TEN DAYS IN CAPE TOWN — DAY 3

What happened to day two, do I hear?

It passed, largely by the pool, in the gym or on the Waterfront. Batteries re-charged, it’s time for action.

Whether mischievously or not, a challenge has been laid down, late in the evening of day two.

Table Mountain... that's the cable car in the far distance

Table Mountain… that’s the cable car in the far distance

We are going to yomp up Table Mountain in the morning.

Alan, one of the tour organisers has a friend who is incredibly fit; he can reach the summit in just over an hour.

‘Wow… is that good?’ We ask.

‘Well…’ replies Alan, ‘if you choose the challenging route, it can take reasonably fit people anywhere between three to four hours to summit. Anything under two is sensational.’

Now, before the smartasses reading this say: ‘Table Mountain is level at the top,’ let’s just define ‘summit’, in crude mountaineering terms, as the point at which you stop climbing.

And so armed with only a 330cl bottle of water, phones and some cash we set off in a taxi that inspires little more mechanical confidence than a BA 747, two hours later than planned.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, is the starting point for our Skeleton Gorge Hike.

Of course, we’d briefly looked at Trip Advisor which informs us that there are several deaths on this particular hike every year and advises what we should take in order to ensure survival.

IMG_0426But despite this, we fail dismally to prepare in anything remotely approaching an appropriate manner.

Now, I should just say at this point, that I have been fortunate enough to run and climb in the Himalaya, the Andes and the Alps, and I’m sufficiently mountain-wise to understand that you can get into severe difficulties, through poor preparation, even on Snowden in the middle of summer.

And so what in earth was going through my head at 09.00? This can only be described as an unparalleled lack of forethought, Titanic in its proportion.

Cape Town from the top

Cape Town from the top

Twenty minutes into the hike and we start some serious climbing. It’s around 09.30 and the temperature is soaring, but thankfully we’re sheltered from the sun by the sub-tropical terrain.

First we negotiate steps, then it’s a clamber over boulders and next we are faced with fixed ladders.

Jogging the short flattish areas, we make good progress; our water has all but gone, but we are offered half a litre by a kindly lady on the way down who is both amazed and concerned by our serious lack of preparation.

Approaching the hour mark and we’re above the tree line which brings it’s own problem — the sun.

A fellow on his way down informs us that we’re nearly at the summit — which is of course malicious nonsense — but this misinformation spurs us on, jogging the relatively level bits and taking shortcuts across boulder fields where we can turn a contour into a straight line.

It’s at about this point that I realise that I am becoming seriously dehydrated.

This is for two reasons.

Stan, Cam's sock puppet enjoying the view

Stan, Cam’s sock puppet enjoying the view

The first is that every centiliter of fluid from inside my body (other than blood) has now departed. I take off my Tee shirt, wring it out and am immediately around a stone lighter. But removal of my top significantly increases the risk of sun-stroke.

The second reason is that we’re now talking gibberish.

We had started the ascent with a fairly reasoned debate as to why certain South Africans prefer to be called by their initials rather than Christian names: AB de Villiers… JP Duminy… and that good old boy who plies his trade at prop for Munster, BJ Botha.

But, by the time we’ve topped seven false summits our discourse has significantly deteriorated.

Me:      If you could flick a switch and become a woman for an hour, what would you do? I don’t mean the pervy stuff, like go to Vanilla and pull a gorgeous lesbian.

Cam:   That’s gross. Am I fit or a moose?

Me:      Irrelevant. Looks aren’t everything. But you’re fit.

Cam thinks about this for a bit, and far in the distance we can make out a large group of people standing at what must surely be the top.

Cam:   I’d breast-feed in public.

Me:      (vaguely expecting the purchase of a Gucci handbag, asking if his/her bum looks big in this dress, or parking across two bays):          Jeasus, you need help!

We’re at the top, and it’s taken us around one hour forty-five. With adequate preparation we could probably have shaved off fifteen minutes, but we’re well pleased. It was one hell of a lot tougher than either of us had expected.

We chat to a group of students/gap year travellers who share their water with us and set off for the cable car.

There’s a forty-five minutes queue to buy water, a further hour spent in line for the cable car and absolutely no shade anywhere; a thermometer tells us it’s 45 degrees and I’m burnt to a frazzle.

Aftersun purchased and showered, my screams when Cam applies lotion to my back must make the Commodore sound more like Bates’ Motel.

‘And so what have we learned today Cam?’ I ask as I don my linen suit in preparation for the New Year’s Eve bash.

‘That you’re bloody stupid,’ he replies in a flash. ‘But we did know that already.’

‘Well, here’s to 2016: the year of perfect preparation,’ I reply as we limp off to the drinks reception, radiating heat like unstable uranium, but basking in the glow of a day well spent.

 

 

 

 

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