Our NCS Manager, Vicki Burton, returns with the final instalment of her Blog from South Africa as she sums up an amazing and emotional ending to their trip.
Hi everyone and welcome to our final instalment of the Pools in Africa blog. I'll tell you all about our last full day before we got ready for home, and hopefully summarise everything we have done!
Thursday began for some of the group with a 5:45am start for an optional walk up Lion's Head mountain with Dan and Sarah. Huge well done to Ethan, Ethan, Craig, Luke, Ryan, Lauren and Tyler who got up early and completed the task. They were rewarded with the most incredible views, reaching the top just as the sun rose over Cape Town; a breath-taking sight if ever there was one.
At 9am we all had breakfast before heading off on the last leg of our travels. We headed first to Betty's Bay, one of only two mainland sites that has its own penguin colony. Over 2,000 pairs of penguins live at Betty's Bay, and despite all the wildlife we have seen so far, these little guys were well up there! It was a bit chilly and windy, as expected when the next bit of land across the water is the Antarctic!
After Betty's Bay we headed to Hermanus and saw some more incredible coastal views on the way, including a huge pod of dolphins and the most amazing mountain views I've ever seen. We checked into our last hotel at Hermanus and AFS definitely kept the most special treat until last! Three-bedroom apartments with upstairs and downstairs balconies, en-suites and fully-equipped kitchens were in store for us. The group then had a choice: either to go surfing with Dan and Adam or to walk around Hermanus, looking in the shops and doing some whale spotting across the bay. We managed to see two whales!
When the surfers got back after having a great time in the waves, we put on our glad-rags and headed out for tea. Terri had arranged a treat for us: mocktails outside as we watched the sun set and the moon rise - amazing!
We had a lovely meal in a posh restaurant (I'm sure our games of Chinese whispers were neither whispers nor quite what they expected but we had a laugh doing them!) and afterwards we gave our cards to Adam, Terri, Dan and Sarah to thank them for everything they've done for us during the trip. Eleanor gave a lovely, heartfelt speech that really summed up how we all felt.
After tea we headed back to enjoy our last night as a group before getting up early to say our final goodbyes to Dan and Sarah who were heading the 10,000km back to Greensleeves in East London.
Spending our last bits of money in the shopping centre in Hermanus (or getting lost - Eleanor, Hannah and Sorrel!), we then headed for lunch at the hotel restaurant. Then it was lots of sad faces as we began the 90-minute drive to Cape Town International Airport. A 9-hour flight to Dubai on which most of the group slept, before we boarded our final flight, 7 and a half hours to Newcastle. All pretty smooth, or at least it will be when Alex gets his wallet posted back to him that he left on the first flight!
So now we're sitting on the buses heading back to where we began some 10 days ago, and honestly, words cannot describe the experience we have all had.
I must now say a few thankyous before I sign-off until next year (hopefully!).
Thank you to our amazing families, who have supported our young people to enable them to have this experience; I'm sure they realise just how blessed and lucky they are to have you all.
Thank you next to all of those who have supported the trip financially, through sponsorships and donations; this trip would not have been possible without you. Your support has been truly life changing for our young people.
Thank you next of all to Chris, Craig, Ethan and Luke from HUCSF who embarked on the trip with us and funded it themselves, to ensured that all of our young people had the most amazing time, stayed safe and had lots of laughs.
Thank you also to Keith and Sarah from HUCSF who didn't come on the trip, but whose hard work and dedication allowed it to go ahead, and also Mark from HUFC who published the blogs to keep you all up to date!
Next I would like to thank Dan and Sarah from Greensleeves. Thank you for welcoming us into your home at Greensleeves, for giving us the most incredible experience at Greensleeves and finally for travelling with us and sharing your beautiful country with us. Thank you for keeping us safe and for answering the millions of questions we had (even Adam Linsel's) and helping us to learn about your culture.
The biggest thank you of all goes to Adam and Terri from Adventures for Students. I don't think you two will ever, ever understand how incredible this trip was for us all. From arranging the trip to dropping us back off at the football ground, there was not a single thing you didn't think of.
Terri (also known as Mother Teresa, the nurse and Mam) thank you for looking after us all and providing first aid at the drop of a hat. You are so organised, efficient and caring and it made such a difference to the group who have never been away from their families for this long.
Adam, thanks for the knowledge, the laughs, the sing-a-longs and most of all, for starting this company for all the right reasons. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.
And last, but certainly not least, thank you to our wonderful young people. Ethan, Sam, Beth, James, Emma, Charlie, Lauren, Tyler, Millie, Ryan, Alex, Eleanor, Sorrell, Hannah and Adam, thank you for being amazing. You all represented yourselves, your families and our football club better than I could ever have hoped. You all deserve the amazing experience you have had; thank you for making it amazing for me too. Treasure the memories forever.