Keswick School TANZANIAN TREKKING EXPEDITION: My Experiences by Thomas Donnan

In July 2019, a group of 32 Keswick School students travelled to Tanzania in East Africa to help carry out and work on community projects, with an organisation called Camps International. My trip turned about to be an adventure of a lifetime.

In the days running up to leaving the UK, my emotions were all over the place, nerves, apprehension, fear of the unknown and excitement. Now that I am back home, I am beginning to appreciate both how lucky I was to take part in such a challenge but also how fortunate I am to live where I live.

When our team landed in Tanzania, we were transferred by minibus to a hotel for a night. We then completed an onward transfer to our first camp, which was a 10-hour drive, where we were given the chance to take in lots of sights which this beautiful country has to offer. The views were amazing and landscape and geography acted as some sort of chameleon, constantly changing to different and staggering views.

We initially worked for a week in a school not too far away from camp, which was around 2.4 kilometres, which to do every day, to and from camp in sweltering degree temperatures, was quite a walk.

Following this, the next part of our adventure was to climb the fifth highest mountain in Africa, Mount Meru which stands at a whopping 4,565 metres above sea level. If you can’t imagine what that looks like, then take the Lake District fell Skiddaw and then put Skiddaw on top of itself and then do that again three-and-a-half times. As I reached 3,800 metres, I began to feel very weird and as I pushed on, it became clear that I wasn't getting any better and my walking was deteriorating. I was worn out, very tired and freezing and I remember wanting to go to sleep but being told that I wasn't allowed to.

Navigating cliffs by chains attached to the rock, with nothing but my tiny beam from my head torch lighting the way, while slowly dipping in and out of consciousness was very scary. I was cold, shivering, kicking out half of my insides and at risk of becoming borderline hypothermic. Sat under a safety shelter, I heard over the radio that I had a gruelling four hours

at my current pace to the summit and I made the decision to call it a day and turn around. Assisted by an armed ranger and a porter carrying me back down to safety, I felt myself again, once I had acclimatised to a more suitable altitude.

At our final camp, we were staying in the town of Moshi, which is not too far away from Mount Kilimanjaro and Tanzania’s border with Kenya. This has to be my favourite community which we were working in. Tanzania remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Around 36 percent of Tanzanians live below the poverty line. This means that, in this country, if you are pretty rich, then you are wealthy, if you are pretty poor, then you have next to nothing. However, everybody is very friendly we had arm ache waving at the crowds, three deep who all wave and expect you to wave back. It’s just mesmerising.

Our final school was Neville Primary School, a lot of the work that we carried out was digging holes, bricklaying and restoring the school foundations as they were worn out. My favourite task though had to be leading a school of students in an English lesson which was the highlight of my trip. I experienced first- hand how the work I was doing had an impact on the communities I was working in. My lesson began with a game of ‘Splat!’ which is a drama game I’ve picked up over the years and the 60 African school children picked the game up very quickly. We then moved on to teach some basic past, present and future tenses, which at first was daunting but I left with a lot of beaming smiling faces.

This expedition was possibly the most physically, mentally and emotionally demanding experience of my life. Never before, have I pushed myself to such extremes to prove to my body, that it is at its absolute limits. Thankfully, being led by an amazing team and surrounded by 31 others, also experiencing all the same feelings made this trek all the more special. We created what felt like a small and close knitted family, who looked after one another when we needed it. When you’ve got the bond of everyone together, you are unstoppable and I think that just made what actually turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

Keswick School Team Parachichi (Avocado) accompanied by Camps International on the summit of Little Meru in Tanzania, Eastern Africa.

Keswick School Team Parachichi accompanied by Camps International in the bush in Tanzania, East Africa.

‘On top of the world!’: Thomas Donnan, aged 18, on the summit of Little Meru in Tanzania.

Telephone: 017687 72605 | WWW.COCKERMOUTHPOST.CO.UK ISSUE 437 | 21 NOVEMBER 2019 | 21

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