Thursday, 19 July 2012

Day Seventeen: Hout Bay Boat Tour and Seal Colony, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point and African Penguins

And so, in the words of Frank Sinatra, it was time for everyone on the RHS Band and Cultural tour "to face their final (South African) curtain". After seventeen days in this beautiful country, it was time to depart for bonnie blighty - but not before some final cultural events were squeezed into the typically action-packed itinerary!

First stop, after a final early rise, was a boat tour to Hout Bay to visit a Seal Colony, watching many of the blubbery beasts snoozing on some rocks in the morning sun.   After some discussion, it was decided that the slumbering seals bore no resemblance to the Staff Common Room on a Friday afternoon... 

The sun rises over Hout Bay 

The Seals blissfully basking on the rocks

Afterwards, it was a swift bus journey via the spectacular Chapman's Peak to the most South-Westerly point on the African continent, the Cape of Good Hope, which offered a perfect opportunity for a group photo. 

The RHS Cultural bus celebrate being thousands of miles from Holbrook.  

Mr Mann uses the sign to demonstrate his African Yoga techniques

There was then another swift bus journey to the Cape Point Funicular, where  students enjoyed the gravity-driven railway for some spectacular views at the top of Cape Point. 

The signpost atop of Cape Point  - sadly no directions to Ipswich 

The views from the top

The Cape Point Funicular gets the thumbs up! 

This then led to our final destination, a visit to the unique African penguin colony in Simon's Town - smelly but special. 

Thus providing the perfect setting to give Mr Mann a little 'thankyou' gift for organising such a spectacular trip - Shaka Zulu Geo Guru emblazoned on the top and 12 (standing for 2012) across the back of a South African rugby shirt. We salute you Mr Mann! 

And so, as I type these final words in the salubrious settings of Cape Town International Airport, I hope that you have enjoyed my trifling missives of the RHS Band and Cultural Tour. It's been a wonderful trip, and if you have enjoyed the blog, it has merely reflected the eclectic breadth of experience organised by the irrepressible Mr Mann. 

Best wishes one and all! 

Will Bowry 
Master i/c of Blog and General manservant to Mr Mann

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Day Sixteen: Nobel Square Band Concert and Cape Bay Beach

July 18th - a very special day in South Africa, as it is Mandela Day, celebrating the great man's birthday.  With celebrations throughout the nation, and throughout the world, RHS played their part, with the RHS Band following the South African Navy Band in a special concert on Nobel Square outside of the V&A Waterfont. The Band played some classic hits, conducted with great aplomb by the irrepresible Mr Jones, including A tribute to Elvis, Palladio and On Parade. There was also some rather quixotic dancing from RHS staff and students, as they engaged in the festival spirit.

The entrance display to the V&A Waterfront.

Seb Starling, Head of Dreams, flys the South African flag on Mandela Day. 

The RHS Band in full flow...

The Drum Corps in action

The Band then moved swiftly onto the entrance of the Robben Island museum, continuing to entertain the South African passer-bys.  Toby Seabright played an excellent trombone solo, The Joker, with the rest of the band accompanying him in the Cape Town sun.

Super Seabright struts his stuff...

The Band then moved to the unique experience of playing a concert on a nearby carousel.  Despite stradling plastic horses, the Band gave an  wonderful version of Holbrook. The accompanying videos, will, without doubt, become a Youtube sensation.

Will Eels on the top half of the Carousel - still banging his drum!

Mr Jones, conducting a herd of plastic horses.

Rory Wild blows his French Horn on the carousel.

Three great men to have set foot on South Africa, FW de Klerk, Rob Mann and Nelson Mandela

And with the concert finished, it was time for the RHS students to revel in the beach life of Cape Town.

Surfing the Indian Ocean

Day Fifteen: Table Mountain and Robben Island

Having reached Cape Town the previous day, there was no ignoring the geological wonder of Table Mountain. Most students and staff took the scenic cable car up the mountain to enjoy some extraordinary views. However, not to be outdone, Mr Bowry and Mr Wood decided for a little early morning exercise and sprinted up the mountain in 1hour 15minutes.

The RHS students congratulate themselves at reaching the summit of Table Mountain.
Purchasing a ticket for the cable car took extreme athletic endeavour.

It's a long way down...

Michael Stokes, Sophie Rennison and Anran Chen enjoy the view from Table Mountain.

