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Zimbabwe

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Introduction

This report is based on the first 9 days of a 30 day expedition to Zimbabwe by a team from the London & South East Region of the Air Training Corps, organised through World Challenge. Two groups, each of 16 members, took part. I was in Group 2.

The report was compiled from a log which I wrote whilst I was in Zimbabwe. During the remaining part of the trip, not covered in detail in this report, we spent time in a variety of activities including two safaris and white water rafting on the Zambezi River. We also spent a week with Save the Children Fund helping a village build a dam. As I had already completed my community service for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, I will not be requesting this to be accredited as my service.

 Phase One

Friday 12 July 1996

10: 00 am

We arrived at Zimbabwe House in London. This was a time when the parents could meet other parents and the adult staff who were going to Zimbabwe with us. Whilst at Zimbabwe House we also met Group Captain Lavender and the defence advisers for Zimbabwe in England. It was a chance to learn a bit more about Zimbabwe and to find out what was happening politically at the time. Zimbabwe House provided a buffet style snack lunch for us all, including the parents. Eventually parents started to say their Bon Voyages and a few people got emotional at this point. Once most of the parents had left Dave Hill handed out a blue T-shirt and a blue polo shirt with our expedition logo on it to both teams. The Group Captain did his famous impression of a Japanese tourist and started taking photos. As my parents had stayed a little longer this meant my dad ended up taking photos for the Group Captain and members of the teams.

1:00 pm

Finally we made a move to find our transport to RAF Northolt. This took us about half an hour as the driver had not told us exactly where he had parked. Whilst we had been in Zimbabwe House Nelson Mandella had given his speech in Trafalgar Square so we had to battle through the dispersing crowds. When we finally found the coach we had to wait another ten minutes as the driver had vanished.

2 : 00 pm

On the coach we had to put up with singing , laughter and worst of all Dave Hill’s snoring, yes he was the only person who fell asleep on this short coach journey,( What a Goof.).

Eventually we made it to RAF Northolt and the regional HQ for London & South East Region ATC. Yes you’ve guessed it more photos were taken by the Group Captain. Once he had finished taking photos we made our way down to another building where we had one last kit check. When this was over we started on the final administration that needed to be completed.

6 : 00 pm

We made our way up to the aircrew mess ( Cafeteria) where we had our last English meal before arriving at Heathrow.

7 : 30 pm

R.A.F Northolt Military Transport section arrived with our transport for Heathrow. On this part of the journey we discussed what was to happen when we arrived at the airport.

8 : 00 pm

At the airport we had to queue up for our tickets which was really awkward as we were in such a large group. Eventually one of the airport staff realised that we were all together and opened another desk just for our group. When we had all finally booked in we made our way up to the departure lounge and we were called in by sections to board the plane. Once on the plane I fell asleep for about an hour and totally missed the take off. Having had this little doze I then found it quite hard to get back to sleep and so I spent the remaining 10 hours up the back with Michelle, Tim and Ben.

Saturday 13th July 1996

09 : 25 am

We landed at our first African country Ethiopia. As we departed the plane, as this was a change over point, we noticed that to our surprise it was raining rather heavily. This was disappointing as we had all expected it be hot and sunny. When we got into the airport, I found out that the only pilot amongst us was actually feeling rather travel sick, Poor old Sally. Fortunately I knew that I had some travel sickness pills in my personal first aid kit and issued two to her.

When we got our tickets for this part of our journey we had to go through their security checks. This was rather a peculiar experience because although we had gone through the metal detector we were body searched again. In the departure area we waited for the notice to say we could board the plane. Whilst we were waiting we discovered that we had ran out of mineral water so Tim and I went back through customs and bought some more. This was quite difficult as we did not know a single word in Ethiopian. Unfortunately, we had to go back through customs and have another the body search.

Eventually we were allowed to board the plane. Only a short trip this time a mere 7 hours. On arrival at Harare, ZIMBABWE airport we met up with Wing Commander Jimmy King and some of the Zimbabwean air cadets. The Wing Commander had arranged transport for us to our first campsite which was about 3 km from the airport. The first priority was to sort all our kit out and then we had a bit of an explore around the place where we were. The next main task was to find showers and toilets, and another thing fairly high on our list was to find out where we could buy drinks.

After everybody had discovered where everything was and had some food, Group 2 decided that we would have a short meeting so that we could introduce ourselves. This was good because if we were to get on for the next four weeks we should have knowledge of what everybody is like. I personally found this discussion was very helpful as I have been known for losing my temper rather nastily, and this meeting gave me some information that I could use to help myself avoid being stressed out by other people in the team. For most of the evening we played pool and drunk beer and coke. After a while a few of us went into another room and played monopoly which went on for hours. Finally we went to bed at about 2:30 in the morning.

