Have a look at what some of the course participants and their parents had to say:
This course is no walk in the park or for the faint hearted. It challenges you in every way possible, teaches you lessons about life, yourself and this world and exposes you to more than you can imagine.
I did go through times where I wondered why I was doing this, times where I did not enjoy courses and times where I had conflict with members in the group but that was nothing compared to what value it added to my life, how it helped me to grow and experience the adventures that I did and the really good friendships that I made.
~ G.A.P Year students
I truly believe that this year has matured me into someone I have always wanted to be. I have experienced life in a sheltered but extreme environment and have grown better for it. I have made some great friendships and the responsibility is on me whether they continue to grow or not.
Athol has made a profound impact on my life and his counsel will always be in my decisions.
It has been the most defining year of my life so far.
~ G.A.P Year students
Paddy went in a boy and now appears well on his way to being a man. The kind of man you’d want at your back when things go wrong. What more could a father really want?
As a half-way house between being a school-child and being an adult, Treverton’s G.A.P Year Post Matric course has been exemplary allowing my son to mature and develop, to become independent and yet able to interact positively with others.
It has brought out leadership skills I always believed he had and allowed a sense of responsibility to develop away from the shelter of his home and yet with a measure of care at hand to ease a protective parent’s mind.
It has exposed him to a wealth of experiences all of which have enriched him and made him very fit. He’s been exposed to sports he’d never have tried otherwise and taught him self-discipline and consideration for others.
If he’d gone straight to university from schools he’d perhaps have floundered. Now he’s ready to fly!!
~ A Father
The bravest are surely those with the vision of change and danger before them and yet not withstanding this, courage to go out and meet and conquer it. For any parent this was the ultimate to watch and observe as our Postie put challenge after challenge behind her and went on with a clearer vision to achieve.
“What a growth pattern and journey to be part of?”
2013 G.A.P students comments
The Bonitas Mkomazi Adventure Report back
The Treverton G.A.P. students have successfully completed the Mkomazi Catchment to Coast expedition. Travelling by non-motorised means of transport they hiked 20km to the catchment of the Mkomazi River, cycled 200km along the river’s course and paddled close to 100km on inflatable crocs and K2 boats. An incredible feat for young people with only two month’s preparation for this trip.
They also did an environmental evaluation of the river and immediate surrounds as they moved down the river towards the sea. Included in this was a mini-Sas test (see separate report for these results).
The students also met with school learners from several schools along the route sharing with them knowledge about curriculum-based lessons on water cycle as well as the importance of water conservation.
This experience was an incredible journey physically, emotionally and mentally. However, it has grown the G.A.P. students immensely and has left an impact with the school learners they met along the way.
There is no doubt about the gratitude that they have for the kind and generous sponsorship received from our sponsors. Without your contribution this significant expedition would not have taken place – Thank you.
Following are the personal accounts of the student’s experiences of the trip.
Mr Athol Davies
Director – Treverton G.A.P.
I personally found that the experiences I went through on our expedition has certainly changed me and would forever have a positive effect on my life.
Being able to have the opportunity to follow a river from it's source to the sea truly provided an environment to reflect on our way of life.
From an Environmental point of view, seeing crystal clear water that is beaming with life and nutrients in it's purist form. Starting out as little steams from cracks in mountains to grow into a great river that provides us with the water we need to survive.
It was quite saddening to see the water conditions change the further we went down the river, from Crystal clear to muddy brown within 298km. This expedition was not only focused on us Post Matric students to grow individually, but also to give back to the community in any way possible. We did two school visits during our expedition and have done four other schools prior to our trip. Our education aspect was to teach underprivileged schools about the conservation of water and the water cycle. In order to provide knowledge to the students so that they can start protecting the water in any way possible, and be able to educate their peers to do the same.
The 298km journey from start to finish was at times very fun and free flowing, but when the still water came and the up hills soared things got really tough. Paddling and mountain biking was our main form of transport and with the teams positive motivations and constant help from one another no mountain was too steep and no river was to still.
