Charles Darwin wrote The Descent of Man. I’m going to write far more briefly and light-heartedly, about The Descent of One Mans Pass. His is 900 pages long and has sex in it. Mine is one page and only has suffering.
It was Barbara’s fault, of course. She was the instigator and in a fair and just world she would have been given a heavy backpack and her kierie would have been confiscated. As it is, she hared down like a springhaas, leaving the other four of us who deserted the platoon for our ‘shortcut,’ gasping in her wake.
‘It’s steep but it’s not far,’ I said confidently, clearly remembering the last time I had descended this pass on Platberg, or Ntabazwe – only about fifty years ago when I was a fit, lightweight klipspringer. Well! The first, rocky, section turned out to be twice as long as I’d remembered; and someone had loosened the rocks:
This part ended at the sandstone cave, which meant we had ‘conquered’ the dolerite cliff section, if we remembered Leon’s geology lesson correctly.
The second section is the grassy-rocky section which I also remembered well – except it was also much longer now. Perhaps there’s been a tectonic upwelling since I last did it?
. . then a section I had completely forgotten about. A bonus section, you could say.
. . a last little bit:
. . and we were on terra firma horizontalis, on the Bloekombos site of many a happy Methodist Sunday School picnic in the ‘sixties. As Tim correctly pointed out: As Methylated Spirits, we were only allowed tea and ginger beer at our picnics.
Now all we had to do was walk on the level to the Akkerbos – or Oak Forest – which I clearly remembered as being at point A:
. . but which is actually, and disconcertingly, at point B.
So we trudged. A reconnaissance patrol was dispatched to find us, but their vehicles turned out to be less capable than we’d have wished for, unable to negotiate a few fallen twigs across their path. Field Marshall Lello RSVP also seemed to have less pull with HQ than we hoped, so no helicopters were dispatched either.
So we trudged. On the way we passed some ladies packing a lovely smelling herb into bundles. We greeted them and trudged on. Luckily Gail had passed them before us and been more engaged. She told us how they had been delighted she could speak isiZulu and knew their herb was Imphepho (Helichrysum, or liquorice plant – that was the smell!). They were bundling it up for sale in eGoli, eThekwini and eKapa (Joburg, Durban and Cape Town). Imphepho is used for ritual purposes by sangomas for summoning the ancestors. According to Pooley ‘to invoke the goodwill of ancestors, to induce trances – and to keep red mites away.’
Soon we arrived at the Akkerbos to tremendous applause and a lavish spread. Well, one of those. A lesson learned: The old ‘Don’t Split The Party’ is a good principle!
kierie – unfair walking aid which well-balanced people don’t need. At first
springhaas – jumping hare; bouncing rabbit
klipspringer – petite antelope which lithely and blithely bounces from rock to rock without causing them to start mini avalanches
bloekombos – gumtree forest
akkerbos – oak forest
Weather: Light westerly breeze; gale, actually!
A bit of stopping to smell the flowers en route:
I’m afraid the conservation status of Platberg, this precious mountain, is precarious. Do read about it.
Read about how we were not the only, nor the first, holy folk to descend this mountain: ‘It was the arrival of the Prophet Isaiah Shembe at KwaZulu Natal (Durban) from Ntabazwe (Harrismith) as he was instructed by the Word of God to do so.’
This stroll was Monday. It’s Thursday and I’m still walking like Charlie Chaplin in slow motion. Tom seriously said ‘Dad, maybe you should see a doctor.’
Monday, exactly one week later and I’m tripping the light fantastic as usual – Normal gait restored.