On my second day in Cape Town I climbed Table Mountain. So far, so typical tourist. But there is more to this story.
You may not have known, but Friday, 16th October, was World Food Day. My Zimbabwean friend Simon is co-founder of an organisation called Hike4Hunger, which aims partly to raise money for hunger-related charities, but more to keep hunger in the news at a time when the worldwide financial crisis is reducing aid and awareness. In Zimbabwe this year, more than a third of the population is facing what the UN categorises as extreme hunger.
As part of Hike4Hunger’s activities, all culminating on World Food Day, Simon asked our mutual friend James to organise a hike to the top of Table Mountain. Jimmy is involved with a group called Teach2Fish that regularly takes guys from Khayelitsha Township in Cape Town on hikes and this time I was lucky enough to be invited to tag along.
First things first. Water, hats, tackies (aka runners, trainers, sneakers, whatever you’re having yourself), fruit and skittles were handed round and stowed away.
Though the morning had been sunny, when we began to cut our way up through Platteklip Gorge the sky was grey and clouds were lowering.
The kids raced ahead but I lingered towards the back of the procession. My excuse was that I wanted to take photos – but really, I wanted to take it all in: the group, the flowers, the views back along the path, the singing of the birds. There were also quite a lot of human-made noises:
This, by the way, is my Co-Official-Photographer:
More surprisingly, we were serenaded in Italian by a young opera singer called Loyola. Here’s Loyola with Akhona, the one brave girl who joined us from Khayelitsha:
A little way short of the summit, we all gathered round and were led in a brief meditation session by another one of the boys who invited us all to feel our connectedness to the earth. Sitting on a rock on the side of an African mountain, my feet planted in the scrub, listening to a lilting voice urging me to absorb the sounds of nature, I can promise you I felt connected in a way I haven’t been for a long time. After our meditation, James led a brief discussion about World Food Day, the reality of starvation around the world and the fact that we were part of a bigger event happening in Australia, England and Zimbabwe.
It wasn’t all serious though. One of the kids, a natural comedian, announced that he had listened to the wind ‘and it’s telling me that I’m freezing’. This was our cue to get to our feet, take a picture and then scramble to the top.
This was actually my third time up Table Mountain – but on both previous occasions, clouds obscured the view. So when the clouds came down on Friday I prepared myself for the worst. And then we got to the top and saw this:
It was magical.
Truth be told, I still feel as though my head is in the clouds and my feet haven’t really touched the ground since arriving here. But for half an hour on Friday afternoon, I stood above the clouds on Table Mountain, staring at the view with 16 companions, all of us joined in our enthusiasm for what we had achieved.
On World Food Day next year and for years to come I will remember climbing Table Mountain with these lovely people and I won’t forget why we did it.To find out more about Hike4Hunger, visit the website www.hike4hunger.org