By Sam Pollan, ’14
A walk in the woods should never be overlooked. Our ventures outside of the classroom have proved to be some of the most valuable experiences of the semester, even if they did not directly relate to our studies. While some field trips, such as our lab where we examined the sediment record at Gettysburg, did provide pertinent information for our studies, other trips offered alternate benefits. Our hikes in the Drakensberg National Park, Hluhluwe Game Reserve, and Krantzkloof Nature Reserve gave us a chance to step back from our hectic time at the COP and with Makaphutu and take a breath of fresh air.
While the first few weeks at the conference covered an incessant whirlwind of activities from daybreak until well after sundown, there was still enough time for the occasional stroll on the beach so we could stretch our legs and dip our feet into the Indian Ocean. I had been expecting our final week to be slower with plenty of time to sit back and relax. As I soon found out, this was not the case. We had an afternoon to hike around the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve before jumping right back into action at the Makaphutu Children’s Village. The drive to the reserve was slightly disconcerting as we went through some South African suburbs with intimidating security fences in a seemingly endless maze of houses and side streets. Finally, after several missed and wrong turns, we came out into an extreme landscape of forested cliffs and huge waterfalls. The hike brought us to some amazing views overlooking the valley and even right next to zebras.
Following another set of hard-working and emotional days working with Lily of the Valley, Makaphutu, and other people in the Valley of 1000 Hills, our group set out for the Drakensberg National Park for one last well-deserved adventure. The Drakensberg is incredible and our time there was phenomenal. Setting out from the Valley in dreary, rainy weather, we were a little apprehensive about the long drive, however, the weather quickly changed and became a beautiful partly cloudy day; perfect for hiking. The trail brought us past magnificent views, giant waterfalls, and cool swimming pools. The outdoor adventures on this trip have been some of the most amazing hikes I have ever taken and the experiences certainly will stay with me forever.