“Bot River is not for the faint hearted city folk…”
On the 24 August 2012, eleven eager learners from Project 90×2030 Environmental Club along with Mrs. Salie and Mr. Nigel Pfister left at approximately 10 o’clock for what would be described as:
“A weekend most of us anticipated”. We left on a reasonably sunny day with not many clouds in the sky (so far so good). It was a long drive but many of us kept each other company. After many of us got bored of each other’s voices, the MP3s and IPods slowly started coming out…
We finally arrived at our home for a weekend which was a very comfortable and cozy double story wooden house with a large garden surrounding it. After the grueling task of dragging our entire luggage up the rickety staircase, we all slowly started feeling more and more comfortable. An hour passed and reality kicked when Mrs. Salie made us aware of the main goal of the weekend: To spend long hours chopping down the dreaded Port Jackson, an alien plant species which infested the surrounding areas of the Bot River. For many of us, this realization was a shock since many probably thought this was a weekend of fun and relaxation…
After putting on our Wellington boots and grabbing the equipment we trotted down to the site where we would be working for the next three days. On arrival we were placed into teams consisting of a sawer, a chopper and a person who will gently paint poison over the chopped down Port Jackson to avoid it from growing again. Each team was allocated to a certain area where they would gradually eliminate any Port Jacksons in their path. After a long two hours of hard work in the baking sun, we decided to take a short break alongside the river. To our surprise we found a long strand of quicksand stretching far into the river. Since there was no TV or cell phone reception, out of boredom and total stupidity we decided to take a stroll into the quicksand (BIG MISTAKE). Eight meters into the quicksand, various members slowly started sinking one by one into the ground. One member even lost a sock in the process (still missing to this day).
After a long day of poisoning, chopping and sinking into the earth, we retired back to the house where each of us enjoyed a hot shower, amazing Breyani and the comfort of having something else besides Wellington boots on our feet. As the night progressed we ended up playing various card games such as Cheat and Blowfish till the early hours of the morning (who needs TV when you got cards?).
The second day brought wind, rain and cold, however this didn’t stop us from journeying back to the site from the previous day and hacking those aliens. As the day progressed, many started to feel the tiredness and cold. There were a lot of crankiness and mood swings throughout the day, especially amongst the girls. At about midday, our working conditions weren’t at all suitable to work in due to the approaching storm, so we quickly headed home.
At home we were treated to a rather satisfying lunch of fish and chips and continued our card games till the rain stopped. At about four we headed back for round two, however this time, our goal was to clean up the litter around the area since almost all of the Port Jacksons were gone. While picking up litter we discovered various fauna around the area such as moles, field mice and the scariest, a snake. The snake was unfortunately dead at the time but it still sent shivers down your spine looking at it. After filling three bags full of litter along the river bank we retired back home.
The final night’s supper involved a group effort: A braai. While the boys bonded and learnt the unique art and talent of braaiing from Mrs. Salie’s husband outside, the girls prepared over four salads inside. In half an hour supper was complete. You really learn to satisfy food more if you cooked it…
On Sunday many woke up early to do some packing before we left. At around ten that morning we were treated to a ride around the area. We visited places such as the river mouth nearby and a trip into Hermanus where we went Whale watching and thrift shopping in the local flea market. We ended it all with a stop at a local coffee shop for some deserts and milkshakes. We arrived back home early afternoon where we packed up our final items and did a cleanup (first time for many). After saying our thanks and goodbyes to Mr. Pfister, we were on the road back home. There was a sad and awkward silence in the car on our way home as many would agree: “It was the end of the weekend we looked forward to all year, and now that it’s over, life is just boring again…”
A huge thanks to Mrs. Salie and Mr. Pfister who acted as our parents over the weekend and Mr. Mars for providing transport for us.
Matthew Daniels – Project 90 Club Member at St Georges Grammar School