Bordering on Beautiful. Day 15.
When my suitemate Andre said he was going “climbing” and asked if I wanted to come, I thought he meant hiking. So I deferred my other plans in what I thought would be a nice long walk through the mountains of Muizenberg. Andre and I met his friend Jason and a few more of Jason’s relatives at his home. We piled into his car and listened to South Africa’s “Die Antwoord” band en route to the trail front.
After half an hour of walking through lush green vegetation and charred trees (an odd combination) we came across a cliff face. There were steel hooks drilled into the side of the cliff face at the top of the mountain. I watched, astounded, as Andre started to climb up the flat rock, hooking carabiners onto the steel hooks. When he reached the top, he knotted a thick yellow rope onto a steel ring at the top of the overlook. After Jason’s neice, Chiquita, scaled the rocks, Andre turned to me and said “your turn.” I threw my fears to the wind that was whistling around the caves. I decided to take “The Climb” (perhaps I was inspired by Miley Cyrus). I put on the harness, learned to tie the eighth knot that would tether me to the steel hooks, and I started to take slow steps up the rock face.
The cliff I climbed was a “9.” For native Cape Tonians, climbing a “9” rock face is the equivalent of a leisurely voyage up a set of stairs. The adjacent cliff face, which was called “Amadeus,” was a “15.” It took me some time to find the right footholds, but I made my way to the top. The view was phenomenal: I could see Long Beach and Table Mountain from an entirely different perspective.
Oddly enough, the hardest part of the adventure was the return. I had to take my hands off the rope: I belayed down the mountain with my arms outstretched (I imagined I was making a snow angel in the howling winds). I learned to keep my feet perpendicular to the rock face as I took small jumps to make it back to the foot of the mountain.
Following this rock-climbing adventure, we explored a few caves around the area. We happened across a number of Harry Potter-themed sketches in the caves. There was even a sketch of the snapchat logo embedded in a cave floor covered with thick black ashes. Saturday was my favorite day in Cape Town yet: I met new people, spent an afternoon conquering my fears, and ate a ridiculous amount of homemade honey when Jason invited us to his home for lunch. At his home, we talked about the current U.S. political scene and we reminisced about our trips to Turkey.
Last Saturday, I conquered my fear of cliff-climbing and rejoiced in the generous hospitality of Capetonians. I was reminded, once again, that people are people. We all have fears, ambitions, and a little dose of wanderlust. Maya Angelou put it better than I can: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples laugh, cry, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.” And rock-climbing, like life, is about learning to trust the equipment: it’s not fail proof, but it’s worth the risk. I have been in Cape Town for a little over a week now. After a year where I felt overcome with self-doubt, I am learning to trust my inner voice again. With every climb, I put a little more trust in myself and the people who surround me.