13-15 May 2005
Thoughts on a first hike with the JHC:
Such a girl!
On a bush retreat not long ago a friend emerged from her somewhat basic accommodation wearing a pair of stockings and heeled sandals! I couldn't help but tell her she was such a girl! Something I never felt I could be until I hiked with the JHC... "Boy, these women are good. They made me look like I was wearing stockings and heeled sandals on our recent hike to Witsieshoek. With seven women and one man I was sure I would see signs of 'girls' but to my surprise the only 'girl' was me.
Let me illustrate how I came to this conclusion. Firstly, it was me who clung so tightly to the chain ladder that I began to shake and have huge unsightly bruises up and down my legs. It was wind-buffeted me who plodded down one rung at a time, deliberately placing each foot while George ran up and down the other ladder four times and coaxed me through it.
Then there was the weight of my backpack - two kilos heavier than some. I'd packed equivalent to a bowl of fruit and more 'live' veggies than I could eat. There was enough cereal for three breakfasts. I could have had teas for a week and let's not talk about the two huge bags of snacks and all my unused toiletries.
That brings me to the topic of ablutions. Just like a typical girl I'd brought my hairdryer for the first night and was not impressed by the lack of facilities at the top of the mountain on night two - not a toilet in sight or even a bush to hide behind. No one else seemed to find this at all unusual or out of the ordinary. There wasn't a moan or complaint to escape their lips.
If they had anything to complain about it would certainly have been the fairly foul weather conditions: Mist on Saturday had us having lunch whipped by wind not 10 metres from the top of the Tugela falls but with no view of the amphitheatre. At 1:30 a.m. it began to rain copiously and frozen rain attended our morning toilet expeditions. Talk about hail damage! But, all was not lost because as if by magic, and to reward us for our endurance, the clouds lifted unwrapping the amphitheatre as we packed up our rain-sodden equipment. It was spectacular to view - while holding onto wind-plucked rain ponchos. Again, not a moan was heard aside from George's urging to put the ponchos away.
Return from aside:
As a result of the standard set by my hiking companions, I've resolved to shed my 'stockings' and my 'heeled sandals' and join a rare group of my gender who take discomforts in their stride and quietly enjoy the great outdoors.