Sunday 14th July 1996

We were all woken up at about 06:30 and this was not very pleasant as some of us had only had about 4 hours sleep. By the time every body had finally risen out of their beds it was about 07:00. At this stage of the day, we decided what the plan of action was to be for the day and who the student leader was to be. The plan was to buy food for the next phase and to sort out the transport for both groups. Group one had to find out train times and group two had to find out about the buses to Chimanimani. I was told that as I was going to be the transport officer for the next day it was up to me to find out the information about the buses. After everybody had finished polishing off an enormous breakfast, the task teams set out with the help of two of the people who worked at the campsite. The first stop was the shops so that we could purchase the provisions for our trek in the Chimanimani mountains. From our group there was Ali, Michelle, Dee, Kate, Joe ( the World Challenge Leader for our group ) and myself. We all had different things to look for in the shops so we went off and looked and then reported back to the others. I was tasked with finding out about postage stamps and phone cards but unfortunately for us they did not sell these on a Sunday. When we had got all our shopping we returned to the campsite to drop off the food. Kate, Joe and myself along with Chris and Ann from group 1 went to Harare to enquire about the various means of transportation. Our first stop was the railway station so that Chris and Ann could find out about the times of the trains that night. The booking office was closed so we had to ask a security guard on the station, for the information they required. We then went and found out about the times of the busses to Mutare, as we needed to change buses at Mutare for the Chimanimani’s. We finally found out the information after a lot of hassle with the locals who were more interested in seeing what we could give them. Whilst we had been running around for the groups they had had lunch at the campsite so that meant we ourselves needed to find some where to eat. Two people from the base took us to a fast food bar called The Chicken Inn. We all had a burger and some chips, which were very nice, then we decided to have an ice cream so we went back and bought ourselves an ice cream each. We were the first out of the two groups to have a Zimbabwean ice cream.

When we arrived back at the campsite we found everybody either in the swimming pool or sun bathing next to it. This was how most of the rest of the day was spent, apart from when James and I decided that we would let Roz and a couple of the other girls attempt to cut our hair with scissors. This was a laugh until we saw what our hair looked like. Although James’s hair looked one length, mine went up and down like a group of mountains.

In the evening Group 1, left us for the train station where they hoped to catch the 19:00 train. We said our good byes and wished them luck and then settled down to our evening meal and group meeting (a pow wow). There was some discussion on how we thought everybody had worked as a team and how the cadets in charge of different aspects had coped with their tasks. At this stage I had to inform the whole group of the travel arrangements for Monday. Finally the meeting finished and we got on with making sure we had every thing packed away for a quick and early departure in the morning. Once this was all completed we got on with our team bonding exercises which were playing pool , talking to each other and having a few drinks at the bar before we all went to bed.

GOOD NIGHT

Phase Two

 

Monday 15th July  1996

We were rudely awoken by Ben at some unearthly hour in the morning. This was so that we could cook our breakfast and still have time to eat and be ready for the mini bus which was coming to collect us. Eventually the mini bus arrived but unfortunately we could not fit every body and the kit in. The lady who owned the campsite said that she could help us so we loaded a lot of the kit on to her pick up along with Ali and myself. We drove to a school from where we managed to get another mini bus. After this bad start we made it to Mbare bus station. After a little bit of trouble we found the bus we needed to get to Mutare. As transport officer I had to supervise the locals loading our kit on to the top of the bus. Whilst I was doing this the Police kept telling me to get off the roof, so I would climb down and wait until they turned away then I would climb back up. After a few times they threatened to arrest me, so I told Dave and he told me to ignore them and carry on with what I was doing . Eventually we got on to the bus once I had bartered with the conductor for a sensible price. The price started at Z$48, but I said I would pay Z$15 so he agreed as there was 16 of us.

We finally set off from the bus station to Mutare. Every time we stopped we had to keep checking that none of our equipment came off the roof. At one of the stops we decided that we would try some sugar cane as Joe said that it was okay to eat. When we arrived at Mutare bus station we got surrounded by a lot of the locals, who were interested in our equipment. After about half an hour Dave and I discovered what bus we needed and we arranged a price so off we went again. The kit was still on the top and we had to keep checking at every stop. We finally made it to Chimanimani, but we then had to find out where our new campsite was. Luckily for us there was another couple of backpackers who informed us were we had to go.

When we arrived at the campsite (called Haven Lodge), we booked in and sorted ourselves out. That evening we sat around discussing what the plan was for this stage. At about 22:30 we all went to bed.

