Senior Scout Adventure: 1978 Witzenberg
4th National Senior Scout Adventure - Great Witzenberg - 1978/79
The promotional literature by the Adventure Chief Colin Inglis read as follows: -
CAMPING AND HIKING in the shadow of the jagged ridges of the Great Witzenberg with its huge slabs, deep ravines, high vlakte, and river valleys - plunging kloofs with waterfalls hurling themselves into huge pools - eroded sandstone carved by the elements into thousands of grotesque shapes.
ADVENTURE hiking in the back country - exploring the kloofs, camping in the wilderness of the mountains, climbing peaks, tackling the 'Voyageur Expedition' down the Olifants River - sailing, canoeing, water-skiing, clay pigeon shooting, pioneering - add up to a recipe for fun and real he-man adventuring. These were ingredients for the 1979 National Senior Scout Adventure in the Great Witzenberg.
News of the plan to hold the Adventure, which would be open to all Scouts in the Movement, spread like wild fire throughout all Areas. Entries poured in thick and fast and before long more than 450 boys had made application. Scouts came from all parts of South Africa, South West Africa and Rhodesia. We were particularly pleased to welcome the 31 Rhodesians who travelled 1500 miles to attend the Adventure. Even more encouraging was the fact that the applicants represented more than 100 Troops. It is hoped that the benefits of attendance at the Adventure will flow back to the Troops represented
Many months of hard work preceded the Adventure. The first task was to obtain permission from the various farmers in the area. A staff in excess of 100 people was assembled by the organiser, Colin Inglis, in order to man the various Activity Bases and undertake the numerous support tasks.
At all stages, both in motivating the staff prior to the Adventure and during the course of the Adventure, Colin Inglis was a source of great inspiration to the staff and the success of the Adventure is very largely due to his genius and labour.
The tremendous contribution of Pieter Graaff as Field Organiser should be recorded. In addition to maintaining good relations with the farmers, he cleared the site for Camping Headquarters, built and improved tracks, mowed trails and most importantly checked, stored and dispatched equipment and food to the various Centres when required.
The staff that manned the Activity Centres are to be complimented on maintaining a very high standard. As in the case of previous Adventures, there were Activity Centres for rock-climbing, mountaineering, orienteering, sailing, canoeing, water- skiing, Dutch Oven cooking, pioneering, motor engineering, archery, and marksmanship where special mention should be made of the highly effective individual tuition given by Brian Robertson.
New activities at this Adventure were astronomy, burro-packing, Bushman Lore, go-karting and handcrafts.
We were grateful to Cliff Turk who was available at Camping Headquarters to provide expert tuition in astronomy to boys who were camping there overnight. He brought a formidable array of telescopes and other equipment with him.
A team of donkeys was also available at Camping Headquarters, Patrols were instructed in how to pack their kit onto the backs of the donkeys by means of the squaw hitch. The donkeys proved very useful in transporting supplies in the setting up of the Archery and kloofing Bases.
Dr & Mrs Graham Avery of the South African Museum were available at the Bushman Base. Here again expert tuition was provided in an area where genuine Bushman paintings were located. The boys no doubt, learnt a great deal about survival in the mountains from the life style of the Bushmen who inhabited the area many years ago. In addition each Patrol was given a chicken to kill, pluck, clean and cook.
At the Motor Engineering Base Patrols were given the opportunity to experience the thrill of go-kart racing down the go-kart track -if they could successfully correct a delicate minor fault in the engine.
The other 'new' activity was the Handcrafts Base. A feature of the Adventure was the presence of a large number of psychedelic shirts which proved the attendance of the wearers at the Handcrafts Centre. In addition to the tie-dying of T-shirts, the Patrols were given the opportunity to make attractive paper weights from a clear resin and to do leather work.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect was the natural phenomenon known as the Visgat. This is a magnificent canyon-like kloof with the Olifants River at its base. Full advantage was taken of this feature and Patrols could undertake the two and a half day 'Voyageur Expedition' which entailed travelling down the kloof and negotiating the long swims with packs on lilos. Alternatively, they could undertake shorter trips which would include a section of the Visgat. At a large pool fishing rods were available for those who wished to fish.
The Staff, keeping everything on track
But what of the support activities? Firstly it should be remembered that Neville Coxon and John Potter spent many weekends, month after month, prior to the Adventure in constructing kayaks for use by Patrols visiting the Water Activity Base on the large dam at 'Die Eike'.
The Transport Manager and his willing team of drivers were constantly under pressure in keeping to the schedules for delivering supplies and transporting Patrols from trail-head to trail-head. There was an able Headquarters staff under the day to day supervision of the Camp Chief at Headquarters. The Registrar was constantly available to Patrols who needed assistance and as Trading Post Manager he did a roaring trade.
Communications were kept open with all Bases by the radio staff and this proved to be a great help to the organisers of the Adventure. The Grubmaster was also kept on the hop. His task was a major one. Before the Adventure he had to organise supplies and pre-pack food for Patrols. Arrangements had to be made for food dumps to be left at various agreed places for Patrols to collect. And, somehow, Patrols undertaking the Voyageur Expedition found themselves with wet sugar that needed replacing!
A feature of the Headquarters facilities was the large water tank erected to feed showers that had been constructed prior to the Adventure. These proved to be so popular that several Patrols made detours to Camping Headquarters in order to indulge in the luxury of a good shower. The contribution of Alan Shinton and Jack Vergottini is acknowledged. Jack, who was strategically closely located to Camping Headquarters and his staff at Motor Engineering were constantly on call to undertake maintenance work on motor vehicles.
The culinary needs of the Headquarters staff were well satisfied by the Headquarters caterer and his willing team. They often had to work in difficult circumstances and never knew how many people they would have to feed until after the gong was struck for a particular meal.
Headquarters staff also included a Medical Officer who was always on hand to attend to the numerous minor ailments that were brought to his attention each day. Fortunately no serious accident took place.
We were privileged to receive a visit from representatives of the Army, at the request of the Chief of the Defence Force. Arrangements had been made for members of the Navy to man the Underwater Diving Base. Unfortunately as a result of operational duties, they were obliged to withdraw at the last moment.
In spite of the fun and excitement of the various activities during the course of the Adventure, the most vivid memories will probably be of camping in the shadow of the towering mountains - sleeping under the stars - the aroma of supper being cooked next to a rushing stream - and the cheerful comradeship of the final Camp Fire before dispersing homeward.