There is an undeniable magic therapy for me in the mountains that seems to give me an inner glow, that lightens and energises me, even though my body may be a bit weary from the walk.
I probably slept more often in my tent than under a roof during my twenties, and when the weather was clear, if cold, simply under the stars. Along with priorities, interests and abilities, life styles gradually change and although that love of hiking through wilderness has never left me, I found myself over the last few years contentedly ensconced in my home life. Well, I suppose not all quite so contentedly: overcoming illness that comes to affect both body and spirit is grueling, debilitating and not always much fun. But I am extremely fortunate to have the luxury of a comfortable home with restorative ocean and mountain just beyond my front door, lovingly supportive family and some very special friends, along with a strong will to research, trial, dig, wade, trudge, push or pull my way through whatever kak comes my way without taking deleterious shortcuts. And somewhere in it all coming to an acceptance (not just acquiescence) of my current circumstances, which leads to a certain form of contentment. And which seems to have paid off: I'm once again feeling the yearning to spend extended time under the stars between days of rambling over fynbos-covered mountains, as well as the return of both my physical and motivational energy to do so.
And so, as synchronicity has it, my good friend Ian invited me (yet again) to come with him to a Matroosberg work party last weekend, and of course I was finally free, willing, able and absolutely delighted to go. (In any case, there was the word 'party' in there, which makes the idea of work infinitely more fun!) Despite being rather pack-unfit, with each step up the slope I felt happier and happier, and after a comfortable night tucked between tufts of restios, seeing the brightest Milky Way I've ever seen slowly reel between the peaks from the snugness of my sleeping bag (I love cold weather... provided I have the right insulation!), I woke in the morning feeling thoroughly enlivened.
At dawn my mate Dave and I hiked up to the saddle at the head of the temptingly beautiful Groothoek Kloof, in time to see the first rays of the sun sneaking through the gap of the Hex River Pass, imbuing the peaks in front of us in a deep red glow.
I felt such gratitude for so much: for the mountains being there to be enjoyed and my being able to walk them, being able to appreciate vastly varying wonder and beauty from grand vistas to microscopic lichen rock art, for the heartening company of good people, and for my capacity of gratitude itself.
There's more to this story, but it took the tangent above from where I originally started, and the original thread is taking longer to write (or rather, to form in my mind while I write), so to make sure you actually get your pic this week, I'll pause for now and continue next week.