10 Junie 2017

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
  by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

I have always loved this poem.

The moment when, after kneeling and grieving and losing self in loss
there is a silence into which a bird sings
a flower grows
a beetle scuttles
a bird's wings flutter
and you look up from death and see life.

06 Junie 2017

The Kloof (I)

It started earlier this year when Gerhard and I went climbing at Hellfire. Making/drinking some coffee (it was only 6:00 in the morning and very cold) at the foot of the first climb, we looked over the valley and spotted this kloof next to Moolenaars Peak heading towards the Pinnacles.
Gerhard peering into the kloof (Photo: Gerhard)

I am sure many readers would have seen this kloof. It is the one leading from the river close to the trout farm and lodge in the Du Toits kloof pass, cutting through the enormous cliffs, beckoning one to explore, especially when their waterfalls gush down during the winter rains. We couldn't keep it out of our minds, and with a few discussions here and there an appropriate Saterday was found and we were comitted to go! 

The initial plan was simple. Get into the kloof and hike it out with the odd scramble, and while we are at it climb Witteberg and head home via Kromriver Dome and the hut. Easy?
Some planning
Studying all the dense contour lines and scanning the surrounding cliffs we quickly realised it was going to be an adventure. Two routes were considered as options for the Saterday recce. With some sage advise from Retief Jordaan, a few emails to Andrew Beetge, some arm-chair exploring on Google Earth, and some further satelite imagery we realized there was only one way to find out: Nike style, just do it! "Nooit geskiet is altyd mis" 

So Kari dropped us at the junction of the kloof and the Moolenaars river at about 6:00 am. We voetered amateurishly down a ravine with our headlamps into the Port Jacksons and bundu bashed our way out of it. Crossed the river. With our koplampies it was a bit tricky to navigate and we spent a lot of time bundu bashing our way through the various degrees of terain (and leftover from working for water) up to the kloof. Trying not to get wet in the river... (we'll cross that bridge a bit later with our discoveries...) The vegetation was harsh and we tried to stay on scree as much as possible.
Better view of the kloof (Photo: Riaan)

As we got higher up we moved a bit faster and we crossed the most amazing indigenous forest with Yellow woods standing all over the place. Breathtaking views looking back.
View from the office... I wish! (Foto: Gerhard)

We scrambled high and the ran into cliffs... Then scrambled down to the kloof and made a discovery: It was easier to boulder hop, especially since there was not a lot of water.
Boulder hopping: My favourite! (Gerhard)

We could now move very fast and rocketed up the kloof. Wow... we should have done it this way from the start. We boulder hopped most of the way up. Amazing! The Pinacles towaring in front of us in. Rock faces all over. 
With all these majestic cliffs we realized we had to get a vantage point to decide on how we were going to tackle it further. So we went up a ridge, reaching some scree and aimed for a nook (lets call it X) in the hope that we could get a good view behind and inside the kloof going up to the Moolenaars Needle.
Gerhard going up some scree (Riaan)

This spot also had to give a good view towards the "More Direct" Route in the kloof. From here we could also get some good footage and information for a next trip if we ran out of time.

So things got a little bit steeper and we were back to a bit of bundu bashing once we passed the scree slope. We took some climbing gear along: rope, with a few nuts for protection. Just enough to ensure  a scramble that started out easy and turned out a bit wilder than anticipated could be done with confidence! This would also provide a few good test runs should things get trickier further along the way.
We did about four pitches and then scrambled up a steep grassy slope till we got to a spot for assessing our situation and have lunch. The mission started at 6:00 and we were going until 12:30. I was hungry!

Gerhard at the bottom of the tower (Riaan)

Our lunch spot was great. At the bottom of a tower with great views of the kloof and The Pinacles right in front of us across the little ravine. We could look into the "More Direct" Route, and realized that this was an extreme mission, which was probably more suitable for  abseiling... or some young Supertramp!
"More Direct" Route and main kloof (Riaan)
Due to time, age and maybe some sanity we decided to rather walk back roughly the same route and see if the kloof is more accessible from the river. So we belayed down, down the protea-bush-anchor-hop pretty much the same way we went up. One of the abseils down took a bit of shortcut bashing through some foliage and found only a meter of rope left at the bottom...Phew... Then aimed for the stream to boulder hop our way back. It is a lot easier in the river than on the banks and we definitely will approach and the explore the kloof further using the boulder hopping route. 

I am still licking wounds from the bundu bashing and the rock that nicked my shin, but looking forward to exploring it from Kromriver Dome next time to see if we can combine the experience into a single ascent and complete the project!

Thank you Lord for bringing us home safe!

29 Mei 2017

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.
When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.
When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.
When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?
When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.
When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.
It had visualised a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.
When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.
When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.
When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.
When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.
Peter Handke, a song written for Wim Wenders film Wings of desire.

