Date 27 August 2005: Weather
Very hot and humid during the day, warm in the evening but chilly early morning.
I wish I could say it was a garbled message on the phone but I can’t. I understood every word. “We need to borrow your sleeping bags this weekend for a hike and would you like to join us.” “Sure. Not a problem. Would love to”. I still haven’t learnt yet to ask where are we going, how long is the hike, how strenuous is it, do we have a masseuse going with us and if not are there at least some stretchers – you know, just in case somebody hurts themselves. >As the days rush by, you get more information.
Going to Bergheim. Not a problem – been there, done that, got the t-shirt. There will be 22 kids going with. Not a problem – have 4 kids so what’s the difference between 4 and 22. Boy! Some people really have to go back to school. Need a tent. A TENT??? Tent means backpacking. Jeepers, I can hardly carry myself, now they want me to BACKPACK!!!!Anyway we arrive at Bergheim on Saturday morning. Noeksie and Hettie are unpacking the trailer with all the paraphernalia that was begged, borrowed and uuhmm ………..loaned from the various clubs.
The children are all gathered around Frans. As he reads from the list of the various items that are required – back packs, sleeping bags, torches, tents, pots, etc, the children each grab what is required.They then had to pack their back packs. If they had problems the adults helped out, otherwise they were left to sort it out for themselves Once everybody was ready and everything sorted out, the children all clambered on the bus while we climbed into the 4x4.
Thinking they were going to take us closer to the beginning of the trail – jippee, means less walk time – I was very surprised to see us heading out of Bergheim and back the way we came. We were offloaded just above the Olifantsnek Dam. Richard, our guide and expert on archaeology, then explained the route to us. My heart sank. I can hardly climb two flights of stairs and now we have to climb this……….this…………mountain. Hey! At least the kids were chirpy about it. Ahhhh to be so young and full of energy. We started down a slope and then veered up the hill to where there was a cave, where Richard explained about the diggings in the cave.
Unfortunately my Afrikaans is terrible at the best of times so I could only understand a word or two, which is a pity because it sounded very interesting. I suppose I could have asked him to repeat it in English but at the time I was still trying to catch my breathe. From there we contoured around the side of the hill, if you can call it contouring, scrambling under trees and over rocks, until we reached a very rocky side of the hill which we had to climb. Those that suffered from vertigo took a deep breathe and tried to look brave.
The others made it look so easy. But it was definitely a time when team work was important and even without having to give instructions, the children took on the task of helping these old fogies up the mountain……..sorry, sorry, I mean the hill.Once over this little section we continued on to the dam wall, and from there we continued up the other side. That was the easy part because from the hill, we have now graduated to the mountain. And let me tell you something. This might not have been Kilimanjaro, or the Drakensberg Mountains, or even the Waterberg Mountains, but it was a MOUNTAIN and a steep one at that. It just never seemed to end. It went on and on and on and on.
Thank goodness for some of the children who not only had boundless energy, but who are working towards a specific goal. They practically ran up the mountain, dropped their packs off and came down again to help some of the other children. After dropping those packs off, they again, came back down to help the more feeble adults.
Me? Feel guilty? Why? They’re young, have lots of energy, have something to prove. Nope. No guilt there. Just extremely grateful that they were able to do it, and if they enjoy doing it why take that away from them. Alright, alright. A wee bit of guilt.
Once everybody had reached the top and lunch had been consumed, the back packs were sorted out by the children. The stronger ones taking the bigger and heavier back packs while us ‘weak’ ones carried the smaller packs. And then off they charged, never to be seen again – at least not until we reached camp. Not sure if I wanted to kill them or be envious of their youthful exuberance. From there the trail wasn’t too bad. Yes, it still went up.
As the majority of hikers know, you never reach the top, because there is always another climb, but it was a gradual gradient and it undulated somewhat so it wasn’t too bad. I think the worse thing was not knowing what the distance was, so it was difficult to calculate how much further you still had to walk…………or is that trudge. Eventually we reached the campsite. I firmly believe that regardless of what condition the camp site was in, it would have been a beautiful campsite but we were in luck. It was a beautiful campsite with a stream flowing down and lots of rocks.
Big rocks, small rocks, minute rocks and they all seemed to find their way under your sleeping bag. Due to the very rocky terrain, we weren’t able to put up all the tents, but it was a beautiful evening, didn’t look like rain, so we weren’t too fazed about that.
After a ‘lecture’ from Frans about finding a decent place to put their sleeping bags and sorting their things out before the sun set, the kids rushed around doing what needed to be done. Stoves and pots had to be hauled out so that dinner could be prepared. Macaroni and Toppers. Enough said on that score.Because the pots were quite big and it took a while for the water to boil it was quite late before we had dinner. But by then we were all pretty relaxed, getting to know one another, getting to know the kids, contemplating how lucky we were and how much we have to be grateful for. The kids, of course, still had excess energy so they were playing around, cooling off in the stream and helping out with the cooking.
After dinner and much merriment around the gas lamp, we all decided to hit the sack. The follow morning was quite chilly with ominous looking clouds in the sky, which thankfully, soon cleared up. Because we were so close to ‘base camp’, the decision was made to spend some time there before heading down. I must admit, it made a nice change not having to rush in the morning, packing gear away and cleaning up before heading back home.
Noeksie loves sunrises, so naturally she is up bright and early and with a bunch of other early risers, they disappear over the crest to watch the sun rise. Karen and I, we decide that the sun will come in our direction so we’ll just wait it out. We don’t have to see it first. (Maybe if I moved my butt a bit more often, I wouldn’t always suffer so much on these ‘easy’ hikes.) Because the kids were ready before the adults and just raring to go, Noeksie and Frans decided that they needed to go and find Fluffy and a yellow survival bag which she had supposedly lost on the trail. (Fluffy was one of those little bear things that cling to your back pack).
She disappeared up the trail to hide them while Frans spoke to the children about what they had learnt from this back packing trip. Amazing how quickly people learn about what is not;important when back packing. (At least most people do, others still need to learn that you don’t have to take a weeks supply of food for two days.)
While we continued our packing and cleaning up, the kids were all over the mountain, calling for Fluffy. Can you imagine them screaming down the hill if Fluffy actually answered them. Thereafter we left our little hideaway, worked our way down the mountain and headed for camp where Hettie and Alfie had provided a pot of pap and wors for lunch.
My muscles were very sore after the hike and my legs looked like they had been through the wars but it was a good weekend. The kids were great – better mannered and better behaved then mine – the adults were great, also better mannered and better behaved than mine and the pain and suffering was worth it each time I heard a child gurgle with laughter or running around playing instead of sitting with their noses glued to either the t.v. or the computer screen.
Thanks guys, children and adults, for a super weekend and for all your help.
Without that, I would never have been able to accomplish what I did. And a big thank you to the children for showing me that you can bounce back from adversity and that there is so much more to life than your own pathetic little world.
My thanks to Frans and Noeksie who invited me, to Richard and Alan who entertained me, to Tilly who made me realise that there are real people with real problems and to Karen for keeping me company.