This was another Martin special. Alison should have known, when she read the words ‘vague path’ no fewer than three times in the description of Agatha’s Gully that, given such a conspicuous opportunity, Martin would once again invent his own – and that it would be as terrifying as possible.
After we failed to locate some ‘vague cairns’, Martin decided that the obvious route out of Agatha’s Gully was to free-climb straight up the cliffs. ‘These are great rocks,’ he said enthusiastically, hopping up a crag. ‘Just look at the size of the grips,’ he said happily, hoisting himself up an overhang. Angela and Derek followed confidently.
Angela wasn’t worried because she’s Swedish and completely mad. Derek wasn’t bothered because he has decent upper body strength and was carrying his usual Excuse For A Backpack: an ultra-minimal back-bladder with a Bar-One shoved into the elastic webbing.
Alison was alarmed because: 1. She’s not Swedish, or mad, 2. She has the upper body strength of a small sausage dog, and, 3. She was carrying her usual load of tuna sandwiches, chocolate muffins, boiled eggs, apples, a thermos flask of Woolies vanilla chai tea, two litres of water, and a thick fleece.
So it was only halfway up the 50-metre cliff face, with one oversized old takkie jammed into a crevice at elbow height, her face jammed into a particularly prickly nastybastard bush, her tracksuit pants and right knee torn open by an exceptionally evil shreddershrub disguised as a fluffy fern, that Alison got The Fear.
Anyone with any remnants of proper instinct has had The Fear. It’s that feeling when your body suddenly realises that your brain has lost its mind, and is about to kill you by doing something incredibly stupid. Your body quite sensibly responds by freezing all major muscle groups, and turning on the trembles until you allow it to remove itself from whatever ridiculous position you’ve put it in.
Unfortunately, by now the way down was probably more precarious than the way up, so Alison had no choice but to make increasingly peremptory and querulous demands for assistance, until Derek dragged her backpack up and Martin dragged the rest of her up.
Eventually all four hikists were safely sauntering (or, in one case, staggering) around the top of the mountain. Angela and Martin seemed to be in especially good moods, posing heroically on rocky spires and dashing off to investigate possible caves, while Derek calmly munched on his Bar One. Alison, meanwhile, contented herself with advising occasional rocks and bushes to fuck off.
Duration: 4 hours 20 mins
Trail directions we used: Pages 281 and 46 of Table Mountain Classics by Tony Lourens.
Parking: At the Constantia Nek Traffic Circle.
Remember: That when Tony Lourens says a path is ‘vague’ more than once, he means you will never ever, ever find it. MUHAHAHAHAHAHAH!
Post-hike eating place: Greens in Constantia
HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS HIKE
- Momentarily thinking that we wouldn’t get lost on this hike when we managed to find the first ‘vague path’, cunningly disguised as an impenetrable protea forest.
- Surviving Martin’s Special Ascent of Agatha’s Gully.
- A very grown-up exchange of views regarding nuts at the tea rock on the way up.
- An actually pretty grown-up and rational discussion about herbicides on the way down. (Interesting fact: According to Martin, you could drink a 5-litre jug of Round-Up without any ill-effects. Although we’ll probably just take Martin’s word for that, especially since he’s clearly out to kill us all.)
Alison Westwood is a travel writer and hikist. You can read more of her writing at alisonwestwood.com