The afternoon was then spent visiting the world heritage site of Robben Island, infamous for incarcerating political prisoners during the apartheid era, including the current President Jacob Zuma, Walter Sisulu and of course Nelson Mandela. The RHS group were privileged to have a tour of the island, visiting the limestone quarry, the solitary school on the island and some key sites such as Robert Sobukwe's house.

A new group of convicts, ready to be incarcerated on Robben Island!

The RHS students on Robben Island with Table Mountain in the background.

Is it Robben Island's comfined outside area, or is it Cornwallis' muster yard?
Unsure, Miss Smith did an impromptu roll call...

After the tour of Robben Island, it was time to visit the inside of the prison, lead by two former politcal prisoners, who had been incarcerated on Robben Island. Staff and students visited the tiny cell of Nelson Mandela, the group cells and the eating area.  For all concerned, it was an extremely memorable experience and an undoubted highlight of the trip thus jfar.

The attentive RHS students in one of the group cell blocks on Robben Island

Overwhelmed by the political struggle on Robben Island,
 Mr Mann took a well-deserved rest on the local beach. 

Afterwards, the students were allowed a little free time and took the opportunity to relax on the Waterfont watching the sun set on Cape Town. Without doubt, it was an evening to remember.


Day Fourteen: Aloe Ferox Shop, V&A Waterfront - Cape Town

As the day was spent travelling through the South African Garden Route and parts of the Route 62 highway, it seemed that the N2 motorway was going to be the cultural highlight of the day.  Thankfully, we made a quick stop in Mossel Bay to visit the Bartolomeu Dias Museum.  This proved a very enjoyable and cultural experience, as the maritime museum outlined the journey of Bartholmeu Dias round the southern tip of Africa in 1488. 

The RHS students inspect a replica ship of Bartolomeu Dias' trip around Africa.

Furthermore, the museum site had a special exhibition on black empowerment in the USA, relating to the struggled of apartheid in South Africa The grounds of the museum also included a quirky mollusc museum, with a plethora of fascinating facts about shell formation and ocean ecosystems; at least Miss Smith found it interesting.

We continued our journey until we arrived at an Aloe Ferox factory which included a talk about how the product is extracted from the plant; after a visit to the gift shop, many presents were purchased. One hopes all those mothers will be delighted with their anti-aging creams and moisturisers.

After a long day on the coach we finally arrived at our last stop on the tour- Cape Town. As we arrived at the mother city of South Africa the sun was shining and Table Mountian came into view. Apparently it's still raining in England...?

Afetr a brief tour of the inner urban area we arrived at our final hotel and spent the night shopping in the Vicotria and Alfred Waterfront.

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront - The epicentre of some RHS retail therapy

Monday, 16 July 2012

Day Thirteen: Cango Caves, Ostrich Safari Farm and Cango Wildlife Centre

After the deluge of the Kynsna monsoon yesterday, thankfully the rain momentarily ceased when the RHS troops arose, and it was swiftly off to the impressive Cango Caves, one of the finest examples of limestone stalactites and stalagmites.  The sheer scale of the caves was simply spectacular, even for those who had already dropped GCSE Geography... Situated in a limestone ridge, the drip-stone caverns are one of the finest in the world.

Four RHS students perform their best 'stalagmite' impressions.

One of the largest stalagmites in the cave, dwarfing the RHS Sixth Form,
 (despite Toby Seabright's valiant attempts to look tall). 

After this geological extravaganza, it was onwards to visit the 'Ostrich Safari Farm', where staff and students were treated to an ostrich fillet for lunch, which was rather tasty. As luck would have it, the site was also being visited by a fellow English school, which gave Mr Mann the opportunity to arrange some impromptu 'ostrich egg' based competitions.  The PE department will be pleased to hear that RHS was undefeated in the soon to be recognised Olympic sports of -  the 'Ostrich Egg and Spoon Race' and the 'Pass the Ostrich Egg between your legs race'.  

Mr Mann officiates this epic athletic battle.

The onlooking crowd, unphased by the inclement weather.

After these gladiatorial contests, it was time to visit the Ostrich Park, where students had the opportunity to learn about the anatomy of an ostrich, feel some ostrich feathers and sit on an ostrich. 

Flo Bolton-Smith test drives an Ostrich

Finally, the group was treated to a whistle-stop tour of the Cango Wildlife Centre, with the attractions of white lions, pygmy hippos, warthogs and crocodiles, amongst other species of wildlife. Many lucky students had the opportunity to have some 'animal encounters', either with lemurs, cheetahs and white bengal tigers. All animals were said to be overjoyed to have their photos taken with an RHS student. 

