Lost in the Zuurberg Mountains

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
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Trip End Jun 06, 2013


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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

One of the craziest experiences I have had thus far in South Africa was on one of my first socials I put together for the Life Teen youth group at the church. I keep forgetting to write about it, actually part of me is just a little embarrassed... but here it goes.

Back on the 1st of December I planned a hiking trip through the indigenous vegetation of the Zuurberg Mountains. Not only was it a way to get the teens away from their phones and media and to see God's creation like they've never seen before, but it was also nice for myself to see a new part of Africa. I had the indemnity forms turned in by all the parents, transport figured out, a playlist for each car, and a First Aid kit packed and ready to go. I also was reassured by Father Jerry that he knew the way, so there was no stress. We had a guide who'd done the hike before!

Perfect.

When we arrived at the Zuurberg Inn, where the trail starts, the Park Ranger warned us that because of the heavy rains over the past month (we had cancelled for this reason a few weeks before... not to mention the Puff Header Snakes that were out in an abundance), she advised we just do the circular 1-hour hike. Well, we planned for the 4-hour hike (including a lunch break) and Father Jerry wasn't going to let a little rain-deteriorated trail stop us. So we pressed on, paying for our entrance fee and going on an adventures of a life time.

It was all going amazingly well. We hiked through narrow dirt trails, up and down the valley seeing some of the most gorgeous views and stopping at a creek where we ate lunch on rocks. It was so peaceful and beautiful. In addition, the teens were bonding like never before. It was so neat to see them all enjoying themselves. Even the girly girls who didn't want any mud on them, were walking through an over-flooded creek in their tekkies (tennis shoes), holding hands to help everyone over the rocks. Teens from all schools were walking and joking with one-another. It was a great group.

However, after 3 hours I sensed immediately that something was wrong. Father Jerry was in the front of the pack while I was in the back, making sure there were no stragglers. Well, all of a sudden I see Father Jerry go running past me telling me just to keep the group all together. After finally catching up with the rest of the group, they were all looking tired and confused. Many of the parents who came along asked how much longer we had. I had no idea. They were looking real tired. 

I didn't know what to tell them as Father Jerry didn't even tell me. People started checking their reception. One phone had reception. It was also getting cloudy and cooler and you could see that after 10 minutes of standing, everyone could tell we weren't on track.

Sure enough. Father Jerry came back to us and said we (he meant to say "he" I am sure haha) must have missed the turn but that there was no way. He had a map. He insisted we press on. A bit further up, we saw an abandoned farmhouse that he didn't recognize. Then he took off with three parents up this HUGE hill to see if we could get reception. Without saying anything I knew, it was official. We. were. lost. By this point many teens were asking to run up the hill too, getting nervous that their parents were at the Church waiting for them, they had other activities to be back for, that they were tired and thirsty and so on

After some convincing and calming we all stuck together and walked up the hill together. At the top everyone just sat there looking exhausted. I finally insisted we call back to the Inn and have a ranger come get us. We used the GPS on someone's phone to get the coordinates. We were all just praying this one phone that had reception wouldn't die on us. We also then got a few messages out to parents who thankfully went to the Church to tell the parents we'd be 2 hours late (eventually turning into about 5 hours late). Anyway, there was no turning back. Some of the boys were still helping one of the older parents who came along get up the hill. I was a bit nervous for her.

When he called, Father Jerry got an ear full from the Ranger back at the lodge. We were way off track and she warned him not to do this hike because the signs were washed away. Oops. Long story short, it took the Ranger an hour to get to us. We strategized like no other, sending some drivers in the first truckload down along with a few teens who had to get back. Well it took another hour and a half before the Ranger got us all down the hill. Then we all sat there another hour waiting for our drivers to get to us. We were on the other side of the mountain and the road conditions were terrible for these cars. We are so lucky they all didn't get scraped up underneath. On the way back over every pothole the passengers in the cars had to get out and back in. Haha. It was like a movie.

Although tired and hungry, we have a story of a life time. The teens stayed so positive and I am so proud of them. They were laughing and joking, talking with the Rangers at the campsite, taking photos, and just enjoying the adventure of it all. The next day at Life Teen, the teens who didn't go were really regretting it. I must admit, it was pretty cool being rescued in a Land Rover on top of a mountain in Africa.

I am so blessed it turned out so positive. I think Father Jerry was very humbled by this experience as well haha. Next time, I think we will trust the Ranger's opinion!!! 
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