Back in July of this year, a number of Hockey and Netball players embarked on an unforgettable journey to South Africa. Our journey began in Stellenbosch, a picturesque town of vineyards and gorgeous backdrops for our first sports trainings and matches. We played against local school teams, but these matches were more than just games; they were a chance to build connections with fellow athletes from a whole new side of the world. The sense of camaraderie that developed on and off the pitch was truly special.
After a short coach journey into Cape Town, we started the morning off in the sea having a surf lesson, in complete awe of Miss Wilcock’s surfing ability. We had lunch at a café on the beach and then headed back to the hotel to enjoy the rooftop pool before going out to dinner in Cape Town.
The next day we went to Table Mountain and got the cable car up to the top to see the amazing views. We then spent time exploring Cape Town’s bustling streets, markets and landmarks before having the opportunity to play more matches against a top school, Wynberg.
One of the most memorable highlights of our trip was our visit to Langa Township. The vibrant community offered us a unique perspective on the resilience and warmth of South African people. We engaged in cultural exchanges, visited local schools and artists, and spent the day holding hands with and receiving unconditional hugs from the children of Langa. We also shared our love for sports by playing matches against the Langa teams, elevated by the backdrop of the Cape Peninsula. It was a humbling experience that left a lasting impression on us and reminded us of the importance of giving back.
Our adventure culminated in Pretoria, Johannesburg with a spontaneous drive around a nature reserve, greeted by fighting and mating lions and giraffes only an arm’s length away. We spent the rest of the day touring a cultural village learning about the many tribes and languages that find home in South Africa, learning to play bongos, eating traditional food, and watching their dances.
We then reached our final destination at the Entibeni game reserve and were more than excited to be told to keep our food hidden so we did not wake up with monkeys in our lodges! We went on a sunset safari drive that got prolonged due to an unfortunate tyre puncture within a few metres of some wild lions. Next, we were greeted back in a hall heated by two fireplaces at each end to enjoy a warm meal and our last night together, playing the bongos and singing Disney songs around the fire. The 5.30 am alarm the next morning was all worth it when we were watching the sunrise over the lake and driving around the reserve, with the crisp fresh air surrounded by rhinos and warthogs.
On the way home, we squeezed in a last opportunity to learn more about South Africa’s history at the Apartheid Museum, where we gained a deeper understanding of past struggles and triumphs.
South Africa left an indelible mark on us, and we returned home with hearts full of gratitude, memories to last a lifetime, and an important lesson learnt about the power of sport and how it brings people together.