Featuring Thomas Walker, Brenna Doucette, Dawn Garden, Joyce Berkers, Gillian Roberts and Creighton Avery. Special Guest appearance by Edgar- a local South Africa to ensure our survival.
When we got to Alpha (our mustering point), we were given a map to draw our route out on. We had some difficulty plotting our route, so we got some help from Wayne, one of the head coordinators of the hike. He supplied us with a ruler and protractor, which made plotting a lot easier.
Once we had things sorted out, we were told that we had to wait until 8:20 to set off on our hike. The first group left at 7, but they left the 3 Canadian patrols for last. It was quite a long wait, and it was pitch dark by the time we got started. The was no moon, but with a quick astronomy lesson from Ashley, we were able to point out the Southern cross and seeing the milky way was incredible, because it normally isn’t as defined in the North.
About 15 minutes into our hike to the first check point, I (Brenna) accidently walked into a very thorny bush, one of, oh, about all of them. As the others walked ahead, it wasn’t long before Thomas and Dawn doubled back to help me out. The others had no idea what was happening when we yelled back that we were pulling out the first aid kit. They were even more confused when Dawn told them that she was pulling out the gauze. In the end, I had pulled out the thorns stuck in my jeans with my left index finger. Because of that I had three thorn holes in my finger. After wiping and gauzing it, it was fine.
When we got to check point Charlie, we had a quick snack and headed off to our next check point (Bravo) where the people in our contingent who didn’t hike were staying. Here, we unfortunately had to leave Gillian for the night who had hurt her ankle along the way.
From Bravo, our route took us back to check point Alpha, where we discovered that we had passed 2 groups that had the same route as us and left earlier. The coordinators were genuinely surprised and weren’t expecting us for at least another hour.
We then started towards check point Echo, which was our second last check point on our route. We thought we were doing great, but little did we know, we were screwed. And it wasn’t because of our navigation skills. It could easily have been due to our lack of sleep and physical exhaustion though as we had already been up for 21 hours and counting. At first, we were determined to find our way to Echo, mapping alternate routes to Charlie. However, in the end we decided that we were officially lost and needed to bunk down like we had been told to do. We found a tree with minimal thorn bushes surrounding it, and laid out our collective sleeping gear. Cuddling for warmth, we got an entire 2 hours of sleep before the sun came up.
Once we were up and packed, we started our walk towards the gate we were told to meet at in the morning. Almost immediately after arriving at the gate, we saw a pick up truck coming to rescue us. While we were sitting in the back on the drive to the overnight check point, it was almost as though we were having a private safari ride. We spotted different types of birds and other interesting animals.
When we got to the overnight check point, we met up with everyone else from our contingent. They were extremely glad to see us alive. After eating the provided breakfast, we attended the closing ceremony, ran to the vans and slept!
Thomas sums up this experience in 5 words: adventurous, new, challenging, insightful, and bonding. Other members of the group sum it up in one quote created by Creighton. “I’m cold, I’m tired, I’m hungry, I have to pee, and I’m loving every minute of it!”