Blame it on the mountain

• Climbing the mountain has to be one of the best things you can do in Cape Town. On Saturday morning I ascended up Skeleton Gorge and swam in the reservoir on top before running down Nursery Ravine. The reason that I was running is that I didn’t have any sunscreen and Nursery Ravine (unlike Skeleton Gorge) is exposed to the sun. And once I’d started running it was difficult to stop since gravity was pulling me down with irresistible force. The result is very sore calf muscles, which are even worse today than they were on Sunday. “Ooh”, “eeh” and “aah” followed by some swearing and also hobbling.

• There’s something magical about the mountain and you can tell when you’re a real Capetonian when you start mentioning it in revered tones. But perhaps that’s one of the key things that sets us apart from Joburgers. We have a transformational wilderness experience right on our doorsteps. And when I’m not typing with seven fingers rather than the usual eight (thanks to the metal dustbin) I will do a better job of detailing the experience.

• But a few highlights: swimming in cool, natural water at the top; the light filtering down through the trees that hug the Kirstenbosch side of the mountain; the hundreds of steps that make it easy to climb; the red disas which you spy at the top (if you’re lucky in summer); the stillness up there; the smile on your face when you come down.

• The wonderful thing about audio books is that when you’ve exercised yourself to a standstill and are too tired to hold up a book let alone turn pages for several hours, you can just lie back and let the voices wash over you. What a delight it was this weekend to listen to Emma Fielding reading Jane Eyre. I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never read any of the Brontes before but this was brilliant. Orphan Jane reminded me of David Copperfield and Harry Potter and then there were shades of Jane Austen and Gothic romances. The madwoman in the attic and earnest, lovable Jane. Mr Rochester was a lot gruffer than I expected but I’m sure you know that it all turned out alright in the end. I even liked the dog Pilot.

• Still on the English classics, I borrowed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from the library, this time on DVD. I’m not even going to attempt a review here but Kenneth Branagh’s production didn’t quite work for me. Robert de Niro was excellently cast as the monster though, and his patchwork face was one of the scariest parts of the movie. I can also see why Tim Burton gave Helena Bonham-Carter a second chance at being the corpse bride. But I think what I liked about it the most was having the chance to see the source of so much later science fiction. And I’m sure there were metaphors there about the things we create coming back to haunt us.

• In four days time I’ll be heading off my week-long retreat at Betty’s Bay. Reading, writing, walking on the beach, swimming in the sea and not a lot else (except eating and drinking perhaps). Small matter of a whole lot of work (and cases) to tie up before then though. I’ll check in from Betty’s.


14 Responses to Blame it on the mountain

  1. litlove says:

    Ouch! It’s so easy to pull muscles running downhill isn’t it? You should try it in high heels (well, not the mountain, more like a main street, and maybe you don’t actually want to try out the high heels, but you see what I mean… 🙂 ) But it sounds a wonderful experience. I am a BIG fan of audio books for precisely the reasons you detail, and you remind me I must read Frankenstein. I will definitely get to it this year.

  2. shawjonathan says:

    I was astonished when I read Frankensteiin that the whole creation scene is barely there. That is to say, the scenes that we think of as at the beginning of a tradition were actually created much later in the tradition’s lifespan, not by Mary Shelley but by James Whale & Co

  3. natalian says:

    Sigh! I look at that mountain daily on a live webcam… once a Capetonian, always a Capetonian… Enjoy Betty’s!

  4. Harriet says:

    Have a great vacation. I would love to be at the beach right now. Enjoy!

  5. Even those who’ve only been to Cape Town for one week can talk about the mountain in revered tones. My wife and I do. 🙂
    I love Table Mountain and can imagine taking a hike up once a week just to take in that amazing view, but RUN? No way.

  6. Pete says:

    Litlove – Now that is something I won’t try in a hurry – running anywhere in high heels. Sounds painful! And I’m realising I actually prefer some audio books to the movies. You get to imagine more with the audio version.

    Jonathan – Welcome! And that’s an interesting point about Frankenstein. I have the book so will look out for that creation scene. And also interested to see other differences.

    Natalian – Thanks, I’m sure Betty’s will be a good experience. Work is particularly stressful this week. Why is it always more so just before I go on leave? I would have thought you would look at the Drakensberg every day. But Table Mountain just as good!

    Harriet – Thanks. I’m hoping to come back restored and inspired.

    Ian – Good choice re the non-running. At my age (39) it was not such a good idea. But I’m sure the aches and pains will iron out soon and then I’ll climb again. Maybe for my 40th.

  7. woo says:

    Your mountain swim and run sound idyllic – despite the sore muscles. I’d have loved it. Remind me to visit Cape Town, k?

    And Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books. One of a few I have read and re-read several times.

    • Pete says:

      Woo – Well, you’re welcome to visit anytime! Probably not wise during the World Cup when it will be craziness here and the airfares will be double. But lots of mountains to enjoy. And I’m sure they do canyoning here too. 😉

  8. seachanges says:

    Like everyone else I’m gobsmacked and envious: we had another flurry of snow, settling down all around the house and a piercing cold wind. I do wonder why I settled for England! Your experiences sound so much more attractive, and then to top it all by having the luxury of lying down listening to books. My idea of paradise…. sigh…..

    • Pete says:

      And just when I was thinking that England is so much more cultured and without the teething problems of a developing country! The climate is a big plus-factor though. And loving the audiobooks (courtesy of the library). Great for those car-trips (which you still do, right?)

  9. doctordi says:

    Pete, you must be at BB by now, relaxing I hope. The mountain walking sounds tremendous, sore muscles notwithstanding, and the highlights very special indeed. A big fat tourism pitch for Cape Town, in fact, right here on Couchtrip! Jane Eyre must be done, so welcome to the club!

    • Pete says:

      Yes, looking out at the sea and humming “it’s another tequila sunrise”! Don’t know where that came from since I haven’t had any tequila. And very happy to be part of the Jane Eyre club. Venturing into Virginia Woolf territory now with To the Lighthouse. Enjoying it.

      • doctordi says:

        Laughing at that – are there dance moves too?!

        Mmm, not yet read To The Lighthouse myself, only Mrs Dalloway… but it’s on the list like so much else!

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