Ascent up Table Mountain, South Africa

 

I rarely stray from my workout routine, even when on vacation. I am by no means a “gym rat”; I actually loathe gyms, but I do like adventure and thrive on physical challenges. Having grown up with eight brothers (3 of whom competed in natural bodybuilding) and having participated in competitive sports since the age of 12, I am always looking for ways to push my body to the limits. After completing a hike up Lion Mountain (a 669 meter mountain in Capetown, South Africa), I was determined to hike up Table Mountain, the imposing, flat mountain that overlooks the city and stands at 3,563 ft. above sea level. My friends urged me to take the cable car up and down the mountain to save time and energy, but any true fitness guru knows that the noblest way to experience a mountain like that, is by tackling it on foot.

As the idea of hiking up a mountain seemed ghastly abominable to my friends, I was forced to do my due diligence in researching outfitters who provided guided tours up the mountain. I found two outfitters offering a smattering range of hiking options—routes that required walking and climbing and others that required rope work and scrambling. Of course, my interest was peaked by the more strenuous routes. One guide wrote back stating that his route was by no means physically taxing, but what it lacked in adventure and grit, it made up for with its unparalleled vistas.

I was to meet Riaan, the tour guide, and group at “6:30 am sharp” as indicated on the email. After fortifying myself with a bran muffin, orange juice and a vitamin B-12, I made my way out the hotel to the UBER taxi driver. I gave him the address for the meeting point (26 Theresa Avenue in Camps Bay). At approximately 6:27 a.m., we pulled up to 26 A/26 B and waited. There was not a soul in sight. However, as the sky became pregnant with daybreak, activity on the street intensified. A few joggers ran by, followed by elderly couples taking their brisk morning stroll, bedraggled and weary looking folks walking their beloved dogs, house maids retiring from their morning duties. Still, no sign of anyone “suited up” to climb a mountain. I inquired about whether we were at the correct address. The taxi driver seem convinced that we were.

It was 7:00 am and I contacted Riaan and he told me that he couldn’t wait any longer. The group started the ascent up the mountain. I was perturbed by their audacity- after I waited more than 30 min, they went ahead without me. Riann told me that they started on the pathway with the white wooden barricades, opposite 26 Theresa Ave. Barricades? I looked around and realized that the taxi driver drove me to the wrong location as none of the landmarks that Riann described made much sense. The taxi driver looked bewildered and asked me to type in the location in the GPS.

I arrived at the mouth of the mountain, which looked eerily deserted and forlorn at 7:14 a.m. I contacted Riann, who gave me detailed directions to their location. He insisted that if I was quick, I would be able to catch up. Multi-hued rays of light trickled in through the crevices of the mountain, casting shadows against the jagged edges of the sandstones. I snapped a few shots of this glorious setting with my mobile, but knew that I dare not linger for fear of losing contact with the group.

The morning was warm, quiet, and heavy with stillness. My heart thumped against my chest, as I broke out into a comfortable jog. After 30 minutes of running alongside the mountainside, I contacted Riaan to make sure that I was on the right path. He applauded my diligent efforts, but politely told me that he feared that they were too far ahead. He suggested that we try for another day. I sighed, not wanting to resign myself to the fact that I would have to turn around and go back down the mountain. I would have to do like every other tourist had done- ride the cableway up and down Table Mountain.

As I headed down the mountain, a group of six approached me. I decided to ask them where they were going and if I could join them on their hike. Little did I know that my curiosity and adventuresome self would lead me to a 7 hour hike up and down Table Mountain with 6 strangers (engineers and college students in their 20’s), who would take me on one of the most exhilarating and dramatic hikes that I have taken in my lifetime. Thank you Carmen, Tanas, Anthony, Tyler, Gareth, and Shaun!

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