My EPIC day in the Drakensberg, the highest mountain range in southern Africa, involved two of my favorite things: monkeys and mountains!
It started with a hike to Orange Peel Gap, in the shadow of Cathedral Peak. There were incredible views throughout the entire hike that kept my motivation up. It wasn’t easy though. There were times I wanted to turn around and quit. I was tired, dehydrated and the hike felt harder than it really was. I preserved. Not even the odd cobra darting in front of my path deterred me and I’m petrified of snakes. One of the reasons I love hiking so much is that it parallels life in a lot of ways – sure it’s easy to give up, but then you aren’t going to get the sense of accomplishment (and the gorgeous view when hiking). If you give up every time you get tired, or there’s a tough patch, chances are you’re probably not going to accomplish much of anything – when hiking or in life.
I wearily pressed on for several hours, focusing on each step I was taking and not how far I still had to go. Each step I took, no matter how slow, or how small, was getting me closer to my goal of reaching Orange Peel Gap. Eventually I made it. Our guide was disappointed that it had taken us two hours longer than expected, but nevertheless I got there. Better late than never! My efforts were rewarded with a view over the UNESCO designated Drakensberg.
I was proud of myself. Not so much for hiking to Orange Peel Gap as I’ve done tons of hikes that were longer or more strenuous, but for preserving, for not giving up even when I didn’t think I could make it. I took an hour to enjoy the reward. My energy and spirit returned. And the way down was much easier. Two months later, I still feel a sense of accomplishment.
Driving back to Didima Chalets where we were staying, we came across a troop of baboons, including a baby baboon. Just hanging out, foraging, being baboons. I was in heaven. I am fascinated by primates (and even hold a B.Sc in Primatology – the study of primates) and can watch them for hours, especially when they’re in their natural habitats. Sadly, but not surprisingly the rest of our group couldn’t, so we hopped back in the van.
As we exited the van at Didima Chalets our guide noticed more baboons hanging out around the chalets. Our group snapped a couple of photos then headed back to their rooms for a much needed shower, but missing out on a baby baboon temper-tantrum. I stayed alone observing them until finally all I could make out in the darkening light were shadows of the few remaining baboons, the rest having headed to the mountains for the night.
I gave a silent “thank you” to them for allowing me to observe them and take over 300 photos. I also gave a silent thanks to the cobras whose paths I had crossed earlier that day. They had not harmed me and were as unexcited to see me as I was to see them. Encountering them has made me a little less fearful of snakes. Finally, I said a thank you to the Drakensberg. You showed me what I was really made of and what I’m capable of when I preserve. And nothing is more epic than that.
Thank you to the South African Tourist Board for hosting me.