Another Lion

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We think we got about there….

42 replies

  1. I laughed about you going to get in the driver’s seat of the police car. I get mixed up on a regular basis since we’ve been living here, and have actually got into the passenger seat when I’m out on my own, and then wondered where the steering wheel went to. When we go back to South Africa, I get mixed up too. 🙂 I think you did very well for someone who is afraid of heights. Better safe than sorry, as they say. xx

    • That’s funny about the steering wheel, Sylvia, and makes me feel better. I was surprised he gave us a ride, I don’t think any police officer where I live would drive a pedestrian even one block, but maybe I’m wrong. Have a great weekend!

      • I once ran out of gas in Johannesburg and two policemen stopped to help me. They pushed my car to a safe place, then took me to a garage to get a container of gas, put it in for me and waved me goodbye. Mind you, I was about 30 years younger than I am now. 😀

  2. Oh my word! I can’t believe you were walking on the edge of that cliff, Geralyn! My palms are sweating looking at the photos. If I’d climbed that high, I’d still be there, unable to get down. Beautiful photographs!

    • I know that feeling all too well, Jill. I’ve been in situations where I’m frozen and can’t go up or down. For some reason that doesn’t happen to me hiking. We hiked some narrow, edge of the cliff, trails at Zion and I was fine there, too. Of course there is no multi-tasking (no selfies!). 🙂

  3. I’m not afraid of heights when I’m alone on a mountain. I’m only afraid of heights when other people are around.

    So I guess I’m really just afraid of being pushed. I wonder if there’s a technical name for that.

    I get over it by sitting down. The imaginary psychopath will have physically drag me off the cliff. Good luck with that, imaginary psycho!

    • Oh, I thought of that too, Autumn. What if someone hanging onto the chain in front of me falls and pulls me down with them? Of course I would never, ever be there in the first place but I think of that for others, like you, who aren’t afraid. It’s all fun and games until someone plunges to their death.

    • I didn’t want to hold Bill back and kept encouraging him to keep going so he could take some photos but he was okay with stopping where we did. I’m afraid of walking up and down steep stairs that are outside and exposed (rather than in a stairwell, if you can picture that) so when I get to the top all I’m thinking about is how the h*ll am I going to get back down! I was never afraid until I got into my 20s.

  4. Loved seeing and reading about your venture, I don’t blame you for fear of heights I have them as well. Years back my husband and I were in Maine and hiking up Beehive, when we came upon an iron grate that we had to walk across – not only did I not go across, but I got on my hands and knees and backed off!! Great shots and loved the distant one w/the sea.

  5. Oh, I felt for you! I’m not really scared of heights but that shot where you have nothing on one side and the cliff face on the other would have me wobbly round the knees. Once you start to panic/worry it’s so hard to push it away. I’ve ‘frozen’ before, and it certainly doesn’t get easier with age.

  6. Dang, you were almost there! But, its always wise to follow our instincts. Maybe there’s a reason. All of your photos are stunning and that one with the drop off beside you looks pretty spooky. I now understand why my photo of the suspension bridge over the Salmon River gave you the heebeegeebies. (I love that word.)

  7. Fabulous photos! But what a frightening trail! Sometimes I do more than I’m comfortable doing, so I might have walked up the narrow, rocky path. I wouldn’t have like it though. And I certainly wouldn’t have gone any higher than you did.

  8. Oh my gosh. I would have totally wimped out. Way before you did even. That picture of you way up high along that narrow path would freak me right out. Exotic adventure or not, I wouldn’t do it. Hahaha.
    I love the reaction of the officer. That’s hilarious @”You driving?”. Did you ever get the chance to drive there?
    🙂

    • I’m a big chicken! I would never attempt to drive there, Staci. I would be so confused at the roundabouts and kept thinking our drivers were driving into oncoming traffic. Someone we met on the safari rented a car and drove all over, I was impressed.

      • I’m with you Geralyn. I’m a huge chicken. And I’m directionally challenged, which causes some problems when it comes to driving in different places I’m not used to. Haha. Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever get over being a big wimp. I’ve accepted it. Lol.
        🙂

  9. What a breathtaking hike! I can totally relate to the issue with heights! I don’t even like short ladders! You were very brave to hike along that ledge — I would have a hard time doing that, but the views must have been incredible!

  10. That looks so pretty! Heights do something to my brain as well. I got stuck in a blizzard 300 feet from the summit of Mt. Massive here in Colorado. I wanted to summit SO BADLY…but I didn’t. It was the right decision to stop. But still…

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