In July, a group of students and staff enjoyed a trip of a lifetime to Namibia and South Africa as part of this year's Sports Tour. Read more about some of the many highlights from Mr Rule who helped organise this year's tour.
We arrived in Namibia and were pleasantly surprised to discover the glorious weather from the Wirral had followed us. Shorts and T-shirts were the order of the day and, after settling into our rooms, everyone descended on the open air swimming pool for some recuperation from the overnight flight. We had our first fixture against Windhoek High School the following day and, whilst we put on an impressive performance in both matches, the altitude, our fitness and the excellent organisation of the opposition all played their parts in seeing our two sides defeated comfortably. The after dinner hosting was as good as we received throughout the tour, however, and we headed back to the hotel feeling very optimistic about what was ahead of us.
After a long drive to Walvis Bay we grabbed a bite to eat and then took on two of the great highlights of the tour, the quadbiking and dune boarding. The wisdom of the organisers to add speedometers to the quadbikes was brought into question as we motored around the dunes of the Kalahari Desert.
Dune boarding was equally thrilling, although the sheer exhaustion of climbing back up the dunes meant that most were satisfied by just one go. The following day we went on a ‘Sea Safari’, which, despite being shockingly chilly, did not disappoint. Pelicans, seals and dolphins were all on show and our tourists were treated to wildlife lectures from two very knowledgeable guides.
We arrived at Karibib Private School that afternoon a little earlier than planned and were given time to have a training session on their local playing fields. We stayed in the School hostel that night, with basic facilities and five to a room. Following a dash round the local supermarket the tour settled down to a picnic tea and a quiz. Later we would generally agree that this was one of the best nights on tour. The following day didn’t disappoint either with two fantastic wins against our hosts and an enormous braai. The 1st XV match provided the most entertainment with the boys coming back from a two-point deficit to win in the closing minutes. The ‘best day on tour’ was concluded with a trip to one of Windhoek’s finest restaurants and a chance to see the closing stages of England’s win in the Cricket World Cup.
The next few days were spent purely on R&R. We travelled to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and stayed in a camp on the edge of the ‘bush’. We were treated to two game drives, seeing the nearly extinct black rhino, cheetahs, hippos, buffalo and countless other animals, but the highlight had to be the male and female lions who wandered out of the long grass and right past our vehicles.
A day was also spent at Sun City, where several of our party got to play the Gary Player championship golf course and others had a swim and Segway experience.
The next leg of our tour took us to a very wet and stormy Cape Town. This was to be the only inclement weather on tour, but it did manage to put to bed any ideas of seeing Robbin Island or climbing Table Mountain. Hosted for the first time, this added a different dimension to the tour and allowed the players spend time with South African families and get to know some of the players they would be facing off against the following day during the match. The whole School came out to watch our third fixture and despite great endeavour by the second team and a tremendous second half by the first team, we came away with two further defeats.
Licking our wounds, both literal and metaphorical, we headed down the garden route on our last leg of the tour. Arriving in Oudtshoorn we were treated to another Braai containing three varieties of meat. I think at this point a coastal seafood dinner at Plettenberg Bay couldn’t come quickly enough. We played two more matches the following day against Oudtshoorn High School, but with injuries mounting the second team fixture was shortened and the first team match ended in a comfortable defeat. Once again the local attractions were available to lift spirits and the Ostrich Farm and Wildlife Ranch didn’t disappoint. A number of tourists took advantage of the animal encounters and we treated Mike Hayward to a Cheetah Experience for his 59th birthday.
On route to Port Elizabeth, we stopped over in Plettenberg Bay and, as well as seeing the final stages of the Open and being treated to a fish dinner, we also got to relax on the beach. In spite of my reservations and rising heart rate, several players and staff to the opportunity to have a dip in the sea. Which I’m reliably informed was a highlight of the tour.
The next day we drove to the Addo Elephant park and had another game drive. As advertised, elephants were in plentiful supply and we did manage to grab sight of another lion, this time sleeping under a nearby tree.
Port Elizabeth was the final stop on our tour and it’s pretty safe to say that our tourists had little left to give. Billeted for the last time by Grey High School players stayed with extremely welcoming hosts and were treated to even more Braais and meals out. Beset with injuries we played a combined first and second team against a mixed Grey High School team, but struggled to gel in the face of dominating opposition. A number of junior tourists stepped up and performed well, but unfortunately defeat was inevitable. This was perhaps one match too many for a squad that had given its all but on whom the tour had taken its toll.
We arrived back at School to glorious sunshine and were greeted with the smiling faces of our loved ones. Looking at the tourists as they slowly drifted away I could see they were exhausted and would likely sleep for a week, but there was no denying that they had had experiences that would stay with them for the rest of their lives.