That one time we got lost on the mountain

“Guys should we call a helicopter? I think we’re lost.”

While this might sound like the beginning of a bad episode of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, those were the exact words that came tumbling out of my mouth during Friday’s hike up Table Mountain.

A group of us from varsity had decided to try something new and head up the mountain via the India Venster route. It’s highly recommended that you don’t attempt this route without a guide or at least a friend who knows what’s up because the path isn’t always clearly marked so it’s slightly dangerous and easier to get lost. Having found such a friend to lead the way, we set off cheerily up the rocky trail, so ready for a morning of adventure. Little did we know just how “adventurous” things would get.

The India Venster hike provides a whole new perspective on Lion’s Head and the rest of the city

After a couple of hours of skedaddle-ing, scrambling and many a stop to catch our breaths, take in the view, snap photos and ponder over how many squats and lunges the mostly-uphill slog was equivalent to, we deviated off the path a little at the recommendation of our pseudo-guide. He helped us navigate a path right to the edge of the mountain, offering  a spectacular 360-degree view of Cape Town, with Camps Bay to our left and Lion’s Head and the rest of the CBD to our right. I’m not necessarily suggesting that you go on a whim and just meander to the edge of a mountain cliff to check out the sights – it’s not safe and I didn’t really consider how wrong things could go. But, as I sat with my feet dangling in the air over match box houses, I couldn’t help but think how being on a mountain looking down on the world below really puts life into perspective and makes daily struggles (traffic, studying, racking up Instagram followers) seem so insignificant and meaningless.

Some of us were starting to get “hangry” and we soon decided to head for home. Fuelled by thoughts of flat whites and eggs Benedict, I was blazing down the mountain, leading our group along an easy-to-navigate and clear path, when things started to go horribly wrong. The path suddenly disappeared at my feet. We searched and searched to relocate it, but there was not a marker or cairn in sight. The panic started to set in. We could see the main path we needed to get to (the one that joins all routes up Table Mountain), but couldn’t find a clear route back to it. Further searching and pacing back and forth through the shrubbery and over rocks proved futile. Some nervous laughter broke out among the group. I could feel my stomach clench with sudden fear – we were horribly lost. We were going to have to call an emergency helicopter to rescue us. What a disaster.

Man vs Mountain

But, somehow, despite the rising panic, everyone remained calm and kept it together. With adrenaline and determination pumping, we managed to scramble and slide down the side of the cliff to reach the path we knew we needed to follow to get off the mountain, with a disposable camera as our only casualty. As I watched it toss and tumble down the rocks, I realised that that could have been one of us, and that we were so lucky to be safe and sound – what we had just done was pretty dangerous and not the smartest idea, despite firmly being on solid (and clearly demarcated) ground again.

Look out for beautiful blooming proteas dotted along the mountain

While I toyed with the idea of kissing the ground my feet were firmly planted on, I was struck with a sudden realisation of how alive I felt. My heart was racing, hands shaking, and mind racing with visions of what could have happened, but – as cliche as it sounds – I was really present in the moment. It was just some weird mix of being wholly terrified, and at the same wanting to jump around with happiness for having done something so completely, ridiculously fun and exhilarating.

Looking out over Camps Bay

While I’m by no means suggesting you go risk your life for the sake of a cheap thrill, the whole situation just proved that sometimes you have to do something challenging, something that pushes your mind and body, to knock some sense into you and remind you to appreciate your life a little more.

As much as I love adventure, it’s so easy to get stuck in a “safe” or mundane rut of doing the same things and stressing about every little thing day after day. I guess what I’m saying is that you should get out of your comfort zone and try do something new or challenging as often as possible, whether big or small – dig out an old recipe you’ve never tried before and give it a whirl, take a break from your regular coffee joint, smile at a random stranger or go get some fresh air and meander along a new mountain path. That’s the premise of this blog for me – a challenge and promise to myself to keep experiencing new things and living my life to the fullest.

*Ok Emma, enough of that profound cheesy shiz*

Needless to say, that post-India Venster breakfast was one of the best I’ve ever had, as we recounted our morning’s endeavours, exchanged photos and stories of bruises, and laughed about how dramatic I had been for suggesting a helicopter.

Happy adventuring and be safe out there (no deviating off mountain paths without knowing what you’re doing, please).


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