Ben Morrison posses with his new 'kitty'

All the students had an excellent time and, despite the inclement weather, journeyed back to the Protea Hotel in George in good spirits. 

Day Twelve: Knysna Mall and Waterfront and Rain, Rain, Rain...

And so, having enjoyed the tropical heat of an 'African' winter for much of the trip, with many days topping 30C, it was time to swap the sun screen for umbrellas and galoshes. It seemed that the English rain had followed us here and when the heavens open in South Africa, it truly pours... As we travelled down the Garden Route, reaching the 'sunny seaside resort' of Knysna, it felt like we were in an apocalyptic, nay biblical, thunderstorm. This was definitely not English drizzle... 

As a consequence, the pre-arranged plans to visit the 'Featherbed Nature Reserve', the 'Eco-walk' and two concerts from the Band were sadly cancelled due to the rather inclement weather conditions. Quite simply, it was rain stop play, for all concerned.

The beautiful waterfront vista from Knysna pier... Rain, mist and more rain.
Any students feeling homesick revelled in the conditions.

The Kynsna lagoon - about to engulf the town!

As a consequence, staff and students indulged in some retail therapy at the local shopping mall, with a number enjoying the local Oysters on offer. Afterwards, one and all journeyed back to the hotel to prepare for an epic RHS Quiz, organised by a number of the staff. The 'miming' round, which involved groups miming a variety of topics relating to the trip, including  Rorke's Drift and Surfing on Durban Beach, provided some extremely amusing moments. In the midst of the rain, it was good to see that none of the RHS' excitement for the trip remains undimmed.

Let us just hope for better weather tomorrow!


In light of the cancelled Band concert, Mr Mann and Mr Bowry played some imaginary instruments, expertly conducted by Mr Jones as the rain continued to pour.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Day Eleven: Bloukrans Bungy Jumping, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden

After requisitioning three South African Express aircraft at Durban's King Shaka Airport, the Royal Hospital School flew into PE (Port Elizabeth) with three distinct missions. 

The first flight involved a whistle-stop tour of Mr and Mrs Du Toit's beach side residence and a successful fishing expedition.  The second flight saw the RHS synchronised bungy jump troop set off for the highest commercial jump in the world, with a staggering 216 metre free-fall.  The third flight was comprised of the famed 'RHS environmental tree huggers regiment' determined to view monkeys and birds, respectively at 'Monkeyland' and 'Birds of Eden'.

The RHS freefall team prepare to meet their maker at
 the infamous Bloukrans Canyon Bridge.

The acrobatic Toby Eaton launches himself into the canyon below.

The viewing platform across the bridge, near the bungy, provided a party atmosphere, booming house music, large video screens with a number of apprehensive students about to face their vertigo-based demons. We are proud to confirm that 33 bungy jumps were completed with no fatalities; upon their return, the students were buzzing with excitement with the adjectives of 'awesome', 'amazing' and 'incredible' buzzing round the camp. Adam McGlynn and Conrad Pattenden won the awards for producing the most anguished grimaces, while Jane Siryk provided some notable charity by showering the crocodiles below with a deluge of South African notes fluttering in the breeze like confetti.

A tip for anyone wishing to complete a bungy jump in the future - don't leave your spare change in your pockets. 

However, special mention should go to Miss Smith, who not only did the bungy TWICE, but completed her second jump backwards, much to the consternation of Mr Nutton.

RHS cinematographer Trevor Brown coordinated an impressive photo-sequence when he captured the RHS Monkeyland bus crossing the bridge as their classmates hurled themselves into the abyss below.

For the rest of the group, they visited 'Birds of Eden' - the largest free flight aviary in the world; spanning a canyon, it uses the topography and relief to create a varied range of unique habitats for all manner of weird and wonderful birdlife including flamingos, parrots and bats. This was an awe-inspiring experience as birds swooped above the heads of the spellbound RHS students below. 

After this, there was a swift visit to 'Monkeyland'; with its dense vegetation and myriad of pathways and rope-swing bridges it represented an exciting introduction to these furry creatures. Sadly, at times, it was difficult to differentiate between the apes and the RHS Year 10 boys...

Three RHS students try to look like birds.

Afterwards, the groups reconnected at the Knysna Hollow Hotel where they shared a pasta feast and tales of their exploits.