Being physically and mentally pushed to the max was an eye opening experience all on its own.
I am very proud of my team for accomplishing such an amazing expedition and especially our back up team for their constant help throughout our trip. I would also like to thank our sponsors for their great support. Without you this would not have been possible.
~ Dylan Van Wyk
Weeks before our expedition even started I knew that we were going to be pushed to our boundaries in both mental and physical aspects of the trip. Seeing all the beautiful plant life and animal life along the Umkomaas River was a stern reminder for me on how blessed this Country is. It was a great feeling to be able to drink water straight from the river on Day 1 as today it’s not common to come across a clean river that we can drink from. From Day 2 the team courageously pushed their mental and physical boundaries as we cycled, paddled and hiked our way towards the sea. Even though our bodies were in pain and we all were tired, we all worked together as a team to cook, clean and motivate one another to keep going, especially on the tougher days.
Our back up crew played a huge role in the success of this expedition as they motivated us every step of the way. As we performed our Mini-sass water quality test it became increasingly obvious that the water got more and more dirty as we moved down the river due to a number of reasons such as the community polluting the river. The paddling day we did, we came across a group of people testing the soil quality as they want to build a Dam Wall, which is sad as that will destroy all the flora and fauna found near or in the Umkomaas River.
Day 4 was a real eye opener for me as we visited schools in the community. The schools weren’t in a good state to say the least but the pupils all had smiles on their faces which made my day and proved to me how privileged I have been all these years and I must not take anything for granted. In my own opinion I think we also made the students day as well coming to visit them and I could also specifically see how incredibly happy the teachers were that we came to teach their students on how the water cycle works and were also very happy that we gave them posters of the water cycle for their classrooms. After the school visits we continued down the river, paddling on our crocs through rapids 1-8 which was fun but tiring.
This expedition has made me realise how truly blessed we are to be alive to see the beauty of this country and also showed all of us how much pollution is going into our ocean and how we as South Africans should really reconsider on how we treat our rivers .
This Umkomaas Source to Sea expedition was really a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am extremely happy that I got to take part in it with such great people along with me. It’s something I can tell my children, grandchildren, friends and family with pride.
~ Oliver Momberg
Our expedition was a life time experience, we as a group faced many challenges and gifts. As for me it was an adventure of strength and growth. On the expedition from source to sea on the Umkomaas River I dealt with many physical and mental challenges. The hardest was cycling, we cycled 90 km’s one day, which was pain, for we were not used to the seats of the bicycles.
Two people were out due to minor accidents with the bicycle but later on in the week they proceeded further. On one of the other days of cycling I got sun stroke but my team encouraged me to go further in which I did, by drinking and swimming every few minutes.
So over all the cycling was the hardest for me, physically and mentally. The best part of the expedition was the scenery and school visits. When paddling on the river between the valleys it just took my breath away as to how beautiful it was.
The mountains as well as the animals such as the fish eagle, water bucks crossing the river, giraffes and many more birds.
On our trip we did school visits, we taught the children about the water cycle and how to keep the water clean.
Seeing the joy and passion in their eyes brought a smile to my face, in which I will not forget. Some schools couldn’t speak English so we had the teachers translate for us which was a challenge as well.
Thank you for your contribution in order to make our dream become reality.
~ Jacoba Veenstra
My personal goal for expedition was to finish the entire thing without having to be transported by the back up team throughout the entire expedition. I also aimed to be the best teacher i could possibly be on the school visits. I wanted to genuinely give the students a better understanding of the water cycle and in turn do my part in creating social awareness about the poor management of water in our country. My final aim was to be as accurate as possible when it came to the water testing. I did my best to do all tests steadily and thoroughly rather than rushing through the test and corrupting the results.
