“Insane!” was the catchphrase used by many of this year’s tourists to describe the exhilarating moments enjoyed on the Tour of 2016.
There was an air of excitement as we headed off for Johannesburg on the morning of Friday 29 July. After the obligatory pit stops, we finally arrived at our first port of call – the Ditsong Military History Museum.
The boys were astounded by the weaponry that was on display. Most of the weaponry – which included aircraft, tanks, artillery pieces and rifles – was from the two World Wars. The museum holds the last fully intact ME 262 jet aircraft to be found anywhere in the world. Hanging from the ceiling of the large barn were, among others, a Messerschmitt-109, a Spitfire and a two engined Mosquito bomber. Outside were a number of tanks, including the Sherman tank, as well as numerous artillery guns.
The following morning we picked up our tour guide and headed to an area that most had never visited before: Soweto. Boys were quick to remark on the extremes of poverty and opulence that exist side by side with each other. We were able to disembark at the site of the Soweto Uprising (June 1976) and walk down Vilakazi Street (the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners). A real eye opener for the boys was the opportunity to enter one of the shacks and to see how those a lot less fortunate than ourselves live.
The next stop was the iconic Apartheid Museum. This world famous institution provided the boys with a better understanding of our recent past, and hopefully a more empathetic understanding of where we are today as a nation.
For many, one of the highlights of the tour was the afternoon visit to Gold Reef City – the opportunity to enjoy the rides. Even Mr Brown – allegedly – tested out one of the more testing rides. However, none of the other staff actually witnessed his alleged moment of madness. (It must be said, though, that he did return to the table where Mr Collier and myself were enjoying lunch looking rather pale!).
Early evening and we were on our way to Maropeng, which is situated in the Cradle of Humankind. This would be our home for the next three nights.
The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we headed off to the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Sanctuary. Here the boys were able to see Cheetah and Wild Dog (being fed) as well as a Honey Badger, a Caracal, Serval and a rather rare Egyptian Vulture. A professional presentation on these endangered species certainly gained everybody’s interest. (Some of the boys were quite keen to adopt – literally – an animal there and then; I am not sure their parents would have been quite as enthusiastic!)
Pretoria was our next port of call. The Union Buildings and the Voortrekker Monument are both impressive structures befitting of South Africa’s capital. Most of the boys walked up the 180-odd steps of the Voortrekker Monument – looking down at the Cenotaph from above left most feeling rather dizzy.
Our final full day of touring was the most relaxed and was spent in the Maropeng area. The Maropeng Visitors’ Centre is a World Heritage site and traces the formation of our planet and the development of humankind, while also focusing on modern day issues such as literacy and the use of our natural resources. A quick bus trip then took us to the Sterkfontein Caves. It is here that evidence of pre-historic man – known as Hominids – were found. An informative tour of the caves followed – we descended to a depth of close to 60 metres and had to squirm through narrow tunnels – not for the claustrophobic!
Nonetheless, we all survived the ordeal! After four days on the go, the free time of Monday afternoon was appreciated by all.
Tuesday morning and it was time to begin the trip home. No doubt many fond memories will stay with the boys for years to come. As one of the pupils declared: “This tour is INSANE!”
All the boys need to be complemented for their outstanding behaviour while on tour. Many of the tour guides commented on the maturity, the intelligent questions that were asked, the discipline and the good manners of the boys.
Many thanks to Mr Collier, Mr Brown and Mr Zhang for their support.
“The Tour exceeded all expectations and previous experiences. We didn’t want to go home!” – The opinion of the Year 11’s.
“Very educational and interesting. The tour was very well organized and was good value for money.” ((Gabriel Maier, Year 10)
“The tour was amazing as we got to see and experience things we wouldn’t normally see in Durban. It was interesting to learn about our heritage as South Africans and as mankind. We also saw massive socio-economic differences which changed our perspective and outlook on life and the things we value” (Gideon Chetty, Year 9)
– Mr A. Faure-Field: Tour Organizer