I recently looked through my photo archive and found photographs of a hiking adventure of when I (unfortunately) didn't film my adventures yet. The pictures immediately took me back to an unforgettable day. Such a day that you long to re-live and you still yearn for after all these years.
In 2010, I studied and lived in Cape Town, South Africa. I did something spontaneous every weekend. I had the time of my life. After three months, I felt more at home in Cape Town than I ever did in Amsterdam. I made a lot of friends, many of whom I still see now and then and some who I'd still like to encounter one day. And I might not be the materialistic type (or so I'd like to believe), but my car was to die for: I drove in a fantastically retro Mercedes Benz, vintage green with white leather upholstery. It was a complete photo op: all I needed was some good music and I was ready to go..
One of these weekends, we took my wonderful Merc to the Cederberg Mountains, a wilderness area which - despite South Africa's increasing popularity - was and is still relatively unknown.
The road we travelled to get there was beautiful in its own right. We didn't take the 'normal way' (the N7). No, we travelled right through an area of wonderful scenery (N1, R301 and R303). Perhaps we drove around 60 miles an hour, but the view was overwhelming. We stopped for a lot of groceries (they had to last the entire weekend!) on the way. After a few hours' drive, we arrived at our destination: Oasis backpackers. (The website is a shambles, but believe me: with the right group of friends and the beautiful view, you're going to remember this place for a long time to come.) While we ate our experimental dinner, the owner of the hostel drew us a map for the next day's hike. It literally translated to 'take a right turn at the third tree, and it's the second mountain on the left.' It's a shame that I didn't make a picture of the map (I like to nostalgically think that one of my roommates still has it).
The next day, we rose at 5 o'clock in the morning. We set off for the starting point of the hike while the sun rose. Zero 7, The Verve and Coldplay were playing and for a moment I felt as if I was in a setting of a movie.... At 6, we started on 'the most difficult hike there was' (or so we were told), one that would take us 9 hours. We'd have to crawl through small spaces and were terrified that this one rock would tumble down today of all days. We could potentially encounter dangerous animals and would have to jump from one mountain to another to complete the hike. We had to use one another legs or backs as an aid in climbing, because turning back simply wasn't an option. Whoops! Yeah, sometimes it's better not to know what's about to come...
I hadn't trained properly and was totally unprepared. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I even injured my kneecap a couple of months before and I hiked through a rocky area in my multicoloured Adidas trainers (yes, these were all the rage back then). Even more unpractical and unsafe: I carried my professional camera in a shoulder bag.
But in the end, it was all right. We got through it and it was one of the most beautiful hikes of my life. If I didn't know it already, this experience made me realize how mindblowing and magical nature is.
Once finished, we were dirty as hell and completely shattered: a combination of dust, rocks, plants, sweat, tired legs and hunger pangs. And yet, I felt it was a special moment. It was a complete feeling of being alive and overcoming my fears. What a wonderful day... We just did it! Back at the hostel, we tried to process the beautiful images of the day. I felt the result of one glass of wine more strongly than ever. We hung out at the pool for hours, watching the wonderful mountains that we'd just passed through. Cheers bru. May we never forget this day.
For me, this was the hike that kicked off my addiction to adventurous nature trips. Ever since, I've gone on several hikes and the combination of a certain powerlessness (there's nowhere you can go but on) and strength (once you've finished) produces the best mental images. My memory isn't all that good, but the talks I have on hikes are somehow branded in my brain. Maybe because nature is the only thing demanding my attention, which makes my thoughts go quiet. Gosh, do I love it!
Sigh... The days where we were completely young, wild & free. The views, my dear friends and experiencing a true adventure: it's what makes this hike so special to me. But I still want to share this experience with the world, because this place, which is an underdog in South Africa, deserves attention. Maybe a couple of years late, but I hope it's still as beautiful and that you can capture its magic too, one day.