...... After fifteen hours on a plane, what struck us first was the brightness; strange really for a place often described as a “dark continent!” Eighteen months of planning and fund raising has all led to nineteen students finally touching down in Namibia, with its vast open spaces and endless blue skies, to start the adventure of a lifetime.
We travelled north for two whole days by overland truck bumping along, dodging marauding warthogs, tails erect like radio antenna, zig-zagging across the dirt roads in search of fresh green shoots.
Our destination was Dibason Secondary School, deep within the heart of Namibia; a thriving place of education that twenty years prior, had been destroyed during civil unrest. As we rattled in through the school gates we were surrounded by intrigued and excited students, which was reflected by equally nervous Dane Court students. After camp was pitched we made our way to an evening assembly; a lavish affair involving traditional music, dance and a chance for both sets of students to explain their cultural background. Thus highlighting stark contrasts, but also the many similarities; for example the opportunity to dance with each other.
The next five days flew past as we set about trying to help improve the conditions of this school. We set ourselves two targets; the first was to help improve the current living quarters for the students, this was especially important to us as for many, the school as their permanent home, due to the loss of their family through disease. The second was to build a climbing wall, which is a feature that we felt could be shared by both schools. Axes were thrown; the ground splintered and by the third day foundations were set in place. Meanwhile behind the sweat and back-breaking manual labour, a second team was adding colour to dorm walls and setting holds for the climbing structure. During the heat of the day we were treated to time off, relaxing to the choral singing of the Dibason students, a soulful sound that could only ever make us smile.
School starts early for Namibian students. After a 5am call, lessons kick off at 7am, we joined this early morning rise, and in small groups, would take turns to enjoy lessons from physics to sport, seeing innovative methods to engage the learners; we don’t know how lucky we are.
Our time soon came to end and with sadness; sad to be leaving, but happy with what we have achieved. The final words from a very happy head teacher gave us a feeling of pride and this was cemented as we watched the boys stand proudly on the steps of their newly decorated dormitory and while others started to explore the challenges of the new climbing wall; possibly the only one in Namibia!
The land of the “Great White Plain” was our next stop and what a place Etosha is! Tents were carefully placed to make the most of the spectacular view; a watering hole surrounded by elephants and springbok. As the hours passed, elephants were replaced by giraffes and later zebra. The night drew in and a round the clock vigil began; the calls of lions and hyenas ensured alertness at all times! This continued for two more days, excitement spilling over as we watched lions stalking impala and rhinos going about the grumpy business of drinking.
Our final stop took us back south via the Skelton coast and our first sightings of clouds in ten days. After twenty four hours on the road, we entered the Namib Desert; sand dunes rose with regularity, stretching to heights in excess of 400 metres, a tough climb, but superb fun on the way down. Sand made its way into everything as one by one we rolled, bounced, bumped and tumbled our way down, before repeating this endless cycle of fun.
Before long our final night was upon us, we sat around the camp fire as jackals danced in the shadows behind us. Dinner was served; a feast fit for African kings and queens and stories crackled to the blaze of the fire; a fitting end to a safari of pure happiness.