14-15 April 2018: Tseketseke
It has taken me such a long time to write the blog about this hike. And I don’t think I will ever be able to because-well, there are no words to describe it. For every hike that we lead we create a Whatsapp group for photographs and coordinating plans. This group is still live. The bonds are still burning. I’m not going to write this as a business-like blog: instead, queue Michaela Leigh Geytenbeek.
I’ve often spoken about the home I wish to one day own. Basic. Real. The house with a loft whose window watches the Drakensberg mountains in the changing light. The first time Ernie welcomed me to his family home- Malherbe House- my breath stopped in my chest. This was it.
Brad Malherbe, Steph Lambert, Scott Rogers and I arrived at Malherbe House before sunset and began working on the fire and dinner. It was almost 11pm before Ernie and Luke Roberts revved up the final bump before the house. After the six hour roadtrip that Ernst and Luke had shared, they were not only no longer strangers, but best buds. Spirits and voices high they set out casual evening alight. Never the less, we were in bed by midnight. We had a big day planned for the 14th.
At 4am I heard Ernie’s alarm ring. He is the best host and had insisted that we make egg and bacon rolls for everyone before heading to Cathedral Peak for the start of the hike. In my tired state I groaned dissatisfied but urged myself to be a better person and crawled out of bed. By 7am we were marching up the Mushroom Rock Trail. Not even 2km into the hike and Steph was secretly justifying spending R1000 to turn around and spend the night at Cathedral Peak Hotel instead. Luke revived the group with riddles and famous quotes from Lord Byron. Scott was quiet. Unlike him I thought. I turned around as Steph was about to lick a rock. The Malherbe boys had advised her that this would cure her cramps. Ernie was now lingering at the back. He came to the conclusion that when you walk at the back “the devil gets you”.
The clouds were thick in the sky and the prospect of spending the night in tents at the head of Tseketseke Pass was becoming increasingly unappealing. As we reached Tseketseke pass the boys (bar Scott) ripped off their shirts and plunged into the ice cold pool. It is impossible to reject a Drakensberg pool and I followed suit.
The clouds swirled around us, hiding the Pyramid and Column. This did not bother the Malherbe brothers who were vying to win an underwater breath holding competition. Twas brilliant. We decided to spend the day relaxing in the pass and sleep in the hut. The next day we would leave our packs behind and ascend and descend the pass, before heading off the mountain. What followed was one of the best days of my life. We climbed onto the roof of the hut and watched the clouds dance around the peaks.
We had carried Cluedo up the mountain and dived into a game. Ernie grappled with the concept of the game. After attempting to play for about an hour we abandoned suit. Scott had climbed onto the roof and shouted for me to come up. The clouds had finally parted. I find it difficult to like(romantically) humans. Scott had some potential though. And we started grilling each other: What do you value most in a person? Blah blah blah.
Meanwhile the rest of the troops had gathered reeds and built boats to race down the river. Ernie’s consisted of two reeds tied together. Needless to say, his never floated. As the sun set, the rapping competition commenced.
With the temperature dropping, we set up camp. Ernst had boasted all day about his super tiny mattress. Upon pulling it out he realized he had packed himself and Brad blow up pillows instead. Brad was not impressed. The rest of the evening was a case of “What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain.” No, get your head out of the gutter.
The next morning the clouds had parted and a beautiful day awaited. Luke turned on his speaker and pumped an unforgettable mix that maintained the troops motivation during the climb. Tseketseke is a long pass with several river crossings and steep grassy ascents. When we reached the top clouds had floated in and were hanging low enough that the pyramid and column peaked through them. The wind was nippy and we quickly descended. The rest of the day consisted of banter, walking, laughing, eating, banter and more banter.
Reaching Cathedral Peak Hotel we headed straight for the pool. We wrote our one rule: when swimming at Cathedral Peak Hotel after a hike, one has to first jump into the cold pool before being allowed to access the warm pool. Simple.
It was hometime. My heart was happy and full. These five humans had wriggled themselves into a heart spot with a lifetime guarantee.