Participant accounts of phase three and wash-up

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Africa » Namibia » Windhoek » Aris
June 8th 2007
Published: June 8th 2007
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Neither staff nor participants can quite believe the end of the expedition has come and it’s time to swap email addresses and say farewells before continuing journeys homeward-bound, across the country or to pastures new.

It’s been a fantastic ten weeks - a roller-coaster ride of emotions, new friendships, different experiences and expanded comfort zones! We’ve built a school from scratch, designed and constructed three playgrounds, one as part of a new sensory trail for the site at REST, where we've also helped develop a new aviary, improved a range of facilities at Cape Cross Seal Reserve and trekked many, many kilometres through river beds and desert plains to the Skeleton Coast.

We’ve made an impact on the lives of communities and wildlife across Namibia and have travelled the length and breadth of its long, straight roads to ensure projects were completed on time and to a high standard.

We thank all our participants and staff, from field base to project managers, for their hard work, sense of humour, inventiveness and sheer elbow grease, which has made 07D a huge success and an unforgettable experience.

We leave you with participant accounts of the final phase and accompanying photos. Also, a few shots to summarise the ‘wash-up’ period - when everyone returned to field base for four days of frantic activity - from early morning runs, alpha group Olympics and CV and career workshops to soap opera skits, 07D awards, a slide show viewing and an ambassadors' ball.

All that remains for me to say is, thanks for reading and contributing and have a great summer!

All the best

Kate O'Nions

Public Relations Officer
Raleigh International Namibia expedition 07D

Alpha 1 - Onakasino Junior Primary School Playground. By Fiona Wynn

The phase started on a high, with shopping and hot showers at Otjiwarongo before arriving at the small rural village of Onakasino, in the far north of Namibia.

After admiring the school, which last year’s Raleigh groups built, we set to work planning the playground which would go alongside it. By the end of day one, we had two tower poles cemented in. Work progressed quite quickly as we built swings, a see-saw, a wobble board, a climbing wall and a fireman’s pole. The paint work was also completed in plenty of time for the opening, with the team going to town with zebra stripes - we were all very proud of the psychedelic playground we had produced!

When not building equipment, we played games and also had visits from some of the local village children, one in particular visiting us daily and playing one of the group’s ukulele to our amusement! We were woken on numerous occasions by renditions of some of the alpha group’s much loved songs - far more preferable than being woken by donkeys braying just outside our tents at 5:30am!

The opening of the playground was a highlight for everyone. We listened to songs and speeches - and even sang ourselves! - sampled some of the local food and watched the children play on the new equipment we’d built for them, which was amazing. We didn’t worry about the strength of our workmanship as up to four children were hanging off the swings at any one time and nothing collapsed - what a great way to end the expedition!

Alpha 2 - Onameya Junior Secondary School. By Richie Lewin

13 venturers, 3 project managers, and of course our local builder Lenny, an unfinished school, not quite enough window putty, paint, paint brushes, head torches, ladders, scaffolding and plenty of sand all in all combined to make the school ready for the eagerly awaiting African children. 14 hour days (only 11 of which were in daylight!) did not stop alpha 2 from producing a structure fit for the likes of TV’s ‘Grand Designs’.

With only 110 litres of paint to decorate the whole school, you’d have thought we’d have been very careful with the amount we used, but that didn’t stop some of the team decorating themselves with as much paint as the walls. While the boys were mixing and transporting the seven and a half tonnes of cement and becoming semi-professional builders, the girls were busy working on art fit for the Sistine Chapel.

Evening activities for the physically and mentally-drained workers consisted of a mock engagement party, candle-lit dinners, pass the parcel, sleepovers in the school, large bonfires and astronomy sessions.

Thanks to working hard and playing hard, we completed the school on time and marked it with a grand opening ceremony. This was hosted by the locals and local ministry of education representatives who treated us to traditional African dancing and fine cuisine of beef, goat and chicken. Songs and dances were performed courtesy of the local children of Onameya. Once the keys were given over to the head of the school, it was the end of our emotional, rewarding, exhausting but highly fulfilling expedition.

Alpha 3 - REST. By the whole group!

Our final phase saw a group of just eight participants and two project managers create a playground as part of REST’s new sensory trail, and still manage to squeeze in games of ‘beach volleyball’, create a gym and experience fine campsite cuisine.

