A group of intrepid explorers met on a Saturday at Newlands Forest for a hiking adventure up Hiddingh Ascension to the top of Table Mountain. None of us had done the route before but we had heard that the route offered beautiful scenery with some seriously challenging parts which qualified it for a potential adventure. Little did we know that we would return to our cars 9.5 hours later (we had anticipated a 5-hour hike), wet, muddy, bruised, blistered, tired but bonded together by an incredible experience.
The route started innocently enough through Newlands Forest, winding its way up the contour path. Soon we found ourselves traversing up a river bed with moss and waterfalls and wet, slippery rocks. At the top of the river bed we made our way onto the edge of the mountain using a combination of cairns and our leader’s GPS map. We would walk and bundi bash through bushes on the narrowest of paths below sheer mountain cliffs and eventually find ways up and around. It involved rock scrambling, with loose rocks falling down below us as we moved, slipping and sliding over wet rocks and complete perseverance. The whole experience was heightened by an eerie mist and never seeing another human soul on the route up.
But oh, the views! From the forest underneath, to the sheer rock faces, and sweeping views around Cape Town (when the mist did momentarily lift) were magnificent. It didn’t feel like any other hike we had done up Table Mountain and the mountain itself was unrecognisable. It was as if we had been transported to a magical far away land with the mist making the scenery all the more surreal.
I am not going to lie, there were moments of sheet terror especially when we were winding our way on a precarious narrow path, crawling up constantly loose rocks or I was slipping on a wet rock. The mist was so bad at times we couldn’t see what was on the path in front of us or what lay around the corner. I had thoughts that we weren’t going to make it off Table Mountain or best case scenario that the mountain rescue would have to come and find us. I was not the only one. It all came out once we were safely at the top with a celebratory cup of coffee that the rest of the group had shared the exact same fears. But none of us dared to speak our fears out loud, less to affect the rest of the group, and we needed all the courage that we could muster to keep on going.
We had our coffee on the top of the mountain and then we continued to hike. Down Platteklip Gorge and then onto the Contour path all the way back to Rhodes Memorial. My body was broken, my knees ached and my back was stiff, and I was utterly exhausted. But we had all experienced a real adventure, which leaves an indelible mark (usually leading you to more crazy adventures), and that was worth all of it.