For City Girls Who Hike Less

Angela Williams University of Western Cape, South Africa


May 27, 2016

I am from Detroit, Michigan and I currently reside in Oak Park, a small suburb less than a mile away. I grew up in a concrete jungle, where the highest things around were the skyscrapers Downtown or the concrete overpasses for the highway, all of this instead of mountains and hills. Thus my childhood and teenage activities were organized team sports and dancing at one of the local colleges. Hiking was never a hobby of mine, probably because family members and friends did not hike and the closest mountain to hike or ski was about 40 minutes away. Basically, it was something I did not do until I came to Cape Town. I hiked my first mountain in late March with my friend and his sister. I was thankful for them being patient with me as I rediscovered my fear of heights as we climbed up ladders and walked through passing clouds. It was a bit physically demanding, but the hike was nice and the view was worth it.

I knew that before I left Cape Town, I wanted to hike Table Mountain, one of the worlds 7 wonders of nature, for the view and just to say "I did it." Little did I know what trail we would be doing (ALWAYS something to consider when planning a hike.)

This past Friday, I hiked up Table Mountain on the Skeleton Gorge trail. After stepping up steep stairs made out of rocks, we had to climb ladders that were slippery. Then I literally hiked up a steep slim riverbed. There were moments when I was stepping into running mountain water in order to climb on all fours up the mountain. This was intense and my legs were shaking the entire time from either fear or not being super fit. I was so thankful that my friend found me a walking stick, which saved my life a couple of times. I spent most of the time watching my breathing, praying to God, and planning my next step. I cannot tell you how many times I slipped on a rock and almost fell. But I didn’t.

After climbing up the riverbed, my group and I soon reached a high point on the mountain where we could see a breath-taking view of Cape Town. I almost forgot that my feet were wet. The top of the mountain looked so close, but that was a deceiving assumption I made as I was trying to be optimistic. One of the girls in our group took a new route and believe it or not we got lost! At that point I could not wait to get back to my room with my heater because sunset was soon and the wind was whipping us a bit harder. Eventually we turned around and decided to hike back down the riverbed because there was no way we could make it to the cable car, that would take us back down to SAFE ground, before sunset.

Hiking down the riverbed was as equally hard as hiking up, if not harder. Thank goodness for my two friends, Lizzi and Sage, who were patient with me as I struggled up and down the mountain. At the end of the trail, I was too happy to be on safe, flat ground.

That hike tested me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In retrospect, I find it interesting how many people can hike up the same trail but have different experiences. There were times when I trusted and mistrusted the earth as I used trees and rocks to help me climb but slipped on rocks and mud. I would be lying if I said that I did not shed a tear or two while hiking. But I can say that I am happy to have had the experience of hiking Table Mountain, even if I did not make it to the top.

To end this post, I will leave you with a few tips just in case you are an inexperienced hiker like me.

  1. Hike with people who love you and are patient with you. They will be the ones to support you when you doubt yourself.
  2. Listen to your body, watch your breathing, and stay hydrated.
  3. Have a map of the hiking trail beforehand so a riverbed will not surprise you! (I wish I could have known.)
  4. Pack a bag of food, extra socks, kleenex, hand sanitizer, and anything else you think you might need.
  5. Reflect after it is all done because you have experienced life in a new way.