As a young girl, you would often find me playing in the mud, climbing trees, building houses out of shrubbery and collecting bugs and lizards or rodents. Needless to say, Scouting was something that appealed to my finer senses, and the fact that it was only available to boys at the time made it seem even more alluring.
Last year, when I realised that we had an active group right here in my home town, I was determined to get my 7-year-old niece signed up as a Cub so that she could experience the amazing movement of Scouting.
Very soon I found myself getting completely drawn in. I volunteered to help paint the Kon-Tiki Hut and in the process the wonderful ATS, Meagan Richards asked me if I would like to join her on a hike up Table Mountain. I found myself agreeing without giving it much thought. You see, I am not as fit as I would like, I was a smoker and I have an irrational fear of heights but I was enjoying the group so much that I thought I would quieten my doubts and face my fear.
In the weeks leading up to the hike Meagan gave me lots of advice, like what and how to pack, what shoes and socks to wear, how much water to bring, what food etc. She also gave me valuable words of encouragement when doubt set in. Her own story about how she joined Scouting and how it changed her life encouraged me to quit smoking (it has been two weeks already)!
Saturday 8 April saw me bubbling with trepidation and excitement as Meagan and I met up with Troop Scouter Craig Burchell-Burger and Scout Parents Andrew Devy and Madi Murphy. I can assure you that these are, without a doubt, the best people to go on a hike with. They are funny, entertaining and compassionate and full of advice and encouragement.
We started our journey from Kloof Nek parking lot and made our way up the Pipe Track (which is fairly pleasant and doesn't quite prepare the inexperienced for what is to come) until we reached the Woody Ravine which is a ravine that snakes its way, quite sharply, to the top of Table Mountain. I quickly learnt about the value of being prepared for any weather and how much water one should take. Also being prepared by hydrating oneself in advance and ensuring that you have something like Game or Rehydrate available. Luckily we had Scouters with us, who are always prepared, so they made up for whatever was lacking. They also taught me the value of the destination being "Just Around the Corner" and the route is "Not That Bad".
There were some hair-raising moments on the way up, sections where I didn't think I would make it but Meagan was there with her hand out, or taking my bag (while she had her bag on her back!!) so that I could climb up certain rocks without losing balance. At one point, Craig went way ahead of us, dropped off his backpack and then came all the way back to take ANOTHER backpack so that we could continue on safely. I really learnt so much about preparedness, kindness and brotherhood from this group.
I had quite a religious experience when I got to the top of the ravine and turned around and looked out at the view. Make no mistake, it is HIGH and the drop is not something to be scoffed at. But the utter beauty of what lies below will take your breath away. So I sat on the rock for about ten minutes with my heart in my throat in abject terror and complete awe. Transfixed. I think there are very few times in one's life when one truly experiences a moment like this and there are very few words to describe it.
By the time we reached the top, dusk had fallen and we made our way to the hut in the moonlight. It was a relief to get there and relax with good company. Cold showers, a noisy, fairly sleepless night, getting shouted at for going to the toilet, some snoring and a red burning ball of a moon on the horizon in the early hours of the morning are some memories that will stay with me for a long time.
The morning saw the hut enveloped in the famous Table Cloth, which was amazing to experience. Once it had cleared a bit, we made our way to the Jeep Track (much to the more inexperienced Hiker's relief) which was quicker to get down. There was a point where I thought I would be overcome by my irrational fear of heights, but through encouragement from the group, I managed to get through it and made it to the bottom without serious injury. Just some bruised knees and a slightly bruised ego but a HUGE sense of accomplishment, not only physically but emotionally too.
Before we started our journey, Meagan compared a challenging hike to childbirth - the journey is a challenge and at times may feel impossible, but the reward is beyond value and will keep you wanting more, and she is absolutely right. I can't wait to do it again! It has absolutely changed my outlook and I am so happy that my niece has such amazing role models to look up to in Scouts.
Thank you so much for an amazing adventure and a memory that I will never forget! 1st Muizenberg Sea Scouts is brilliant for the young and old!