Allied Mathebula, the oldest student in the Tanda Tula Scholarship Program, recently joined his class at Southern Cross Schools on a super exciting, but a little nerve-racking, class trip up to the top of Mariepskop Mountain. Although challenging and exhausting, it was an incredible experience with lots of life skills learnt. 

All the grade 9 kids hiked up the mountain carrying their own backpacks and camped in two large tents out in the open for the first few nights. Then, on the last night, moved to a backpacker’s accommodation where they had a very welcomed hot shower. They played games and luckily did not have too much school work to accomplish as the trip was more about spending time together and getting to know each other on a new level. 
The Mariepskop Mountain peak is 1945 meters above sea level, making it the highest mountain point visible from parts of the Timbavati. Climbing to the top of this mountain is no easy task, so you can only imagine the mixture of excitement and fear that the Southern Cross grade 9’s experienced on this 3-day adventure.

This mountain boasts a unique biodiversity with incredible plant, animal and bird life. Amazingly, on a clear day, you can even see as far as the Indian Ocean. There was plenty of natural science for the students to learn about, as part of their trail made its way through a thick forest filled with indigenous plants and flora, as well as a beautiful fynbos region. The plant diversity on the mountain actually exceeds that of Table Mountain in Cape Town with over 1 400 floral species and 2 000 plants.

As the students ascended the summit, it was shrouded in a cloud of mist which created an otherworldly atmosphere, and allowed the kids to literally feel as though they were on top of the world.
When asked what the trip entailed, we received the lovely responses below:

The teacher:

"We are going on a hike up Mariepskop. The mountain, forest and rivers are beautiful, and it will be good to get away from the daily grind."

The kids:

“We are conquering Mariepskop one step and one noodle packet at a time. This morning, our waste management score for the night’s camp was 8/10, up from 3/10 after last night. For team spirit, enthusiasm and unbridled joy we scored 15/10. However, for noise pollution in the forest we have been downgraded to junk status."

Allied's answers to a few questions about the hike:

What was the best part of the trip?

“The birding - I love birds. It’s a hobby I enjoy doing a lot at home in the Timbavati. Because the habitat and vegetation are so different up in the mountain, we got to see two rare birds that I haven't seen before - a Purple Crested Turaco and a Knysna Turaco. I even found a Purple Crested Turaco feather as a memento of my trip!"

What do you feel you learnt from this experience?

“My friends Tristan and Luca, as well as my teacher Mr Wuth, are also interested in birding and so it was great to learn more about birds and birding from them. I was also surprised to learn that we get dassies in this region! We were lucky enough to see a few on the fourth day at the top of the mountain. I thought we could only find them in the Cape!"

Is there anything that you learnt on this trip that u can apply to everyday life?
“That's a tough one, but I think the lesson I can take away from this trip and apply to my life, is the benefit of sharing. Whether it was sharing a two-man tent with one of my classmates during the hike, sharing birding knowledge or simply sharing a helping hand - I learn't that it’s important for us to share so that we too, can learn."


Shara Burger


Allied and friends

Allied and friends resting on their hike



Tanda Tula Tanda Tula Tanda Tula