Running the Trail
After 3 teams combined efforts over the past 2 weeks, the trail was set, and the runners were ready. Stalls serving goat stew and locals selling their art stood round an open fire, while excited runners wearing multicoloured patterned shorts prepared for the race.
5 Eager E-girls joined the mass, Bessie and Jo for the 10km and Beth, Edie and Beth for the 5km. The run was far from easy, with many challenges along the trail run. They all agreed that the terrain provided the biggest challenge, with rocks falling as they went up the steep slope, preventing them running fast and making it easy to fall. Despite this they overcame it and were rewarded with the gorgeous views of a river and mountains in the game reserve
Through a finish line surrounded by e-girls, the runners entered to loud applause and cheering. Beth even said that the “atmosphere as you finish” was the best part of the run.
Despite Bessie being unsure of whether or not to run, she finished first in the 10km. She said she “loved it” and “felt so proud to have completed it. We were excited to have Bessie finish first in the 10km, and in the 5km Beth finishing 2nd and Edie finishing 3rd.
When the results were announced, there was a repeated joke about how the first man was “2nd overall”, whilst also leaving us with the message that you don’t know what you can do unless you try.By the end everyone was laughing as we received three trees, that despite our best packing efforts would be unable to travel home with us. They now stand in the campsite, ready for other campers to admire.
Working at the Reserve
In the days leading up to the event we worked harder than we ever had before! Tal, the manager of the game reserve, had a never-ending list of jobs for us to complete, but we sped through the, laughing and having fun the entire time. One group Wof us rode in the back of a tractor, piled with soil, and used the strength we gained at project to lift rocks and shovel soil to flatten the area around the campsite.
After several wheelbarrows full of rocks had been picked up, we arranged them jigsaw style into a bridge for vehicles to cross over. The other group rode in the back of Tal’s van, artfully dodging branches that came their way, to tie scarps of fabric to trees to show runners their route, which included a steep section of rock that made up part of the 10km and 18km.
For most, the best part of conservation was the game count, sitting in the back of a truck and banging on the window every time an animal furtively poked its head out of the bush. We would then attempt to count the 30 impala and wildebeest as they sprinted away from us. And as we came back, we were able to grab an ice cream in the gift shop, which was a welcomed treat.
The next day the hard work didn’t stop, as we spent half the day hacking at the bases of alien plants with pickaxes and tearing them out of the ground. They had spread over a large area, almost engulfing the plants beneath, so as we tugged the branches down, we could easily see the difference we were making.
The Return to Hlane
Most evenings were spent round the campfire singing loudly and swaying together, while the rest of the afternoon we read on the giant rocks near the river, that we named the tanning rock(or tock).We left conservation happy, knowing how much we helped for the race and after having an incredible time.
The return to Hlane was filled the anticipation of the last night camping. Huddled up in as many layers as we could manage, we awoke at 5:30 for the sunrise safari. Not only did a lion maintain eye contact with us as it walked barely 2 metres from our van, but we heard it roar as it communicated with another lion, a sound none of us are likely to forget any time soon.
An Elephant was the next animal we came across, and we all watched mesmerized as it slowly devoured an entire bush in front of our eyes.
After a quick lunch we were back out for a rhino safari, which included trekking towards them and seeing them up-close. In particular we watched as a young male tried and succeeded to be accepted into a group of bachelor rhinos.
After a hoard of other animals, such as Nyala, Impala and Bushbuck, a final treat lay in store for us as we got the opportunity to walk among a group of giraffes.
Shopping and Zipwires
Compared to our tents, the log cabins were the height of luxury with hot showers and a microwave! On the first day we spent our time relaxing and catching up on some much-needed sleep, since the fog meant we could barely see from one log cabin to another, so a trek was out of the question. The day was far from boring when some of the team got locked inside a cabin with a handyman as he tried to fix our lock, with him repeating “This is not good, I want to get out” while jiggling the key on the lock for five minutes. That night Jo led us through an activity to do with writing a letter to your younger self, after reading hers out as an example, she looked up to see that there was not a dry eye in the room. The next day we were up early, a mix of excitement and nerves as we squashed into the communal log cabin, to eat breakfast before we went zip wiring.
After a short journey in a safari truck, we reached the first zipwire, to prepare us for the larger ones. By the end everyone was running and jumping of the platforms, and hurtling down a zipwire called Ferrari, the fastest one they have. The zipwires and suspension bridge zoomed by and soon we were back in a bus after packing up our log cabins. One of our souvenir shopping opportunities came in the shape in of Ngwenya glass and the shops that surround it.
We entered Legends saddened by the knowledge that we only have 2 nights left yet overjoyed to finally see the place Jenny told us so much about. The brightly coloured walls and intriguing decorations drew us in as we passed a python and a bike with a sink in place of handles. The last time cooking was filled with smiles as the team prepared fajitas and chocolate puddings with ice cream. While we ate Jo told us stories of her time on Everest and what she has learnt, leaving us all wishing to continue travelling in the future. Our final activity, horse riding, rounded the corner and buzzing with excitement, we enjoyed riding and sometimes even trotting (or cantering for the advanced group) past zebras and impalas.
Our trip ended with a group dinner at a local pizzeria, complete with mocktails and mini animal bowls from Jenny as a present, that she bought from 40 different shops. As a group we decided to alternate the year groups, to prove how much we have bonded over the time we have spent in Eswatini. After dinner a large campfire awaited us and we toasted marshmallows and received awards from Beth and Kirsty, which we were delighted to receive. There were many tears as it finally hit us that this was the end.
The Trip of a Lifetime
Jenny has put together a trip of a lifetime for us to enjoy and we have all made sure to take every opportunity and make the most of it. While there has been highs and lows, its not just our perspectives that have changed but our confidence too. We learnt so much about working as a team and being the best person we can be. We have Jo to thank for helping us to feel more confident, particularly before church as she got us doing wonder women poses, telling us to be brave, be bold and be curious. Thank you from all of E-Girls, to Jo, Jenny, Beth and Kirsty for making this an incredible experience.