We had our eyes on Lion’s Head in Cape Town for five days before venturing to the top. Our itinerary was loose, but we didn’t want to hike in the rain, so we waited until the end of the week. After getting the lay of the land and realizing Table Mountain National Park was practically in our B&B’s backyard, we walked the steep road to the path leading into the park. Our first stop was a police substation, I asked an officer where we could buy bottled water. He offered us a ride to the trailhead; a ramshackle hut sold water at the trail’s entrance. Not used to the steering wheel being on the opposite side of the car I climbed into the driver’s seat, thinking it was the passenger’s.
“You driving?” he asked.
I apologized, explained I was from the US. He smiled, waited for Bill and me to take our proper places. The officer chatted away on the short drive before dropping us off at the trailhead. We thanked him, bought our water and were on our way to the top of Lion’s Head.
Proteas, silver leaf trees, and other flowers and shrubs I couldn’t identify lined the wide, dirt path that led straight up, unlike Table Mountain, with its switchbacks. The higher we climbed the more narrow the path became; the broad, dusty road eventually tapered to a rocky one, the cliff’s edge never far from our left.
I’m terrified of heights. There have been times I thought I could: A. walk across that bridge suspended between two buildings (I know you remember, Liz): B. ride in that all-glass elevator: C. enjoy exploring the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse at Disney World (pathetic, I know), but found alternate routes in each instance. For some reason, hiking along a narrow path doesn’t scare me or make me anxious. Maybe it’s the wall of rock I can touch on the one side. The drop off wasn’t always steep, sometimes it was gradual and sloped. Maybe that helped my brain. Whatever the reason, I was fine hiking along the narrow stretch until I wasn’t.
Up ahead we spotted a ladder. A family with two young boys passed us, took turns scrambling up the rungs, without missing a beat. Bill climbed to the top of the ladder to survey the land above us. When he told me about the steel chain people were holding onto for the next portion of the hike I wimped out. I couldn’t do it.
I sat on a rock ledge for a minute, trying to call up some courage. ‘If a young boy can hike to the top, so can I,’ I thought. More people passed us, climbed right on up the ladder and disappeared out of my sight.
“Maybe they think we’re resting on our way down,” I said, more than once, more like every time someone passed us. My ego wasn’t happy but my feet would not cooperate. I did manage to get to the top of the ladder. Not liking what I saw my decision was firm.
My ego slightly bruised, we turned and hiked back down. We looked back several times, took photos, pointed out how far we had gotten. Close but no cigar.