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Updated: Jul 15, 2021

Six students from the Axium Senior School Program were selected to attend the schools tree planting festival at Terra Khaya Backpackers in Hogsback this year. Those selected had shown a love for nature as well as committed attendance in 2018. In reflections written after the trip, they shared their experience with other learners. Their words recreate the adventure, with all the many highs and lows that travelling away from home may bring:

The view of the Hog's Back from Terra Khaya (photo credit: Shane Eades)

"It was Friday morning, the sun was rising up and the animals were enjoying the sunrise. It was time for me to wake up and pack everything I needed, it was like I was going to the moon! I started walking from my house to the bus stop to meet Ant there. Fortunately we arrived at the same time. I was so excited to start my journey." - Alulo

Unfortunately this excitement was slightly dampened by discovering that the journey there – further than any of the students had travelled before - felt really, really long.

"It was so boring there because we wasted our time in our car because it was a very long distance to Terra Khaya. I was so hungry because our food was only biscuits and apples while Ant was driving and there was no music that can calm our minds." - Zethu

"After six hours we were standing there with our clothes, mattresses and blankets outside the room under the trees. There were two women that were assisting us to know everything about Terra Khaya and there were many dogs, also these women told us how to deal with the dogs, horse, etc. and assisted us by giving us the sleeping room. That day was so hot." - Khanyile

Though bored and sweaty, we were cheered up by being very warmly welcomed on arrival. Terra Khaya looked after everyone really well.

"There was a special sister who loves children. She guided us. She gave us a room. She also took care of us." - Yonga

A few more challenges were about to be dished onto our plates, however. After getting acquainted with everyone in ice-breaker games, it was time for dinner…vegetarian dinner.

". . .after the game the bell was ringing and they told us that we must go to the other house because it is time for catering. The food that we ate it was having more vegetables. Everything had a vegetable, besides tea, even bread had a vege." Khanyile

"… after the games we just had dinner which have lots of vegetables. I did not eat dinner because it had more vegetables than I have ever seen before." - Yonga

"Some of us are shocked because they don’t understand that in that place, there is vegetarians only." - Sandiso

While we fear some may have fallen asleep to dreams of monster broccoli, the culture shock of the diet still wasn’t enough to quell our excitement for the main event the next day.

"I woke up early at 04:00 with Khanyile and we danced with cellphone music (house music). Although we danced Alulo did not join us because he wants to sleep but then he joined us to dance because he thought that this day is the day that he shall never forget! It is the time to become liberated, free, and happy. We washed our bodies with water (hot) from showers and we listened for when the bell rang." - Sandiso

The actual tree planting was smooth and inspiring, run by professional tree planters. We are very grateful for the planning and logistics that went into growing/rescuing/moving all of the trees.

The main event! Rescued trees waiting to be planted (Photo credit: Shane Eades)

"…. we ate breakfast, after breakfast we did some exercises so that we are ready to plant trees. Everybody was very happy. Then we were divided into groups: planters, diggers, and other things. So I was a planter. The thing that made me surprised was that after all the work we did the guy that was involved said: “We planted 600 trees!!” I also counted the trees that I planted and I planted 31 trees!! This made me become very happy and I think I’m going to back after 20 years to see the trees." - Alulo

"I like the style that we were doing after we plant a tree. It was: “Very good! Very Good Ehhhhhh!”" - Yonga

And we even got food that wasn’t veges!

"They did as they could with the food they made sure that we are not hungry we ate popcorns, biscuits, apples, bananas as workers." - Zethu

The weekend was punctuated with team building exercises and new ways of learning. NO PENS. NO BOOKS. NO REPITITION. More questions, discussion, and action to plant seeds of love for nature. There was a great variety of schools in attendance, making for some incredible interactions - some of the schools even have eco clubs and could share their experiences.

"There was one thing that I learnt which is very important: it is to know that deforestation is bad and if it happens we are going to die. - Analo

"We have learnt a lot about nature and how to take care of it. I knew why we must have trees and that many people cut trees, and that is fighting with the trees, people must learn how to work with nature, not to fight with it." - Alulo

The festival was supported by an energetic acting crew that gave so much. They put on an incredible performance of their water aware play, Galela. It was a special treat for students to meet professional actors, expanding their references for possible future careers and ways of being.

"The following day (Saturday) we saw a play and had a party and there were actors, Lerato and Biggy. Our teacher was very excited – a joy that I had never seen. It was so funny, he was dancing and jumping and I was looking at him and I saw that he likes to be with others and enjoy the day." - Zethu

"19:30 the party started. We were dancing and also we were very happy. Everything was fun in Hogsback, nothing went wrong. By 12:00 we went to our beds to sleep." - Analo

After an unashamed weekend of tree hugging and environmental exploration, we descended the mountain armed with a packed lunch of mini-gwinya with tomato and cheese. Out of the clouds and back onto the plains. A short venture into an alternative space. New references, new experiences and many new questions.

"I wish after 10 years I will see those trees with my family. I want to say to Ant: thank you for travelling long distance with us and for bringing us back without a problem." - Sandiso

The whole team together after a hard days work in the forest (Shane Eades)

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