Our task was to create a ‘sensory trail with soul’, aimed at disabled children, which would incorporate eco-information for fun-filled learning. In the early part of the phase, we took a trip to old REST’s site were we learnt about the endangered vultures and got to see some of them being fed. On the way back to camp, we were fortunate enough to see a leopard - what a great day!

Sited about 100m from our camping area was Baboon Rock, where we spent a night slept out under the stars, drinking hot drinks around a camp fire.

When we were not celebrating birthdays - with great food by candlelight! - playing volleyball or doing exercise classes, we did plenty of hard graft - creating a playground area complete with a see-saw, wobble board, long jump, hopscotch, tyre tunnel and tyre wall.

On the last night, despite our best efforts, we still had plenty of food spare. So, there was only one thing for it - Ready Steady Cook! Two teams took part and after an hour of intense adrenaline-fuelled cooking, one group had to come out of top, with a Raleigh style shepherd’s pie. Fun was had by all and it was a memorable way to round off our time at REST.

Alpha 5 - Trekking. By Josephine Close

Alpha 5 was dropped off at our first camp site, looking forward to meeting the Ugab river and officially beginning the 240k trek past the Brandberg Massif, following the Messah River and finally ending at Cape Cross.

The first day was a frustrating process of rucksack realignment and badly coordinated comfort breaks. However, once our group got organised we marched onwards, the kilometres disappearing beneath our feet. We were given a warm welcome by the Damara people of Anexab village, where we joined in some traditional dancing and attempted to show them some of our less coordinated moves.

The Ugab wilderness camp was a beautiful rest spot, allowing us to take a wash - even though a herd of elephants rocked up to our campsite and pulled out the water supply.
After a good, heavy meal at the Ugab lodge, we headed on to meet the Brandberg Massif, a spectacular range of granite mountains that burns orange in the setting sun. The Brandberg mountains provided another comfortable campsite where we enjoyed energetic games in the dried out Ugab river bed - just in case trekking wasn’t tiring enough.

As the Bandberg started to disappear behind us, the landscape changed dramatically and gradually flattened out so we could see for miles ahead of us, with nothing to disrupt the expanse of sand. Bees decided to join us for three days and however unwelcome they were, they encouraged us to move swiftly on until we could relax once again at Sally’s Place - a rocky outcrop that sheltered us for two days. Here we gorged on fat cakes and decided that, with only three days to go, and only two litres of water to wash in, the best things to do was to stretch ourselves out on the rocks and relax our aching muscles.

From Sally’s Place the sea fog started rolling in and we noticed a dramatic drop in temperature, making our 4:00am starts even more painful. Yet, it also marked the last leg of our journey and enticed us towards the sea. Arriving at last at Cape Cross was a felling beyond description. Our group had come such a long way and supported each other through highs and lows, but at the end there was a calm understanding between all of our great achievement.

Alpha 6 - Trekking. By Nick Reid

Phase three saw two more trekking groups head off into the wilderness. Alpha 6 began its journey with a gruelling trek to our first camp which we arrived at after midday, feeling sapped by the overwhelming heat.

In the days that followed we rearranged our order of walking, with the stronger members at the front. Soon they were setting the pace and the group pressed on towards their first rest day. Upon arrival at wilderness camp, the team had a relaxing lunch then queued for the showers. Feeling clean and refreshed we had the evening meal at a nearby lodge as a treat, sampling both local cuisine, with oryx on the menu, and a taste of culture with a song and dance put on by the lodge staff.

On one day we cooked a goat with the help of our Namibian guide, Bernie. On another we walked up to the white lady cave paintings that are over 1000 years old. And on another we climbed up one of the peaks of the Brandberg mountains, taking many photos of the panoramic views from the summit.

With ever-improving efficiency in the morning, and a good pace being set, the next four days passed with less strain. The only hindrance was the presence of bees in a few of the camps.

From the greenery of the Ugab to the dry grassy plains skirting the Brandberg, we emerged into the sparse but inspiring landscape of the Messum Crater. As the group neared the coast the evenings became unbearably cold and we retreated to our tents either to play chess and cards or read.

The final day saw us arrive at Cape Cross in high spirits, with the prospect of hot showers and lunch at the nearby lodge. The end of the trek also saw the completion of the expedition and for many signals leaving Namibia to return home, but not without many joyful memories and new-found friends.

Additional photos below
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