Daniels objective, true, and utterly verifiable account of an expedition.
WARNING: READING THIS IT COULD BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH (WHAT REMAINS OF IT)
This Saturday past, at approximately 5:15 pm, the brave members of the Platteklip Expeditionary Force, consisting of Melt, Anida, Lusanda, Nancy, Sheila and yours truly (am I really? am I getting half of your estate?), after having:- turned down the membership application of Sir Richard Branson, girded their loins and all that other biblical stuff, composed an epic poem to commemorate the august occasion - and commenced the trek to Platteklip Gorge.
(phew, what a sentence, I think this calls for a cup of tea!)
This means, for your information, that these six nutters like the complete idiots they are, walked the 2-3 km from the Lower Cable Station along Tafelberg Road to get to the start of Platteklip. I was feeling a bit dizzy as I had to buy a hideously overpriced hat at the cable station stalls and said hat was a bit too small for my noggin, thereby cutting of blood circulation to the remnant (remainder? bloody confusing English language!!!) of what passes for a brain. Anyway, the walk had barely started when Anida started complaining that she could no longer feel her legs (she was dead sober I can assure you) and Sheila turned an interesting hue of purple. (If she had turned blue I could have passed her off as a Tretchikoff painting, remember that boring old artist?) It wasn't long before the wheat was sorted from the chaff as Melt and Nancy raced off into the lead, followed closely by Lusanda. The rear guard consisted of Anida, Sheila and myself, a real sorry-looking lot, I can tell you.
Now, I've been up Platteklip on a number of occasions, but I can without a doubt state that my trip up there with Anida and Sheila is the most memorable. Their very passage seemed to stir up the ants who, in their thousands, were running across the rocks in a frantic manner as if all of them were little ant mothers looking for their lost kids. I must have stomped hundreds of the little sods into oblivion. Can you imagine this from the poor ant's perspective? Here you are minding your own business desperately looking for little Timmy Ant when suddenly the sun is blotted out and a huge rubber thing crushes you to a mush. Those ants don't have an easy life. Anida was of the view that they were looking for water and most obliging poured some out for them, unfortunately drowning 505 of them. (I counted the dear little bodies. After having spent 20 years in council I know the meaning of meaningful employment)
Ok, ok enough of the ants! let's get back to the top of the food chain. I have never heard people who are absolutely exhausted indulge in such a yak-fest. Every 50 meters Anida and Sheila would park off quite casually and TALK, and they kept on TALKING while walking. Most of this talk consisted of the usual trivia involving kids, husbands, friends but there was quite an thought-provoking bit involving the drummer of a long-lived South African pop/rock band. The gentleman in question is rather corpulent, (vast understatement) and there was an interesting, but mercifully brief speculation, as to how he managed to overcome the limitations engendered by the extreme rotundity of his person to ensure that his loins bore issue. (What a sentence hey!!!! I spent years writing this evasive kind of rubbish as I churned out minutes of the council proceedings involving town planning matters)
And you thought church ladies were made of candy-floss and rainbows! I listened for skinder involving Melt and Ralph but this did not prove to be a rewarding pastime. Early on in the hike Melt nobly volunteered to carry Sheila's backpack and the nobility of this action was lauded by the two ladies, although Anida felt it necessary to balance this lofty conception of Melt by referring to him as a "pakesel" I'm not sure of the English translation but picture a poor farmer's solitary ass, (the animal that is) all ancient and grey-muzzled, loaded till it can barely move and its legs splayed to the four wind directions. According to her this "pakesel" nature of Melt had early origins as he used to carry the gear of his team at match practices.
Anida also loudly and intermittently decried Melt's economy with the truth in assuring him that Platteklip was a manageable walk. I couldn't help but think that Melt was going to be served with a major helping of emotional blackmail. I had this vision of Anida lying on a couch, scratching herself with one hand while waving a remote around in the other, moaning and groaning of her hike-induced aches and pains and insisting on countless back- and legrubs. Paul was right it seems. Stay single.
Anida and Sheila are MOTHERS. This became abundantly clear as we very slowly progressed up Platteklip. Every teenage-looking type of person who had the audacity to ascend or descend Platteklip on that day was lectured on oral hygiene, the need to wash behind their ears, the dangers of drugs and above all the need to be careful. The Belgian guy who caught up with us and who had no water was given a verbal working-over regarding the dangers of going up Platteklip in such an unprepared state. I must admit that the uplifting effect of this maternal aspect of the ladies' personalities was marred by their occasional wolf-whistles and the comment shouted to one of the teenage recalcitrants that "you must beware of falling, gorgeous!". (or words to that effect, I know that the word "gorgeous" featured) Hierdie vroumense is stout!!!! And I want to take this opportunity to thank them for coming along. I loved going up there in their company. They gave me an excuse to rest my weary old bones every two minutes and their talk was most entertaining and provided a surrealistic tinge to the forbidding nature of the environment we were passing through.
