Snippets from a trip cut short
All photos by Gustav Janse van Rensburg, unless stated.
Disclaimer: colourful language has been used, but only where absolutely and totally appropriate.
Apologies if any entomologists disagree.
If you have been climbing in SA for more than a nanosecond then you will have heard of Boven. However, you may not have indulged yet. Don’t worry, I was practically a virgin in March, so I planned a 2 month stint to make up for it. So what exactly is in store at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?
Here, ‘Snapdragon’ is not a flower (in the Antirrhinum genus, for the nerds), and despite his desire Lotter was not first to score that beauty.
Outside of Boven, Lotter probably had many other less savoury yearnings and ‘Snapdragon’ could also be the 1993 American movie thriller, a type of yacht or a Japanese comic super villain. But you knew all that, right?
However, when your wallet slims passing the extortionist toll plaza (or you add years to your car on the alternate route), the rest of the world is left behind. Including all the decent supermarkets and strip-clubs. But fear not, the availability of unexpired food and grinding lap dances will soon fade from memory. Either after several toots at the Lodge, or when you hit one of the awesome crags on offer.
Here, you know the deal, you did not come to watch a C-grade movie, go sailing or klap a samurai yielding cartoon character. You came to climb, and what, if not awesome routes. Images of which were etched in your mind long before you left the N4.
Boven is a bit like Paris. The first local you meet speaks French. The difference is that this person is super friendly and welcoming. If you are confused, then you probably haven’t been to Boven (yet). Or you somehow didn’t see Roc n’ Rope on your way in, and if your eye-sight is that bad then climbing is gonna be a tad tricky. Oh, and all the optometrists are back in the big smoke. C’est la vie. In light of this, it was no surprise that Flex spat the dummy when he thought he had lost his glasses in the undergrowth after wielding a drill with a bit too much gusto. Don’t stress, I’ll elaborate later.
Let’s talk perceptions briefly. Yes, Boven is predominantly a bolted clambering venue, but there is good trad to be had too. This may explain why Hector has been sighted here (I mean he’s about as hard to miss as Gulliver would be among piekenins). It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the aforementioned French accent, nothing whatsoever. Back to the routes – I proudly confess I am somewhat of a route snob. The great advantage of being a first time visitor is that everything is new. Why then would you climb anything but the best of the best? Hence an objective tick-list is about as important as beer and condoms – both help you have a great trip.
Although racks of aliens and peanuts are not standard fare in these parts, finding the crème de la crème of trad lines is still fairly easy. Anyone who has walked to the Superbowl will have seen the Theatre from the top of the path. Heart of China blasts straight up the centre of the sexy wall that stands as proud as a honeymooner’s member in the distance. However, there is a gem down by the waterfall that is one of the best trad lines I have ever been on. It is pure magic: hard, scary and beautiful to boot. It may be better than the Totem Pole. However it is graded 25X, so suffice to say I had some brushing to do. Stay tuned, I’ll save the best for last.
Characters. Visitors. Locals. If you reflect honestly, surely it is the people that really make a great trip? Now I would like to think I have been round the block, at least a little bit. Nowhere else have I met such accommodating, friendly and downright awesome people as here. Gustav, Alex, Jan, Thulani, Danny and Claire all make Boven a fantastic experience for the out-of-towner. Many climbers feel a soft spot for Boven, and I can see why. The regular weekend warriors, the Rock Ralliers and maybe even some of the Euros will feel this. Certainly those who got engaged or married here know it.
So after that warm and fuzzy interlude, I must warn you of some things about the Restaurant before making your booking.
1. Dust. Lots of dust. Coming from the Mothercity this dry Highveld business took a bit of getting used to. It clings to the rock, makes your feet slip, gives you excuses for sucking, turns your toothbrush brown and soils your socks. On the plus side it encourages you to shower more often. Fortunately, at the right time of year, the deep and lush green of the vegetation totally makes up for this omnipresent consequence of erosion.
2. Perdebye. Horse-bees. Wasps for us sout peels (Thanks to Harry and Madelein for being my Taal tutors). Now these little F*#kers will find the crux hold of a route and build a truck-off fortress there, just waiting for fleshy fingers to sting, repeatedly. They are evil. In a previous life I was a biologist, so I appreciate biodiversity, but not on my handholds! Dewald clearly agrees, so he designed the Doomsday Device. It’s a blerrie great can of Doom on the end of an uber extendable pole, with a cunning trigger system. It allows the purger to commit genocide at a distance. We all gathered to watch Flex vs. The F*#kers. The Device was boringly efficient, to the tune of about 25-0. After sinking a bolt, Flex managed to jettison his specs into the leafy abyss below, which provided some welcome spectator entertainment and maybe restored some karma to the End of the Universe, as he fumbled around the dead and dying F*#kers to find his third and fourth eyes.
