One of the highlights in any boy- or even girl-scout’s life must surely be the annual Kim Shield Challenge. This is judging from the hive of activity we came across when arriving at the venue on Friday evening. Just under 30 Scout Patrols from the Gauteng area entered for this year’s challenge, but most importantly, none less than 28 youngsters from the 4 children’s homes were given the opportunity to form their own patrols and take part in this event.
Us SOAPkidz volunteers were kept very much in the dark as to what would transpire over the next two days for fear of leaking secret information to the participants. But as the Highveld climate would have it, Saturday morning we arose to yet another glorious crispy morning and the excitement was noticeable everywhere. This included the kitchen area where Noeksie et al were preparing breakfast, lunch packs, cooldrink-bottles, snacks etc. all for a good cause. Eventually the event coordinator called all the patrol leaders together and instructions for the day were issued. This included a rather nice map of the nature reserve, consisting of an aerial photograph with all the roads superimposed. Very handy indeed.
There were a total of 20 so-called bases, marked from 1 to 20 on the map, and each of the patrols were to start the Challenge from a different base. In addition, prior to starting the challenge each patrol had to plan their entire route for the weekend so that each and every base would be visited, and this sequence of bases had to be meticulously followed. As it turned out, there were 6 SOAPkidz patrols, and my patrol consisted of 5 boys, with me taking the role of supervisor/guide/map-interpreter. One of the kidz was elected as patrol-leader.
After being given the all-clear signal to proceed to our first base, we set off enthusiastically. In fact, we were so enthusiastic that we arrived at our base before the person manning this base had even arrived from the main camp! After about 5 minutes of trying to locate the “missing” base, a car drove up, the responsible person piled out of his car and our intrepid SOAPkidz patrol were handed their first task: go and find some mud and beautify your patrol-leader! As it happened, we were about 50m away from the edge of the dam and it goes without saying that this instruction was tackled with vigour. Everybody had fun here!
We then proceeded to our next base, about a 15 minute walk away. Here our beloved patrol were shown a wooden contraption consisting of a shoebox-sized wooden frame containing about 10 wooden squares of varying sizes, and they had to manoeuvre them around to “free” a large square. The whole event was timed and points were awarded accordingly. Let me just add here that in true boy-scout fashion every time we arrived at a new base, the kids formed a line with the leader standing slightly in front.
What then followed was a whole-hearted attempt to salute the scout in charge in synchronised fashion. This of course didn’t always materialise and it was quite amusing to watch. I must admit as the day progressed the whole saluting procedure improved remarkably well, but 10 out of 10 for trying!Our next major base was quite a distance away, also near the edge of the water and after about half an hour we arrived there.
Noticeable was a ladder in the middle of the veldt…standing
They also had a number of pieces of paper tied to bits of grass with letters written on them. It turned out these were international calling-codes for airports in the Gauteng area. I also found out that this base was manned by air-scouts. (yes indeed. I had heard of sea-scouts but never air-scouts. I can almost imagine some Hollywood producer one day coming out with a movie-title called “Captain Blork and the air-scouts). What had to be done here is that one of the SOAPkidz had to sit on top of the ladder while the rest of the patrol formed a line at one of the “airports”. The person with the aerial view then had to instruct the rest as to how to proceed to the next airport, using compass directions…”Hey, which way is north on this map? And how must I hold it?”Then came a really long walk (boy, did we walk this weekend!) to a base where the boys were handed life-jackets. After piling into a rowing boat, they had to row in unison around a series of buoys in slalom fashion and back, once again they were timed for this event.
The next base was a real highlight. The kids were given a brief talk on the history of the real manly sport called knitting, a set of knitting needles was pushed into their hands and they were then instructed to start knitting! Oh, what fun we had! Surprisingly though, one of the boys turned out to be a real master knitter and I am sure by now he is busy knitting through his first list of orders…
Our next stop was halfway to the other side of the reserve, and here the patrol had to track down a hidden gadget by holding something similar to a TV aerial and using radio signals. Quite educational I thought. It is the same method they use to monitor certain animals like leopards by putting a collar on them on which a radio transmitter is fastened. I also discovered that one can actually attend organised events where they do this kind of thing on a larger scale by hiding a transmitter “somewhere” in a city the size of Johannesburg or Pretoria, and the participants then simply get in their cars and start tracking!
The following base had the troups crawling/stepping/jumping/ being carried through a spiderweb made of ropes. This required some precise movements, some degree of planning and teamwork as well. Luckily the officer-in-charge was very accommodating and let our team slip through regardless…The base thereafter tested the kids’ basic cooking skills. They were given some apples and bananas, cinnamon, a gas stove, matches and when the light went green they proceeded to cook up a small storm. It turned out to be very tasty! What I also heard from the person manning that particular base is that he felt that the various SOAPkidz teams he had come across that day were by and large more motivated and meticulous than some of the scout-teams that day! After another lengthy walk we arrived at the tyre-challenge: Five tyres were piled one on top of the other, starting from big to small.
The challenge was to relocate the tyres to another location but they were only allowed to move one tyre at a time, with only one extra place for storing tyres if necessary – with the first rule being that a larger tyre could not be placed on top of a smaller tyre. The official there said that the record was 31 moves, and that the previous SOAPkidz team had managed to do it in 32!Our last stopover on Saturday was at a birdhide, where they had to name all the national parks in SA on a map. Big challenge here!Sunday morning our little patrol was in a big hurry to arrive at their next base (canoeing) before the scouts got there. This was just about the furthest base from camp, and in his wisdom yours truly told them he would catch up with them later. There was a slight problem in this scenario in that they had disappeared with the map, and I thought I would be able to catch up from memorising the map. So I set off at a leisurely pace, admiring the scenery and wildlife on a very quiet and peaceful Sunday morning. I came across a warthog 20m away, then some kudos, and some impala type of buck.
After that, things didn’t quite go according to plan: at some point I turned left in the direction of the dam but then instead of heading straight for the water, the road started curving left. And left. And left… until eventually after a very long walk I found myself back at the birdhide! Of course by now it was too late to catch them at their canoeing experience, so I headed back up the hill to wait for them at the cement-mixer. It took what felt like forever for them to eventually meet me there and we were all a bit relieved I think.
So, the next challenge was the throw-the-horseshoe-around-that-metal-thingy event, which went off smoothly. Then it was off to the soccerfield for a lesson in archery. It is amazing how a wooden arrow camouflages itself in the grass after you’ve shot it. We spent a good 10 minutes scanning the overgrown soccerfield looking for our missing arrows, but in the end we found them all.
And so it was that we ran out of time to participate in any of the other 7 or so bases. When we got to the base at the main gate where the campers were supposed to build something out of wooden poles, we were told that the only thing we could do was watch the group who got there before us and pick up some tips. We decided it would be more fun to see what went on at another base about 2 km from there, which turned out to be a long wooden pole suspended about 2m above the ground where one had to cling onto this pole and get from one side to the other – a major challenge judging from the girl-scout group who were participating as we got there.
Alas, once again the SOAPkidz were not given the opportunity to impress the scouts here, and from here we hurried back to the main gate where the gentleman at base 1 was kind enough to give me a lift back to the main camp, in the process picking up another girl scout group and later the SOAPkidz team as well.At the award-giving ceremony it turned out that one of the SOAPkidz teams had managed to finish 11th overall, in the process beating something like 15-20 other teams, most of which were more experienced scoutgroups! They were even handed a certificate. Well done to them and I am looking forward to next year’s Challenge already…