The day began with a coaching session led by project manager Sean, who brings a wealth of experience in a trek environment, having grown up in Australia and venturing in New Zealand and South-East Asia. He conducted a packing demonstration, which included advice on weight distribution as well as rucksack adjustments. He also took us through the setting up of tents and best practice when using them; Sean’s aptitude shines through in the many outdoor hacks he relays, which paired with his enthusiasm was great preparation ahead of the trek. Sean said, “It’s great when people put themselves in wilderness environments because when they do, they can feel the interconnection of it all and see why conservation is important.”
Following the training session, we split the volunteer managers into two teams and distributed the standard issued kit for trek which includes a compass and GPS system; washing bowls; a jerrycan; a shovel; a machete and plenty of food.
We set off on a beaten path of red soil and soon found ourselves scrambling up brown hills and plodding down steep slopes, all the while surrounded by the magnificent views Morogoro had to offer. The sun was intense, albeit appearing sporadically, which softened its blow. On either side of the track, we could see small houses built on slants and children looking down at us, eager to wave and say hello.
We rotated leadership and navigation duties, an integral aspect of this phase and something every participant will have a turn on; we reached a school at the summit of a hill and were greeted by an enthusiastic group of students in blue uniforms, taking the opportunity to practice our respective Swahili and English skills. After a quick gathering of bearings and goodbyes said, we walked along the path which led to a steep hill. Near the bottom we could see a gulch and hear the stream flow, which meant we were near the scout camp where we were due to stop for lunch. We set down steadily and with some help from a local family, pointing us in the right direction, we made it to camp.
Raleigh trek lunch proved an exercise in creativity; highlights were crackers with cream cheese and corned beef or tuna as well as banana chips dipped in strawberry jam. The more intrepid in our groups even went as far as jam on cheese and jam on corned beef cracker combos. The point was sustenance was essential for the last stretch and will be crucial for the much longer and more demanding trek phase on programme.
The adventure lasted little over five hours and I am happy to say there were no reports of chafed feet. However, expedition trek days are much more demanding and can go for up to 20km. The purpose of the practice was to become familiar with some of the realities of trek and aware of precautions we should take to ensure its success. Having that perspective will be a stepping stone to leading by example and providing the necessary support for volunteers to thrive in; we often talk about life changing experiences with Raleigh and it became clear to us this phase will ensure all volunteers are challenged into going beyond their comfort zone while instilling a culture of resilience and leadership.
Reflection will be an important tool at the end of every day, in order to tackle the next one and the one after that. We reflected on the trek as well as what comes next on the volunteer manager agenda: project planning visits and phase allocations.
Look for updates on those next week!
Words by Miguel. Images by Paul and Sean.