Tuesday, 26 April 2016
South Africa Rugby and Hockey Tour - Easter 2016
This was the eighth South Africa rugby and hockey tour undertaken by Abberley Hall. We flew to Durban via Dubai and then travelled into the Kwa Zulu Natal Region. Our old friend and tour organizer, former British Army Colonel Reggie Purbrick, once again gave us all an excellent experience of what that part of the world has to offer including the history, culture, wildlife, landscape, adventurous activities and the political situation.
We spent our first night in lovely beach houses on the coast in Durban and woke on our first proper day with a play in the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Our first stop on the tour was at Shakaland, a Zulu cultural village where we learned all about Zulu culture. We stayed in very comfortable accommodation in the 42 degree heat! We then headed up to Elandsheim with wonderful accommodation in raised log cabins with nine blesbok running around the site. After team building on the assault course and a mud fight in the dam we visited the battle fields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift punctuated with a trek along the six mile fugitives trail from Isandlwana to the Buffalo River which we then swam across as the famous soldiers, Melville and Coghill had done when saving the Queen’s Colour after the disastrous battle. We visited the monument erected in honour of these two first recipients of the posthumous Victoria Crosses.
Next we made a very moving visit to an Aids and TB clinic. We have supported this medical centre for a number of years and this year the children did a tremendous job raising over £3,500 to buy much needed wheel chairs and ripple mattresses for the patients. We sang ‘Light of the World’ and a song from the school play, Bugsy which would become our tour songs. Dr Tony Moll gave a fascinating account to us all of the situation with AIDS and TB in South Africa and how they were tackling it. We then moved on to an amazing camp called Zingela on the side of the Tugela River for adventurous activities including abseiling and white water rafting. This was all set amongst fantastic countryside and in a game park where game could be viewed on dawn walks up to a promontory and night drives to feed the domestic pigs.
After another white knuckle ride on old 4 x 4 vehicles, we travelled the short distance to the Weenen Game reserve. Here we slept under canvas for two nights and went on day and dusk game drives seeing many different creatures including White Rhino, Zebra, Giraffe, Ostriche,Water Buck, Red hartebeest, secretary birds and various Antelope to name a few. Our guide, Marcel, also stripped a culled Blesbok in the camp. The various organs were removed, inspected, held and in some cases even tasted! The whole experience in Weenen was highly enjoyable but also hugely educational.
Then on to Reggie’s place, Watkins Farm, which was to be our home for the next five days. Two bunk houses around a dam with a horse, fly fishing, kayaks, canoes, a jetty and a rope swing were a perfect setting for the sport leg of the tour.
We had a relaxing first day at Reggie’s enjoying a fantastic Karkloof canopy experience involving ten zip lines amongst the tree tops of up to 200 metres long. We also visited a market to haggle over African gifts and visited the Nelson Mandela capture monument which was beautiful and very informative.
Having trained in a dried out river bed in the game park and on the front lawn of a chicken farm we then had the privilege of training on the wonderful facilities at Michaelhouse School. Reggie gave us a tour of the school which in many ways was familiar to the children having watched the film ‘Spud’ which was filmed there.
On our way to our first match we visited Brentville, a local primary school. We had a very exuberant welcome from the headmaster and his school. We sang to their children and they returned the compliment before taking us around their school and around the classes of forty eight children! We gave them the school socks, rugby shirts and balls we had taken with us and showed them where we had travelled from and the Abberley web site in their IT room.
The sport exceeded expectations. Both the hockey and rugby teams played excellently against various opposition and for the girls on both Astroturf and grass. The girls played their first match against Clarendon which they coped with very well to win 5-0. The boys played a development side of local black boys at a very smart stadium in bare feet. We were a bit stronger but it was a very enjoyable game in stifling heat. Our second matches were played at St Charles although the girls’ opponents were St Johns. The girls had a well fought draw 0-0. The boys had a very competitive match losing 19-0. A couple of knocks left the team with just 13 players allowing our opponents the edge with their full 15! Our third round of matches were against U14 Michaelhouse teams. The girls played an U14 B team who they battled well with but the boys’ strength told and the final score was 5-1. The boys played an U14 C team. It was their first training session back at school and our boys did not let them settle and we won convincingly. The final matches are always a highlight against our ‘sister school’, Clifton, Nottingham Road. There was a huge amount of support for both matches. The girls again fought well but the Clifton girls were a little stronger and we faded somewhat after three tough matches in the heat. The boys fought magnificently against a fired up Clifton and, having conceded a try early on, battled courageously for a 26-12 victory. We were very proud of how the boys and girls performed in all of their fixtures on the tour. The boys had lifting in the line out to contend with which was another enjoyable challenge.
With the matches completed a weary tour squad returned to Reggie’s for an enjoyable evening including a team quiz covering each aspect of the tour.
Our last day was spent travelling down to Durban and a morning in uShaka Water World. After a fish and chip lunch we had the traditional awards ceremony where each tourist received a report on their memorable moments and then spent an hour in the Gateway shopping centre and then off to the airport.
The tour was very successful in so many ways. All of the lives of those who went have been enhanced by the experience. We received countless comments from other travellers, air hostesses and staff at the impressive level of behaviour and maturity of our children. Although we expect those standards it was still satisfying to receive those comments. I finish with the words sent in an email from Linda Calverly, the owner of Zingela, after our stay there;
‘What a school! Those children give me hope for the next generation.’