It’s not a walk. Not by a long shot. It’s a scramble. It’s a hike. It’s a climb. It’s a stretch. It’s NOT a walk.
I enlisted the support of an incredible guide, the uber fab Baby J and then started recruiting fellow travellers via WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook and Twitter. Our group of adventurers met at 8am on a sunny Sunday morning in the Mother City.
Set to conquer a mountain, it was only as we stood in the parking lot looking up at Lion’s Head that I thought I may have bitten off more than I can chew… A lot more… Twenty minutes and a prayer session later we started off on a journey neither I nor my body will forget in a hurry.
It took less than 7 minutes for me to start sounding like an obscene phonecall, heavy breathing, no talking. Anyone who tried to start a conversation with me on the way up was met with hand gestures that were hopefully interpreted as “I cannot reply now as I am using all my mental ability to focus on getting air into my lungs”
I hope I lasted at least 20 minutes before I stopped us for our first breather but I’m not convinced. When I realised that most of the photos I would take that day would be of the rear view of the group, I appointed Baby J the official photographer (she was only too happy to oblige with her fancy schmancy new camera phone). I must admit though that at one point when everyone was admiring the view I ran a few metres ahead so that in at least one picture it would look like I was leading the pack!
The gravel road soon gave way to rocky steps which then gave way to rocks. Each time the path started getting uncomfortably close to the edge, the rocks got scarily rockier or I brought the group to a halt for yet another breather, I was overtaken by someone either under 7 or over 70 years of age who was doing a much better job than me.
But the group kept encouraging me to press on and push through. There came a choice of two different paths to take… The sign said, Left – recommended route, Right – use at your own risk. Comforting when the crew you’re climbing with takes the risky one. This was no Robert Frost type choice. The physio could be heard saying, “If I get a choice, I’ll take short and adventurous over long and safe any day” or something to that effect. Uh oh. It was when I grabbed the first chain that a friend urged me not to let go but there was a lizard to my left… I don’t handle creepy crawlies very well.
It was also right about this time that my infrequent fear of heights started kicking in. I really didn’t prepare myself at all for this adventure. I did however make it to the top of the chains section without hanging on, paralysed in fear, sucking my thumb and calling for my mommy. No small feat in my opinion.
From there to the top I was pretty much on all fours most of the way, spurred on by shouts of “100 more metres,” and “just a little bit further, Sarah…” It didn’t feel like a little bit further…
Lungs bursting, heart pounding, I was given three seconds to compose myself before officially summiting Lion’s Head.
One small victory cry later, I lay on the ground to catch my breath before being able to appreciate the view… But when I could breathe again… Wow! What a view it was! Spectacular views of Cape Town, Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles and the Ocean in all directions… Incredible.
Once all had recovered it was an impromptu photo session, some chatting and a bit of parkour from the crazier part of the gang. And a slightly off key “happy birthday” to me!
Eventually though we had to start on our way down… I was pleased to find that this came a lot easier than the uphill had for me! I can tell because I managed to keep up a loud and steady stream of conversation all the way down! Telling anyone who would listen that it was my first and last time up this mountain and asking why anyone would call it a walk.
I overhead the triathlete (hike/swim/eat breakfast – sounds legit?) state that, “Brave is what stupid people call stupid people.” I concur. I also swear I heard someone say, “You know what? You could show me a photo of this same view and I would feel the same as I feel seeing it for myself…” Oh no, she didn’t! Yes, she did… Confession? She is me. But in my defence, beautiful photographs draw an emotional response from me…
We got to watch a paraglider launch from the side of the mountain on our way down and after an incident free journey, one unlucky traveller tripped on the last step and ended up with a minor cut on his hand and scrape on his back. Finishing with a flourish.
All this effort deserved a reward… A trip to Seattle Coffee Shop was a well-earned treat for all!
So I made it up and back down a mountain, surrounded by incredible friends, great conversation and many laughs. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and encouraging all the strangers on the path were… As we walked past each other we were greeted and cheered with urgings of, “You can do it!” and “You’re almost there!”
I was not so pleasantly surprised by how much more difficult it was than I had imagined it’d be! It was an even less pleasant surprise taking my tired muscles to bed last night only to wake up with aching, painful and protesting limbs. I got up early just to get dressed for work and when I tried to put shoes on realised that I wasn’t going anywhere today. And so I have not gone anywhere today. As far as possible, I have moved only my hands and fingers as they are the only part of me that understands the messages my brain is sending to my body.
Both my boss and my uber fab guide thought this was funny… painfully so!
I went to get a glass of water earlier and couldn’t work out why the lounge was tilted at such an awkward angle… Am I living on a ship? And then I realised it was only because my body had developed its own system of walking, not unlike a combination between a crab, giraffe and a tranquilised rhino just before it falls over… Attractive.
With the beating my body’s taken from an easy “walk” up Lion’s Head, it has me wondering… Am I turning 30 or 60?
A big high five to all the crazies who came along to help me scratch this off The List! Here’s to more adventures!