I wanted to complete the whole physical part of the expedition to give me the sense of accomplishment that I had truly done something physically commendable. To say that i travelled an entire river from its source to the sea without any form of motorized transportation is an achievement that I will value for a long time to come. The reason for me wanting to properly educate the students about water is so that I could do my part in creating social awareness about our rapidly depleting volumes of clean drinkable water. This education would also help these students in their day to day lives as they now know how to take the necessary precautions to keep the river clean and prevent themselves from being subject to illness. Similarly with the water testing I aimed to keep the results accurate as these results could potentially be used on an international platform.
On the actual expedition I had two moments that stood out to me in particular that related back to my initial aims. The first of these was on the cycle on the third day. I was feeling very strong the whole day and I felt like this was the day I could push myself that extra mile physically. We got to the base of a 3 Km long uphill. I pushed myself and ended climbing the hill with a quick and constant pace. I managed to pass people that are more accomplished cyclists than me and I never stopped. This moment made me feel a sense of achievement, that I had achieved my goal of physically pushing myself and completing the entire expedition with no help from the back up crew.
The second moment of accomplishment was on our first school visit. The visit had started very slowly with a cultural barrier dividing us from the learners. Learners were shy and reluctant to get involved, however after we started the first game the students started to lighten up and become more involved. By the halfway mark of the visit the students and us had completely forgotten about the cultural and language barriers and the energy levels from both sides was extremely positive. By the end of the visit the students were so grateful that they wanted to carry all our equipment to the car for us as well as give us hugs goodbye. The happiness and enthusiasm on the faces of the students made me feel like we had succeeded in creating an impact to that community and that the lessons we had taught about water where going to be put into practice by the enthusiastic learners.
I am extremely pleased with what I have achieved on expedition. I feel I have learned new things about myself through pushing myself physically. I also feel that we as a group where highly successful in creating awareness and educating students about water and the water cycle. None of this would be possible without your generous sponsorships. For this I thank you.
~ Jonty Schwartz
With journeys like ours finding the best place to begin is often hard to do. So with this in mind I’ll start with three statements of fact. Firstly, the young man writing to you now is not the same one that left just over a week ago; secondly the experience and the opportunity that you have given me is unmatched in its quality and the value of what I have learnt while on this expedition is truly unfathomable. Finally the lives that we’ve touched we have done so grâce à vous, without yourintervention none of this would have been possible.
The Expedition was truly awesome, many of the moments we’ve experienced are worthy of sharing but I will have to limit them, to just a few. I have yet to feel anything akin to the excitement of school children that are eager to learn. Many of us were truly astounded by their rushing energy and eager faces; a hunger for knowledge truly transcends all boundaries. My father used to tell me frequently that “Empty pockets have never stopped people from succeeding, only empty hearts and empty heads” I have seen this live now, now I am truly beginning to understand the profoundness of those words. Teachers with very little resources that find ways of teaching the children pottery, a craft that could be used to better one’s life, an art form that allows one to express their emotions when words fail. Teachers that endure the stifling heat all in order to impart some small portion of their wisdom on the faces that fill row after row of their classroom line ups. I have seen and had the pleasure to interact with men and women that work hard, every day, to try and change the future of this country, to nurture the leaders of tomorrow.
I have battled with mountains and fought alongside the water in order to reach my goal, there was pain involved and unfortunate mishaps but none enough to make me regret, waiver or wish that I was anywhere other than on this journey. If you fall of your bicycle one hundred times, get up one hundred and one times. This is what I’ve learnt, that as long as I am able, I will continue on. The mind dictates to the body, it is shackled to this plane in that way, not the body to the mind. Learning to overcome this bond is something I will endeavour to do, to overcome the pain that stands in my way, to persevere.
The environmental portion of our trip was a success as well, the Mini-SASS and several other tests such as turbidity and dissolved oxygen were executed quickly and efficiently but all members of the team, and we were excited at the different make ups of the ecology within the river and the overall health of the river. Pollution is a problem and the river could still be ameliorated and better looked after, meaning better lives for the people living within its vicinity. Water is a truly invaluable resource and losing any body of water is a traumatic and tragic experience.
