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A Mountain for Madiba

July 20, 2009

The easier way up- The cable way

July 18th. Nelson Mandela’s birthday, and a national holiday here in South Africa.  A symbol for democracy, charity and human equality, Nelson represents everything this country hopes to become.  In preparation the Cape Times has been publishing stories on the events of the day for a week.  Local news stations were in a race to discover Mandela’s whereabouts on the day, and the government promotes the newly established traditions.  Mr. Moclantha (acting president while Jacob Zuma was in Italy at the G8 Summit), spoke to parliament on July 8th, saying: “[We] need to ensure that we spend at least 67 minutes of our time on Madiba’s birthday engaging in meritorious activities. In those 67 minutes, every individual should be involved in reawakening the spirit of human solidarity. It is through helping others that our ability to deal with our own problems and challenges will be enhanced.”

We woke up early. Early for 19 college students on Saturday.  The sun was barely brushing the rooftops and the house was a buzz.  Conversation was minimal as we gathered around the table with cereal, toast, and eggs.  We packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, toasted of course, and bottles of water.  With our hiking boots and shorts we marched up to Lower Main to catch a public taxi (Combi) to Table Mountain.  People passing laughed at us: “Crazy Obama kids with bare legs in winter!” It was 72* on this chilly winter morning.

As we rounded the base of the mountain Theresa (ever chipper) turns in the van to give us all “pump-up high-fives.” We asked our taxi driver to take a group picture, and then we were up, up and away.  The trail winds through a gorge. Carved from large blocks of rough granite, the effect is much the same as an hour and a half on a giant-scaled stair stepper.  Slightly out of shape, we stopped a few times to “take in the view,”  and snap a few pictures.

Waterfall on the hike up

Waterfall on the hike up

Mentally tugging our bodies to the summit, our tired legs were soon forgotten.  Suddenly we reverted back to energetic seven year olds at the zoo. “Whoa look at that!” Someone points, and we all clamber to see the view, take a picture, and realize that no camera will ever be able to capture the elation.  Near the edge of the cliff, facing the cape, we gathered to toast our success with peanut butter and grape jelly.  When the food was gone, a few of us climbed nearer the edge, dangling our feet over 3,800ft of nothing and taking in the city below.  “I know it’s crazy, but I just want to jump” Meghan said.  And you did, you wanted to fall in, and become a part of the beauty.

Over the Cape Town

Over the Cape Town

After some reading, basking in the sun, and friendly banter it was time to climb back down; a surprisingly less enjoyable task than climbing up.  We reached the beach just in time to grab some soup and sit in the sand as the sun set over the Atlantic.  Our exhaustion catching up with us, we hopped in a combi, and bumped and jostled our way back to Obs.

Brian came into my room and sat on the hard wood floor. Happy I’d just swept, “What’s up Bry-Bry?” “Today was a good day” he replied. It was. It had been a wonderful day.  But we’d neglected our 67 minutes of service. “Sometimes I think that you have to first enrich yourself. The more that you have, the more that you have to give.” He said.

So Madiba, for your birthday we climbed a mountain. It took us 5 hours and 47 minutes to complete our journey, and we came back enlightened.  We came back down to “reawaken the spirit of human solidarity.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2009 2:07 am

    Cate…I am vicariously enjoying your experiences and learning about part of the world I have yet to visit. Thank you for sharing your blog. We miss you, yet savor access to your adventures.
    Much love,

  2. Kari Andersen permalink
    July 23, 2009 12:27 am

    I love you so much Cate. You are such an amazing woman! I love reading your beautiful blogs, keep it up.

    Love you sis!


  3. May 29, 2010 9:53 am

    You have done it once again! Incredible read.

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