On Sunday the 13th of June, 19 pupils, and three staff rose 3 hours before the sun to set out on the 70km Kowie Dash.
A three day expedition, the Kowie Dash is made up of a gruelling 41km hike on day one that takes the pupils towards the coast, then two days of 15km each along the beach from Fish River towards Port Alfred.
Each year two groups of 19 pupils have the chance to participate: one for Grades 10 – 12 and (more recently) another for Grade 8s and 9s. In this group an impressive three of the 19 pupils saw in their third “Dash” and are aiming to be the first to complete one for each year of their senior school career!
Introduced in 2005 by Mr Tony Timm, Kingswood has, to date, done 17 hikes since then , but it’s by no means where it all began.
In the 1960s and early 1970s the Kingswood Grade 7s had an annual 5-day hike from Makhanda (Grahamstown), down the Fish River and finishing at Port Alfred. In the mid 1970s Mr Ernie Hall introduced the ‘Kowie Dash’ for Grade 10 boys which was a 2-day hike from the Hunts Hoek bridge on the N2 to the Fish River Mouth (40 kms) and then a further 30km’s along the beach to Port Alfred.
Believe it or not, until 1987, these Grade 10s did the hike with no staff! Unfortunately (although not surprisingly) that year, three boys got lost along the route, and while they were found and brought home safely, this signaled the end of the Kowie Dash until it was revived by Mr Timm in 2005.
An old Kingswoodian himself (OK 1979), Mr Timm started up the tradition of the Dash again when he came to work at Kingswood (with a few adjustments of course!). Groups of hikers are limited to 19, and are accompanied by three staff members. The route has also been adjusted over the years to fit around changes to the landscape as farms turned from agriculture to game.
“Even over this short space of time, the pupils develop a lot of grit and endurance. They often get blisters and have to walk even when their muscles are pleading for them to stop. The camaraderie and team spirit we see emerge as pupils stop to help their peers through difficult patches is so rewarding… They also see and experience so much on route through game farms and reserves we pass through.” (Mr. Tony Timm)
While each pupil who volunteers for the hike does so for a different reason, few to no pupils finish the Kowie Dash with regrets. There are many “never again’s” but ultimately, the great outdoors will somehow call them again.