And then there are other hikes that are less forgiving, more exhilarating, and force you to search deep inside yourself for strength, endurance, perseverance, and transcendence.
Those, which skirt gingerly around your locus of survival and push you to the limit of your relative sense of comfort and capability.
And I choose the word "relative" purposefully, because what every person experiences is so subjective, and the glasses we each look out from onto our world, are coloured by our own perceptions and beliefs.
Such was the nature of my experience on the Cathedral Peak hike over the long and lovely Easter weekend in late March, which I shared with George, Bev, Padmini, Roger, Denise, Michelle, Jill, Robby, Wendy, John, Carol, Helen, Caroline and Kent. However, we sorely missed the company of Caroline and Chris from Cape Town - for whom the Drakensberg still waits.
Bev and George, in their typical awesome style, organized a wonderful hike for us and gave us all an opportunity to, once again, share in the majesty and magnificence of our wonderful South African heritage. Thankfully, they had the foresight to ask those who had tents to bring them along, in case the caves, which they had booked and planned to sleep in, were inadequate or occupied. The tents proved to be absolutely invaluable.
It was such a treat to enjoy a leisurely drive to the Central Berg during daylight on Good Friday, instead of the usual late Friday afternoon scramble from work, through peak-hour traffic, arriving in the dark, tired and hungry.
It is difficult to find words to adequately describe the awesome nature of the Upper Berg, but those who have walked her paths and drunk from her streams know and understand what I mean. Up close and personal, the dramatic landscape of this part of the world can truly be appreciated and you know that, despite the achy legs, you would want to be in no other place at that moment, but amongst giants.
The climb itself, facilitated by a welcome ride to the top of Mike's Pass, was interesting and challenging in places. We all made it to the summit of the escarpment via Organ Pipes Pass, which proved to be less ominous than initially perceived from a distance, and we were heralded by music from the earth-encrusted organ pipes along the way.
As is so common in this part of South Africa, the weather was unpredictable and so changeable, choosing to mischievously play and cause chaos at a time not always convenient to us mere mortals, so some of us landed up putting tents up in freezing cold rain while others walked to find shelter in the caves.
I think, for some of us, this was the part of the hike that carried the thread of what I spoke of at the beginning of my tale. But the gods smiled on us and sent us angels whose awesome generous spirits we will never forget. Thank you to Carol, Robin, Samantha, Dave, Walter, and Reemo for their help, warm food, kindness and cheerful caring at a time when it mattered most. This same spirit was reflected in our own wonderful group, and we all made it through the night to be greeted in the morning by liquid sunshine and ice-blue skies that made our hearts smile and warmed our spirits.
For various reasons, it was decided to make our way down the mountain via Organ Pipes Pass, down the Camel route, on Sunday instead of the planned Mlambonja pass scheduled for Monday. The descent was gradual and punctuated by gorgeous visuals, delicious tea and lunch stops, and a precarious stretch of wet rock face that John (another beacon of light) helped us negotiate. We regrouped at the famous Cathedral Peak Hotel that has welcomed many a hiker and due to the muddy camp site, some chose to go home back to Jo'burg, while others, to stay overnight in more amenable accommodation.
For us city dwellers, who largely live cushioned by concrete from natures' rhythms, the hike reminded me of nature's impartiality and objectivity - she operates according to timeless universal laws and rhythms that speak loudly when you nakedly face her in her Drakensberg embrace.