And now for the story you have all been waiting for: how the best route this this side of the Limpopo put me in hospital. Sorcery is a radical line. It is about as obvious as 36DD pair at an anorexic conference and just as pretty. A steep arête, wild moves and a thundering waterfall. Psyched! Sure it’s a total sandbag and you could hurt yourself, but this isn’t Disney World is it? Those homies back in the 90’s must have been smoking some good stuff, but with modern gear you could fall of without axing yourself. Not that I advise it.
So there I was, on the crux, a blue alien somewhere way below, when a child fell from the top of the cliff. I gracefully jumped off and caught her. All the gear ripped, slowing our elegant, slow-motion swan dive into the pool at the base of the waterfall. A surprised crocodile was quickly dealt with, as was the passing anaconda. At that moment a rouge ex-Vietnam nutjob napalmed the entire valley in his restored helicopter. My belayer fainted so I grabbed him, the child, a wounded water buffalo and the scared photographer. Balancing them all on my head I speed soloed up the route, retrieving my gear while the flames came ever closer. What a send! I turned round, took a leak and put the blazing inferno out, saving the town. Celebrating in the pub, I had about 14 six-packs too many and tripped over a banana peel that wasn’t even there. My knee needed surgery, but as I was too tipsy to do it myself, I hopped back to Cape Town and let the doctors do their thing.
I am happy to report the knee is getting better, although my physio did try hide in Namibia for a while. If I spend the next 6 months training on my new hangboard I may eventually manage 10 pull-ups. Then I can plan the second half of my Boven trip!
For those familiar with the Menu, please read the specials below. For the rest of you, remember that although this old railway town doesn’t have Woolies goodies or pole dancers, it does have a vibe and a beauty that should not be missed. Go make it happen!
Oh, and if Peddles tells you F*#kers don’t build nests where there is chalk, it is a stinking mistruth. I discovered a battalion of humming F*#kers in a chalk smothered undercling… On the plus, they make belaying more entertaining.
Hitchhikers guide to Boven
Beware: you may fight the Beast, a Monster or Giants. Big Butterfly and Condor Superfly in the Stata cause Flying is Fun. Although Mostly Harmless, Jack of All Trades got Hypertension and Raptophillia. He went to the Psyche Ward to get his Freak On with Sweet Cousin Cocaine. After some Triptolactic Fairy Tales The Fix was to Stich It at the Joy Division of Acid House.
Legends: Big Bad Wolf found Fat Annie in her Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Red at Granny’s Cottage in Toon Town. Chunky Monkey and Atomic Ardvark cried Merci my Brother, while Jabberwocky was too Bamboozled by the Rubiks Cube to notice. Heroes Pedley of Rodan in his Mankini Blue and Jono in the Bronkonator Just Behly saved the day.
Rude Bushman tried Karfofeling with his Sweet Plumb, Miss Mickley, at Club Tropicana Coconuts. Women aint Nothing but Trouble, he got Panty Slapped and Tokoloshie chased him along the Inca Trail past Eldorado to Atlantis. He-Man had Paradise by the C with Rock-Chuka-Chick.
Feeling religious? God No! or Hell Yeah! Screaming Demons Shout at the Devil in Satan’s Temple during the Endless Summer of Wild Fire. Eventually Lucifer goes to the Gunks… The God of Small Things has Black Magic and Unlimited Power but Kindred Spirits shouldn’t Jump in the Fire.
In the case of African Rain, play Dungeons and Dragons, ride the Bovenator or watch Pit Fighter Hack and Slay Godzilla with the Vorpal Sword at the Boa Rodeo. Dutch Popcorn, Chocolate Eclair and Sticky Toffee Pudding on sale. The Backcountry Butcher also serves Frazzled Lab Rat at Cactus Palace As the World Disappears.
Got Questions? Who’s Your Daddy? Who Needs Lucky Cows? Who’s Line is it Anyway? Only one way to find out…
Plan another trip to Boven!
Richard is sponsored, sometimes proudly, by La Sportiva, Wild Country and DMM.
Pics: Gustav and Warren.
Great hospitality: Gustav, Alex, Jan , Danny and Claire.
Loan of crutches: Roc ‘n Rope.
Supplies from the real world: Tim.
Good memories: Everyone I shared a rope and time with.