Newlands Forest amble
Yes, ladies and gentlemen you are about to read my thrilling, tasteful and scholarly account of the dear hiking group's walk in Newlands Forest this past Saturday. Doesn't that just fill you with the joys of spring! I realise, however, that not all of you are people of impeccable taste and to those who are not, I would suggest the use of the "delete" key on their keyboard. This key is situated to the left of "end" (Is there some hidden significance to this fact? Is there a conspiracy theory to be constructed on this seemingly innocuous juxtaposition of keys?) and below "insert". Feel free to use this key with impunity and great glee.
Our meeting place was the Newlands Forest/Fire Station and the staff there was horrified in the extreme to see their place of work sullied by a gathering of disreputable and unruly ruffians. (The hiking group that is) We eventually, some time past 8, managed to get going as could be heard from the cries of anguish, the loud clanking of chains and the cracking of my whip. Our route took us past the station’s helipad where the sight of two Mi-8 fire-fighting helicopters filled me with such strong emotion that I planted my portable and collapsible flag pole, hoisted the South African flag, clenched my buttocks while standing to attention, and loudly sang the national anthem with tears streaming down my cheeks. I really dig those helicopters! They always give me a thrill when I see them going about their business fighting fires with those big water bags dangling below them. I can remember some years ago watching one of those super-machines at close quarters dipping its bag into the reservoir below De Waal Park. On lift off I was treated to a fine spray of water like a benediction from heaven. (I’m spending way too much time in the correct company it seems) But with pleasure comes pain (S&M anyone?) and unfortunately they only operate when the mountain is ablaze. I have over the years and many hikes developed a close and loving relationship with the mountain as I suspect is true with many other hikers. (A kind of a soul-tie as some of my Christian friends would say) I believe that people who are close to the mountain experience fires on the mountain differently from those who take the mountain for granted. For the former the burning of the mountain becomes a personal matter that causes a great deal of pain and sadness. It's like watching a loved one going up in a blaze. I can remember years ago during a run becoming aware that the mountain was on fire and stopping and venting my rage on the pavement and nearest lamppost. Sounds crazy, I know, but there it is. (Here endeth digression)
On we went. Where else could we go, hey? It quickly became evident that Newlands Forest was the favourite haunt of runners and people walking their dogs. (No, I didn't step in dogturd, which reminds me of something I saw on the internet regarding some crazy woman picking up 25kg of dogturd one Saturday morning. Can you imagine walking along with a big bag of dogsh*t and then going off and weighing it! Sounds like my kind of woman. She's always taking sh*t) One runner caught my attention as he came pounding past, face contorted in a grimace as if he was a chronic constipation sufferer and huffing and puffing as if he was auditioning for a naughty movie. My immediate thought was that surely this couldn’t be fun. Oh, right, I know it's not fun being a runner (this is a matter of vigorous debate – is it running or walking?) myself. And then somehow I received this flash of intuition as to how he was seeing himself. In his mind's-eye he was loping along gracefully and effortlessly, muscles rippling and sweat sexy-sheening his body, while the Vangelis theme from "Chariots of Fire" thundered along in the background. Talking of which, do they still play that overblown, melodramatic piece of music (Yes I know most of you absolutely adore it) at the start of road races? (Lusan, I'm sure you'll be able to illuminate my darkness in this regard) What's with that? Don't they realise that it's corny deluxe and that half of the runners participating in those races are yobs who can hardly wait to let a real stinker rip as soon as the starting pistol is fired? I know, I've been there ,and yes I am one of those yobs, although I give you my word that I only fire off a stinker once the field has dispersed substantially. Damn, I'm digressing again! Maybe it's some kind of unidentified syndrome. (Mark?)
Back to the walk. I must admit that organising this one had been a real comedy-of-errors with loads of misunderstandings and a coincidental (I hope) absence of many of the regulars who were out of town. All of this led me to believe that the walk was going to be a disaster on the scale of the Titanic and I consequently arrived at the start feeling a bit moerig and apprehensive. The amazing thing of these walks is that within the first twenty minutes one sheds that kind of rubbish like dandruff flakes as one becomes engrossed in the aural, visual, tactile and olfactory joys of nature. So after twenty minutes I was a happy chappy again, resisting the urge to skip along. (not a pretty sight as the Goons would say) I also felt like lustily singing the famous song from Disney's "Snow White" that goes something along the lines of "hey ho, hey ho, it's off to work we go". (Possessing a mind of stunning originality I would of course substitute the word "hike" for the word "work") Luckily I also repressed this urge to burst into song as my off-pitch, off-key grunting would have sounded like the Seven Dwarfs on tik. My fellow-hikers should thank God for blessing me with a merciful and caring disposition.
Apart from rediscovering the joys of nature I also discovered that these walks could be very educational. I pointed out all the Pine trees and those trees that were not Pine trees (that's the extent of my knowledge of trees, I am afraid), Nancy discoursed extensively on the Food Bank (?) and Sharon showed us how to produce a penetrating whistle using the "cap" of an acorn. This is the kind of stuff you need to know to get ahead in life. We also came upon the very interesting ruins of what had in the time of the Dutch East India Company been called "Paradijs" (Paradise) It seemed these buildings, now reduced to low moss-covered stone walls, housed a garrison of troops and the Master Woodcutter. I can understand that one could have a Master blacksmith or Master potter or something, but a Master woodcutter? I mean, how difficult can it be? All you need to do is to swing a big axe at a tree and make sure you are not in its path when it falls. According to the informational plaques at the ruins the soldiers of the garrison were subjected to brutal discipline and were very poorly paid. I must admit that bit reminded me of my time in the council, but at least Dutch East India soldiers had the advantage of being brutalised in great surroundings whereas I had to stare at office furniture all day long.
Anyone familiar with Newland forest will agree with me when I say that it resembles the minotaur’s labyrinth in complexity. Paths everywhere. This problem was compounded by the fact that I was using the outdated 1991 Shirley Brossy book "A Walking Guide for Table Mountain" and the Peter Slingsby "Table Mountain" map, which is supposed to be complete but in fact failed to show many of the more insignificant paths. The upshot of all of this was that I was unsure of the route in many places and this in turn presented me with a moral dilemma as to how I should respond if someone asked me whether I knew where we were going. Our home-church discussion regarding white lies came back to me and I reflected on the stupendous number of white lies I've told while on hikes. You should know them by now and if you don't I'll furnish you with the following samples: "Don't worry (when you hear that start worrying) it's not far now/ it's just around the corner/over this hill/across the river etc" Meanwhile I don't have a clue as to how long it's going to be before we reach our destination. I am sorry to say but I am going to continue lying to you when we hike because my white lies will at least lull you into a false state of security whereas if I told the truth I would be causing you mental anguish. How's that for a piece of sophistry?
This email is way too long and I haven't said anything about the walk. Take my word for it when I state it was beautiful and much enjoyed by all the participants. Resist the temptation to go and buy camouflage gear and instead go and see how nature does it on the Woodcutters Track as she filters the sun though the vegetation canopy to create wonderfully dappled rocks for you to walk on. Be astounded at how a towering tree puts your silly aspirations into perspective, revel in the bootsound crunch of your progress as you cross a dry stream bed, delight in the soothing sound of mountain water rushing over rocks and marvel at the way a creeper winds up a tree in its bid to gain access to the sun. What more do you want in life?