Tuesday 16th July  1996

As every other day we got up at some unearthly hour. Fortunately we were all getting used to this by now. By 08:00 half of us were packed and ready to go with all the tents, our own personal kit and some of the stoves, to go to the base camp of the Chimanimani’s. We were getting a lift there from someone at Haven Lodge. The journey took almost an hour. Once we got to the base camp we set up camp and Gareth started to cook some porridge. Whilst this was going on I helped James who was accommodation officer for the day by going and booking in at the office. We were lucky that we had James with us as he was the only person who knew how to start the stoves so I left him with the stoves. Whilst trying to sort out the cost of the site I discovered that the person I was talking to wanted to charge us for the whole week. Eventually I managed to lower the price to 2 days worth of fees. I managed this by bribing him with a packet of 20 Benson and Hedges. When Gareth had finally cooked us our breakfast we all had to try to eat it. The second group finally made to us. When they had eaten their breakfast we sorted our kit out for three days up in the mountains.

We set off on what we thought was going to be a couple of hours walking up a very step hill. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side as it was extremely hot and there was not much shade. Most of the times we stopped we had to stop in the sun which did not help the situation at all. On the way up we had few hard moments when people started to get rather jacked off with the whole situation and we had a few cases of cramp. Eventually we made it to the top the hill and we managed to find some shade so we stopped for lunch and a brew. Whilst we were doing this Dave, Emma and Kate went off to see if they could find the mountain hut we were aiming to get to. They got back after finding it, so we all put our packs on again. When we reached the hut we had to make the decision whether to try to get to some of the caves where we wanted to camp the night. After a lot of discussion we decided that we had enough time to make the huts in what day light we had left. Ali and I lead the group across a valley floor in the direction of the caves. The reason we were leading was because we were the two people who had had cramp or knee pains and we were the slowest at that moment in time. When we reached the area of the caves two people went off to see how far the caves were from where we had stopped. They told us that the one we wanted was only about 200 metres so we set off for the cave. The cave was called Red Wall Cave, and we found out why ( The red rocks gave the cave it’s name.). The group split into three teams one to find fire wood, another to make a meal and the third had to make the cave liveable in. By 21:00 we had all eaten and were sitting around a lovely fire having our daily pow wow. During the Pow wow we enrolled Joe as a cadet as he was the only member of the team who was not in the A.T.C., we also promoted him to Corporal at the same time. Finally after a lot of talking and throwing of glow sticks we got to bed.

Wednesday 17th July  1996

We all woke up at varying times due to the sun rising . When Sally woke up she looked over to where Ben, Michelle, Andy and I were sleeping and began to laugh. We did not realise why this was until Ben and I looked at each other we both looked as if we had just come out of a coal mine. Our faces were covered in dirt from where we had slept without anything beneath our sleeping bags. Eventually we managed to cook breakfast and have a wash in a freezing cold pool at the bottom of the waterfall next to us. By the time everybody was ready to leave it was only about 8:00 am. So we set off on our walk back to the wardens lodge where we hoped to stay the night and then we could do some more things in the area. Because we had the afternoon to do what we wanted we decided to take a short walk to some more waterfalls, the Digby’s Falls, It was a fairly short walk to the falls, but in places it was rather step as we had to go down two valley’s we were in.

At the falls we were quite surprised how beautiful they were, I must admit I did not think that waterfalls could be as beautiful as these. We spent about half an hour there falls and in that time we took photos and admired the views . On the way back to the hut we met one of the wardens. The hut was rather cold so we had to purchase some fire wood off him. By the time we had managed to cook our food it was getting rather dark out side so nearly all of us had an early night.

Thursday 18th July 1996

Everybody seem to wake up later than usual, probably because we had had six early mornings in the last week also a few of us had had several late nights. This had been very stupid as this meant that we were trying to survive in a strange county and climate on less sleep than we usually have back in England. A few of us offered to cook breakfast for everybody, which was porridge. Once we had all eaten breakfast we had a group meeting to discuss what we wanted to do during the day and the group decision was to have a day of rest. We used the day to sort out our individual packs and our equipment and also the group kit. By the time we got round to having our tea we had all had a nice relaxing day. I found the day useful as I could sit down and talk to several of the team who I did not really know. During the evening I spent most of it either to talking to Emma, Michelle or Dave. During the pow wow we had a big decision to make and that was about climbing to the top of Mount Binga which is the highest peak in Mozambique just over the border from where we were. The decision was that a team of six would climb to the top and the rest of us would stay behind as the base team, just in case there was an emergency up on the mountain side. Although 10 of us were not climbing we were just as important as those who were climbing and The six who were going to be climbing knew that we were supporting them the whole way up and down.

