The Great Snowball Fight of South Africa

This blog comes from Ben Chown, one of our Student Travel Ambassadors at Northumbria University.

Yes you read that correctly: the great snowball fight of South Africa. I was on an incredible expedition which included a 5 day trek through the Drakensberg Mountains, hours of travelling in the back of a pickup truck (legally!), a hippo in the street, meeting new and interesting people, the best barbecues, a 7 hour mountain horseback ride and a day safari through a preserved national park, to name just a few things (I don’t want to bore you). However, none of these experiences – incredible as they were – quite topped the list.

So what was the most memorable thing to happen in South Africa?

After our strenuous yet amazing horseback ride through the mountains, we arrived at the Lesotho, where we’d be doing a 10 day volunteering activity. Lesotho is a small kingdom in South Africa and we were located at Sekokoaneng Primary school.

We were asked to repaint the classrooms and build a water-butt for the community. It was an incredible experience, despite sleeping on a concrete classroom floor for 10 nights in below freezing temperatures! The work was going great, the water-butt was almost done after 5 days and the classrooms were cleared of dust and rubble and repainted vibrant colours to brighten them up. The children and community as a whole were very thankful.
This was before the 48 hours of heavy snowfall. Yes, snow, in Africa. Being South Africa in July, the weather was vulnerable to rapid changes. It went from 25+ degrees during the day to 2 or 3 degrees, resulting in the white stuff. That halted all the work we were doing and had us stuck and confused.

Time to down tools

While reading (the same books over again) and playing cards – the only things we could do in the classrooms – a sudden bang was heard from one of the unbroken windows. Then another, and another. It turned out to be the school children outside throwing snowballs at the building. FANTASTIC! They wanted a snowball fight! We hurried outside to find about 100 children aged 5 – 14, all armed with snowballs.

When they want to have a laugh, these children don’t play Xbox or use iPads, but throw dry horse faeces at each other (not kidding). So even though they were small, they had almost superpower-like throwing arms – even the little ones!

Taking this knowledge into account, we sprinted along the white space while being hit left, right and centre by what felt like rocks until we thought we were safe – and then a little further, just to make sure. We even ended up building a snow-wall for protection! Well, attempted.

There were 9 of us vs the entire primary school, who could all throw further and harder than us. Embarrassing, I know. Needless to say, we lost and had to abandon the fight after a long, hard-fought battle.

I would say I’ll stick to playing football against them next time, but they’re quite impressive at that too – if any football scouts are reading this, get down to this extraordinary school now! I truly admire their passion and lifestyle, and will never forget this amazing experience.

If opportunity comes knocking like it did for me, no matter how much money you have to raise or earn to pay for it, no matter how much effort you have to put into the organisation, no matter how much you’ll miss home while you’re there, you will never experience the things I experienced if you say no.

The moral of the story: if life offers you an amazing opportunity, take it. Oh, and don’t get into a snowball fight with children from Sekokoaneng Primary. You will lose.

If you’re feeling inspired to volunteer in South Africa, check out our amazing tours online. We can’t promise you’ll end up in a snowball fight, but we reckon you’ll definitely have a life changing experience or two.