The backup team was truly amazing they cheered us on, they looked after the wounded and they were simply a pleasure to have had with us, we thank them for their assistance and I am truly happy to have been graced with their company.
The early morning rises and the late nights, the sleeping on the riverside, the falls, the getting back up, the people I’ve met all of this even the unpleasant things made this trip truly worth it, and the fact that I contributed to the education of the children of coming generations, the understanding of our environment and the display of simple defiance in a situation when others would have just taken “No”.
~ Mpumi Dlomo
Our Journey from source to sea along the Umkomaas River didn’t only start from the source. It started out a long and tiring journey before that with the simple idea of travelling the river in the beginning. There was a lot of planning and packing and even more planning before we could even think of beginning our journey.
This trip was by far an incredible experience for me, starting with our hike up to the source and finishing in K2s paddling to the mouth of the river. Every bit of this trip was both challenging and exciting because it was an entirely new experience. The transition from riding a bike for fun to having to face gigantic hills and slopes in and out of valleys was exceptionally challenging and anyone travelling the routes we took would have had to go above and beyond their personal levels of fitness to reach each day’s destination.
My favourite experience from this trip was by far paddling down white water rapids in blow up boats called crocs. No matter how big the rapid, be it small white water or class 5 rapids, we swallowed our fear and took the challenge to get to the ocean.
Thursday, 14 March 2013, we paddled to an island and spent the night sleeping under the stars. It was great to know that in our country, from an environmental point of view, we can still live off the lands and drink the water flowing in our rivers that we share with all the wildlife we saw along the banks as we paddled: Giraffe, Zebra, Water buck, etc. It was both fun and challenging making make-shift wash lines, shelters and cooking our extravagant meal for the evening: Biltong and pasta. A memory I’m sure we’ll all keep forever is waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the amount of stars in the sky that night.
Aside from having damp and muddy clothes for the first couple days, there were no exceptional challenges for me aside from the trip as a whole. I don’t think I’d like to experience another cold water shower after a long days hike, or to have to get up at 4 in the morning to cycle through puddles of mud, but now it feels good to be able to look back and laugh and to be able to say that I hiked, paddled and cycled for 7 days from the source of the Umkomaas River to the sea.
~ Stephanie Cockcroft
I don’t think it is possible to accurately describe the experience that the Umkomaas Adventure was. Over the last week not only have I experienced my highest highs but also my lowest lows, both mentally and physically.
The most obvious challenge was pushing ourselves to get the expedition done - roughly 300km in a week, whilst also having to set up camps and take care of food. The size of the task was incredible, but the feeling of ‘We did it ‘ afterwards made all this more than worth it.
I believe we were as prepared as we could be, both mentally and physically, however as every adventurer has done from time to time there were occasions where we felt as if we couldn’t go anymore. Had it not been for the encouragement from not only the Post Matrics but also the support crew I have no doubt that the days would have been much longer. A moment I won’t forget was when I was able to look back up the valley after a climb which took us up a peak of the valley, our legs were screaming on the way up. In that moment I saw how beautiful and precious our country is.
At the school visits I must say I was extremely humbled, not only at the visits on the trip but also those prior to it. To us we were doing something very small, but after the first visit we saw the significance of it. At the beginning of every lesson the children would be very timid but by the end of it they would all be shouting and dancing our ‘evaporation – condensation – precipitation’ chant. Also to see how much the teachers appreciated our help was amazing- on numerous occasions I heard various teachers saying ‘We going to do this in class now’. I believe the impact our lessons stretched far past the hour we spent with the kids. To know I might’ve had a lasting impression on a future leader of this country is an incredible feeling.
It was very satisfying to partake in the environmental assessment side of the trip, as I said we have a beautiful country and it was great to know we were doing our bit toward ensuring it stays that way.
A huge thanks must go to Bonitas Medical Fund, Wildlands Conservation, Sappi and Spar for making this trip, and these experiences possible.