Completing the canyon; the sense of relief and accomplishment. This trip was a dream made reality.”
Cdt Dylan Burkey, No2 Welsh Wing
Squadron Leader Bill Hoe who organised the expedition commented:
“We are very grateful to the Ulysses Trust for their generous grant which helped the cadets achieve a huge amount from this expedition, the majority of whom had not been trekking overseas before.”
Our thanks go to the generosity of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust for supporting this expedition. www.rafct.com