 

Friday 19th July 1996

Today was the biggest day of the whole time up in the Chamanimani’s. The day that the six fittest would climb to the top of Mount Binga. The six climbers were Dave, Joe Marshall, James, Derek, Kate and Emma. They set off at about 8:30 am just to make sure they had plenty of time to get to the top and back down again before it got dark in the evening. All of us who were staying behind went outside to wave them off and wish them luck. Once they had left us we sat down and had a short meeting on what our role was as the support team, once we had decided what our role was we made a plan of action in case there was an emergency whilst they were climbing.

Whilst we were waiting for the climbing team to return we played cards and every now and then we looked out to see if we could see them returning. The other important thing was to look after the people who were not feeling too well. This meant keeping them warm so we made hot drinks for them and we kept the fire burning all day. During the day a lot of people passed though the hut, on their way to Red Cave or other area’s of attraction in the Chamanimani’s.

Eventually we spotted two people running towards us so we looked though the binoculars and realised that it was Dave and James. So our emergency plan was put into action, kettle on, more wood on the fire and warm dry clothes ready. Two of us put on the two packs we had got ready with 2 tents, a stove, 6 litres of water and lots of dry clothes. By the time Dave and James had reached us we were all ready to go, But we had to wait and find out what Dave wanted us to do. By the time Dave had caught his breath and told us what to do the rest of the team were in sight so Ben and I ditched our packs, and Ali and I ran down the hill side to grab the packs of the two people who were carrying them. Then I was told by Joe to run up to the hut and inform everybody not to keep asking if any of the team were all right and to prepare a bed for Emma and Kate. Emma was suffering from mild hypothermia and Kate had very mild hypothermia.

Once we were all in the hut again and the climbers had warmed up they went off into one of the bed rooms to sleep and keep each other warm. We decided to stay another night and leave early in the morning.

Saturday 20 th July 1996

We got up early again and left on our journey to base camp at 8 am. The journey down took us longer than we expected due to the fact that some of us we not feeling at all well. Even though this was the case we still seemed to try and speed down the hillside. Unfortunately on the way down Michelle twisted her ankle so Dave took her pack as well as his own and I walked in front of her guiding her down the hill. There we several moments when tempers start to flare up a bit but the people who stayed calm cooled the tempers off. On two occasions Dave, Michelle, Derek, Joe M. and myself were at the back and had lost sight of the rest of the team so we stopped because everybody else seemed to be thinking more about getting to the transport and showers rather than thinking of the team. In the end I lost my temper and told the leader that Michelle was to go at the front because you are only as fast as the slowest person in your team. Eventually we made it down to base camp in time to meet the transport back to Haven Lodge and as First Aider for the day I made sure that all the people who were not feeling well left on the first load. On arrival we sorted out showers and other things that needed to be organised. We spent the rest of the day relaxing. During the pow wow we discussed the plan for our next phase..

Conclusion for the whole of the expedition.

During this expedition we all learnt about our limitations, qualities and down falls. Yes, there were times where I screwed up and at those times I was grateful that I had the rest of the team to assist me in the areas that I found extremely hard. I am aware that some of the group found it very hard to cope when things did not seem to go the way they were planned, especially when members of the team only seemed to think about themselves rather than the rest of the team. I am going to use the three categories to conclude about myself:

1) Limitations

During the time in Zimbabwe I discovered a lot of limitations in myself. I did find out that my lack of organisational skills slowed me down rather a lot when I was team leader. I also clarified with myself that hill walking is not one of my strongest activities, I felt limited on the amount of food and sleep we all got in the first week or so, and I feel this played a role in my short temper which I had to struggle to keep under control. My temper is one of my limitations which I am still finding hard to cope with but as I learn more about myself this become easier.

2) Down Falls

My major down fall during the time in Zimbabwe was my attitude of being egotistical at times and this did get in the way of the groups progress in working as a team. I did suffer from other failures, unfortunately they are really hard to explain but they all seem to boil down to being selfish in one way or another.

3) Qualities.

I went out to Zimbabwe thinking that I did not really have any qualities which would help the team to succeed and I soon learnt that I was very much mistaken . On the plane over to Africa I found out that I had prepared myself well as far as hand luggage was concerned, as one of the group suffered from motion sickness during the flight and I had my Avomine within easy reach. It was not until we had been away for almost two weeks I felt my qualities improving. On the first occasion Michelle, one of our team, was celebrating her Birthday whilst we were on safari in Matopos National Park, and after speaking with Joe Marshall I decided that it would be a nice idea to by her a present and card. The second incident was at Victoria Falls when a member of the team had almost run out of money and could not afford to purchase presents for his family at home and I was able to lend him some. A member of the other team also had a birthday whilst at Victoria Falls so a few of us clubbed together and went down to the local Night Club and help him celebrate his Birthday. The other time I remember was when Ali injured his ankle and had to face the fact that he might have to go home. There was talk that a member of the staff would have to go with him. Out of the blue I asked if it had to be a member of staff or could it be someone who is over 18. I was willing to volunteer to go with him so that other people did not feel as if they had been forced into going with him.

