​South Africa 2017- What a ‘Fantastic’ Trip

Months of fundraising culminated in chaos in Miss John (now Mrs Broome!)’s classroom as the 2017 South Africa trip tried to squeeze as many of the generously donated toiletries, clothes and shoes as they could into suitcases and carry on luggage. Passports checked, double checked and then checked again for good measure, a coach full of excited Year 12 and 13 pupils left for Heathrow, destination: Cape Town. 

If ever there were a memorable way to begin a trip, ascending Table Mountain would be it. Clouds had cleared, the sun was shining and pupils and staff were treated to beautiful scenery and views of South Africa and the ocean. Tourist stop number one also allowed Mr Griffiths to introduce trip rule one: always be on time, punishment for lateness: public singing. Entertained by our first late-comers, we assembled at the top of Table Mountain for our first group picture.Taking advantage of the weather again, staff and pupils later ate, beachside, in Camps Bay before beginning the journey to the Goedgedacht Trust where pupils were treated to bus driver Andre’s local knowledge and Mr Hopkins as resident bus DJ. Cue the first play of ‘Fantastic Man’, a song that would become South Africa 2017 trip anthem.

Mr Griffiths had warned us all that at night, South Africa gets cold. And he wasn’t wrong. Although chilly, the clear sky allowed this year’s batch of stargazers a glimpse of the Milky Way. Settling quickly into night one on the Trust, all of our pupils had an evening together, with Youth in Construction run by Anna, where there were plenty of games, singing and dancing. The following morning we were ice skating. Cue Rory Chapman- whose hilarious perseverance on the rink was something to behold. Together again with Youth in Construction, that evening Kate, who works for and runs the Trust, introduced a project and in groups they designed obstacle courses to be be built on the farm.

If you ask anyone on the trip what their one of their trip highlights was, most would undoubtedly say, a trip to the pre school where we spent time with the preschoolers playing playground games during their break time before they went back into school. Getting our pupils to leave, however, was difficult. The trip to the preschool gave, for the first time, a better idea about how valuable these centres are and a sense of their importance in the community. The work of the Trust had greater meaning and context and meeting the children meant our pupils were looking forward to visiting the POP centres even more. That night, movie night, we headed to POP 1 and watched ‘Mandela’ a fantastic film that helped pupils understand a bit more about the fascinating social and historical context of South Africa.

Nineties Whigfield, singer of ‘Saturday Night,’ was something of a sensation in POP centres 2 and 3,which we visited over the next few days- who’d have thought? Everyone- including staff- danced to ‘Saturday NIght’ with the POP centre children- good preparation for Miss John’s twmpath and games night where teams got a little competitive and, I think it’s fair to say, were introduced to Miss John’s dark side.

Visiting different POP centres over the next few days, gave our pupils a chance to meet boys and girls far less fortunate. Shauwn, a firm Cowbridge favourite, and the person responsible for running Riverlands, one of the POP centres, invited us to visit and Cowbridge pupils helped him by sorting toys and games the children use and doing some gardening. We were also able to visit a local Riverlands school and, after being spoken to about some of the challenges that the school and its pupils face, were allowed into lessons by the headteacher who spent time talking to us about the school and the pupils who attend. Before leaving, we were also taught about the farm’s drive to be self sustainable- all pupils were impressed to discover that the food that they had been eating for the week had, been grown on the farm itself. Finally as the week drew to a close and we left POP 3 for the last time, emotional farewells showed the impact that visiting these centres had on our pupils.

Andre our bus driver, again treated us to local knowledge as we journeyed to the safari lodge. Unknown to pupils was that we would be making a pretty exciting stop on the way, to feed elephants! Another trip highlight, pupils fed and stroked the elephants and (some would say most importantly!) updated profile pictures with evidence of the experience. And so we carried on, to the safari lodge. Treated to up close encounters with ‘The Big Five’, and aloe vera and faeces sampling if you were on a certain jeep, the safari was an obvious contrast to the week previous.

Next stops included an attempt at whale watching- sharks were making this a little tricky- visiting penguins and a drive along the scenic coast where we stopped at Chapman’s Peak. The Cape of Good Hope was made more interesting by the resident baboons- cue our shocked glances as other tourists happily let them come close. Staying in Cape Town meant that the sixth formers had a chance to spend an evening together, making the most of their time there up before the long journey home the following day.

The 2017 South Africa pupils were a credit to the school. They have joined a unique group of pupils who have experience something that will undoubtedly stay with them forever. Many want to return and some have already looked into it. A truly wonderful Cowbridge legacy. Special thanks go to those that have helped Cowbridge Comprehensive School make the trip such as success once again- BA who donated items for us to take the Trust, Edwin Doran and the Trust for hosting us so fabulously once again.