Sunday, February 20, 2011

The sweet pleasure of the familiar

Lion’s Head is like your favourite restaurant where you can always order the same pizza. The one you don't have to think about but is always there. Dependable and tasty, but not quite as sensational as the brand-new restaurants that open every week somewhere in Cape Town. 

Just as there’s always a more dramatic ravine or a hidden gorge to discover in an unknown corner of the mountain. After more than two decades of walking all over Table Mountain, we still discover new walks all the time. 

Happy Birthday David
But every now and then, the dice falls on a Lion’s Head walk and then the familiar holds its own sweet pleasures. 

Even more special is a tradition. Walking up Lion’s Head has become a tradition every year on our friend David’s birthday. He calls up the troops, makes sure everyone is there on time (leaves behind those with hangovers) and leads the march. Today the troops included a babe magnet called Coco. She is a tiny Yorkie dolled up in pink ribbons and you wouldn't believe the reactions to what is after all just a little dog, even she is very cute. As far as we went, Coco - gambolling like a little lamb ahead of us - was met by non-stop gasps of ooh and ah and sweeeet...

I always forget just how challenging this little ‘koppie’ in our backyard is, maybe because I live in her shadow, see her every day and forget that she is also a demanding little mountain. That’s one of the reasons why a jol up Lion’s Head should always start as early as possible. And 7.30 on a midsummer’s morning, when the sun has already been up for an hour, is just not early enough. So just before the chains, over half an hour into our hot hike, when a man on his way down stepped aside to let us pass with the words ‘no sweat’, I had to point out the basic inaccuracy of those words. It was sweaty, very sweaty.
The grooves that have been carved into the hand-grips have made the climb up the chains ten times easier. Before that, we always rubbed sand into our sweaty hands to stop our hands from slipping, but now going up and down the chains is, well, no sweat.
Babe magnet Coco on top of Lion's Head.
My favourite bit of the walk up Lion’s Head are the big flat rocks on the final ridge before the top. The rocks put perfect little handholds into your hands and make natural steps for your feet so you can scramble up easily. On one side the Twelve Apostles march into the distance, clouds puff over the edge of Table Mountain and below is just sea, endless sea. This is where you become part of the blue of sky and sea surrounding you. By now my calves were burning and David, recovering from bronchitis, was not his normal chirpy self.

But we got there, at last. When you look out over the city spreading in all directions, there is only one expression that comes to mind. No, I can’t say it, it’s such a cliché. Ok, ok, here goes. At the Top of the World!