I did not realise at the time that my actions were useful in helping individual morale and in promoting team spirit and identity.

 

Achievements

Even though I achieved a lot during the expedition I found training and preparing for the expedition valuable too. My best achievement before the expedition was organising fund-raising for the trip. My first major event was a sixties dance which took a lot of preparation and attention to detail. I had to book the band and the venue, design and print the tickets, decide how to provide a hot fish & chips / chicken & chips supper, organise a raffle etc. . At the dance I also promoted my parachute jump and got sponsors for that. I found the jump very hard as I am afraid of heights but now I have done it I would go back and do it again. Another very useful asset before the expedition was getting to know the other people going and working towards 100% team work in all the training which we had to go through.

During the time in Africa I feel that I personally achieved a lot more then I expected that I would. Although I found some of the goals rather hard and strenuous I feel that I learnt courage and found a willingness to go on and take the rough with the smooth. During the first two weeks of the trip we all had to work really hard at getting on with each other and these phases were the most difficult of the whole expedition. The reason they were the hardest was because we were in a strange country and in our mountain phases so we could not afford to have any one really fall out with each other. We did have a few moments where things went wrong but after we all sat down and discussed the problems and were all aware of them and we could help each other when there were tense times. I would say that this was one of the whole groups biggest achievements. I certainly feel that this was definitely true for me as I know that I have a very short temper at times particularly when I am tired or under pressure.

The next achievement that will always stick in my mind is when six members of our team climbed Mount. Binga. The rest of us just made ourselves comfy at the mountain hut where we were staying but we had to be ready for anything that could go wrong because we could be the difference between life and death. Thankfully being prepared paid off when one of the six came down with hypothermia. It felt as if we all had played a part in their success.

A great group achievement was when we were climbing Mount. Nyanga as a team and we all managed to reach the top after a few stops due to people not feeling to good and the weather being very hot. Once at the top we were all pleased, but then we had to walk back to the main campsite which was about 15 Km away and the smiles soon vanished.

Goals

My main goal when I set out on this expedition was to raise the money so that I could take part and thankfully I succeeded in that. During the training we were all set a lot of goals to aim for and I am very pleased to say looking back at the whole experience that I feel that I completed every one which was ahead of me. It was important that I made sure that I was a member of a team rather than just another member of a group of cadets on an expedition. I think that I was helped in completing this goal by the way the adult members of staff assisted everyone though the intense training encouraging us as a team rather than individuals.

Once in Africa my main task was to try to do everything to the best of my ability. I feel that I completed this one and at the same time I learnt a lot more about my abilities. This helped me in learning more about myself in the time we were in Zimbabwe, and I discovered a lot than I thought I would. It seemed to me that almost everybody had the same idea at one stage or another. Completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award was the one goal I have wanted to complete every since I joined cadets almost four years ago and I now know I am very close to finishing it.

Personal Report

This next paragraph is what the staff said about me:-

SAVILLE Jeremy (Jez)

A cadet with a heart of gold, well respected and liked by all the group. A good team player but did sometimes put himself before others. Whenever a group needed to achieve a goal Jez was one of the main players and the group owes a great deal to him for his effort during Zimbabwe ‘96.

My Personal View on the whole Expedition..

In my view I think that the whole expedition went really well and was a learning experience for everybody concerned. If the opportunity for me to repeat this type of expedition again I would jump at the chance. I have learnt that although things go wrong at time they are still part of the exciting times to be had. Even though we had some minor set backs they do not cloud my vision of the fun I had in Zimbabwe. For me this was the most valuable experience of my life so far. It is definitely an experience that I will never forget.

Air Training Corps Expedition To Zimbabwe

Nominal Roll  Group 2

 

ADULTS

Dave HILL

Joanne KETT

Gareth MARRIOT

Joe MARSHALL

 

CADETS

Sally COURTNADGE

Andrew CRESSWELL

Michelle FORMAN

Emma HARLEY

Alistair HENNING

Derek JAMES

Ben JELLEY

James MACKEY

Kate O’SHAUGHNESSEY

Davinia PETCH

Thomas REYNOLDS

Jeremy SAVILLE

 

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