This walk wasn't just about the company but about the sights and lessons learned as well. Don't underestimate the power of nature to surprise you. The night before I was thinking that in comparison to other walks this particular one was a bit lacking in the eye-candy department. That is true and false. Ja, sure you don't see the amazing vegetation that you would see along other routes but hoo boy Mother Nature had a surprise for us on the day. It was as if we were a privileged company to be treated to a visual display of grandeur and soul-stirring beauty. If we had gone the day before, or a bit earlier that day, we would not have been as privileged. The show started when we were about halfway up Platteklip with ethereal wisps of white clouds descending like tendrils down the Gorge as they were borne on the down-current cooling the intrepid Platteklip walkers. It was as if the mountain were a curly haired blonde bimbo letting her hair down. Up to this time there hadn't been a cloud in the sky. These tendrils quickly solidified into columns of mist forging its way down the Gorge, and along its way coating the rocks and vegetation with condensation. It's a weird sensation walking in what appears to be mist but is in fact fast moving cloud.
On reaching the top of the mountain the reunited party progressed to the Upper Cable Station and saw what can only be described as a cloud waterfall. A waterfall of white cloud stretching along the entire Twelve Apostles was sweeping off the mountain towards Camps Bay/Clifton/Llandudno. This is a sight that these words cannot begin to convey. You absolutely had to be there yourself to appreciate the majesty and power of that sight. And the sun! The sun was just about to set and could be viewed freely through the clouds. These clouds softened the sun so that it looked like something done in water colour or some painting by Turner. (am I thinking of the correct oke? Constable perhaps?) Our friendly warm orb had the colour of those cheap apricot sweets or the orange-yellow colour of a real farm egg.
My musings on the sun were interrupted by Lusanda's shout of "eat the sun, Nancy, eat the sun!!". This perplexed me until I saw Nancy lining her profile up with the setting sun and opening her mouth as wide as possible. Lusanda was taking a photograph of her profile to make it appear as if Nancy was taking a hap out of the sun. (and you thought church ladies were stiff and stick(s?)-in-the mud(s?) Lusunda tried convincing me to do the same but as I have an unhealthy regard for what passes as my dignity I demurred, and as a compromise suggested that I would cup the sun in my hand. The resultant photo had Lusanda gilling with delight and even I had to admit that it was simply stunning.
The Expeditionary Force annexed a huge rock in the vicinity of the Station and proceeded to wolf down provisions. I had decanted a bottle of cheap Shiraz into a 1liter Valpre bottle and graciously offered Sheila some in a styrofoam cup. Her comment that she did not drink wine from styrofoam cups was greeted with exclamations of disbelief and remonstrations as to the dangers of snootiness. She very quickly changed her mind and accepted the proffered cup of wine which I suspect had started fermenting again on its way up Platteklip.
Grazing done, the Force retired to the outlook point overlooking the City Bowl. What a sight!!! Brings out the lousy poet in me. If I were a poet I'd gas on about the jewel lights (very tired simile, I know, but I'm too tired to come up with anything original) Is it the refraction of the light that makes the lights glitter like that? Ralph (he ascended the mountain by cable car) pointed out the straight illuminated line of Voortrekker Road and Ysterplaat Airforce base and we also identified the N1 and Marine Drive. We were busy gaping at the liggies like farm yokels when I noticed what appeared to be an explosion on the eastern horizon consisting of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains. (are there plans to rename those mountains?) This explosion was repeated at frequent intervals and all along the horizon. I agree with Ralph that the only possible explanation for this phenomenon was lightning playing over the Hottentots-Holland mountains. From our perspective though it looked like a moerse big flashlight going off in the distance. God taking photographs?
The tranquil nature of all of this was ruined by the occasional sounding of an air-raid siren sounding like an old dronkie wailing after discoving he had missed last-rounds. Not to talk of the woman doing PA announcements. She was attempting setting a new Guiness record involving trying to see how many marshmallows she could cram into her cakehole while still retaining the ability to make legible PA announcements. It was obvious that she wasn't doing that well. I avidly scanned all the local newspapers the next day but failed to find a report of the setting of a new world record. Better luck next time my dear.
I'm beginning to pass out so I'll skip over the cable car descent (thank God, I hear you say?) and restrict myself to saying that you should do a nightime cable car trip at least once in your life. An image that will stick with me is that of Anida on her knees before the cashier's booth with her nose barely reaching the little window. It seems that children pay half-price for cable car tickets and Anida was trying to convince the cashier that she was three years old. (See my previous comment re the alleged stuffy, boring nature of church ladies) And that's that. We somehow managed to avoid a powercut and arrived safely at the Lower Cable Station. Thank you so very much Melt, Anida, Nancy, Lusanda, Sheila and Ralph for protecting me from the muggers and for adding such quality to my experience of the walk.You guys are amazingly good fun. Congratulations to Anida and Lusanda on your very first ascent of the mountain via Platteklip and may this be the first trip of many. (hell no!!! who wants to go throught that again, I hear you say) Daniel