28 Mei 2017

The Tree and the Pool
"I don't want my leaves to drop," said the tree
"I don't want to freeze, said the pool"
"I don't want to smile", said the sombre man, 
"Or ever to cry, said the Fool".
"I don't want to open,"said the bud
"I don't want to end," said the night
"I don't want to rise", said the neap-tide,
"Or ever to fall," said the kite
They wished and they murmured and whispered,
They said that to change was a crime
Then a voice from nowhere answered
"You must do what I say", said Time

- Brian Patten

It is a timeless moment, watching my son and his friends chuck the hockey ball through the leaves. Their voices stir a nameless longing - connecting a time when I was here with the wish that they would stay like this. Sweet, innocent, carefree. And as I think it, I know that it is an illusion. All the cares of the world are already in them. We see it if we take time to look. 
They have seen so little, yet they have seen much.
They carry us. They carry the world.

20 Mei 2017

Sticks and stones and Tepees

Hey, I found Tarzan! 


Sometimes a new space opens up before you. If you are bold, you run. You dive. You shout. You fill it.

If you are of a more gentle nature - some might call it timid or scared - you tiptoe in.
Slide around the sides and hug the walls.
Watch, listen, smell.
And let it fill you.

Onthou jy nog die berghut

Onlangs besig om al my ou files skoon te maak op die 2TB Backup drive.... toe kom ek ophierdie brief van Karen van der Merwe af.

Liewe Riaan

Onthou jy nog die berghut?
Gisteraand het dit sommer net begin reën. Sommer net 'n Boland-reëntjie wat so saggies val, maar nog steeds hard genoeg dat jy die druppels op ons kombuis se sinkplaatdak kan hoor. As jy fyn luister, hoor jy die feëtjies en kabouters lag en speel ......Dis toe dat ek in my bed ( veilig en snoesig onder my duvet ) lê en dink aan al die "onthou jy 's van die berghut" .Onthou jy?

Onthou jy die aand toe ek en jy en Dewald so lank gevat het om op te stap? Onthou jy hoe ek en Piet gelag het oor die "on appro" en "window shopping"? En wat van Dewald wat so komieklik gelyk het met daai 2 sakke hout onder sy arms? (dit was nog voor jou tyd …) Onthou jy hoe lekker dit is om so moeg en uitasem by daai 8 km klip uit te kom;   om net te weet die hut is net om die draai. Onthou jy die paadjie, bestrooi met wit "Hansie-en-Grietjie-klippies wat helder in die maanlig blink? Onthou jy nog daai lekker gevoel as jy papnat gereën is en dan ewe skielik die hut sien , met sy vriendelike lig wat uitstraal in die donker en jou binne nooi? Het jy al ooit stilgestaan en na die mense binne die ligkring gekyk?

Almal lyk altyd so gelukkig en vreedsaam. Dis half of hulle net vir daai paar uur van die naweek niks in die lewe het wat hulle hinder nie. Onthou jy die geraas wat net BTK-aners kan maak as jy naderstap? Onthou jy hoe bly almal altyd is om jou weer te sien? Onthou jy hoe jou moegheid sommer net verdwyn as jy lekker warm aangetrek is en deelword van daai ligkringetjie?

Onthou jy hoe knaag jou maag aan jou lewer as jy daai vleis en knoffelbrood ruik? En die lekker slaai ( al is jy nou nie 'n slaai- ondersteuner nie). En die koffie? Onthou jy hoe lekker dit is om daar buite om die vuur te sit en net te lag?  Om weer saam jou BTK-maters te wees en te weet ek is een van hulle...? Onthou jy die geknetter van die kagelvuur? Die kleure van die vuur?  Die patrone op die vensters soos die ligstrale daarop val? Die fyn geluid van 'n brandende liglampie wat almal laataand aan die slaap sus?

Onthou jy hoe almal sommer in sulke krismisbeddens aan die slaap raak? Onthou jy hoe hoe almal in sulke fluisterstemmetjies met mekaar praat as die ander slaap? Onthou jy daai rustige stilte wat om ons neerdaal? Onthou jy daai sorgelose dae? Onthou jy hoe dit soggens vroeg lyk? ( Jy is nie 'n oggend mens nie, maar dis iets wat jy al moes gesien het.) Dis die mooiste mooi as die miswolke die hut omring, met die grys klippe wat hier en daar uitsteek en die groen bossies wat net nog groener lyk.

Dou druppels blink helder aan die spinnerakke en 'n voëltjie sing vrolik. 'n Regte feëtjiewêreld! Sprokiesland!  En natuurlik die lekker gevoel om dan weer terug te kruip in die slaapsak en weer verder te slaap tot die son jou uit jou slaapsak bak. En daai eerste koppie koffie met sy gwaffies en moer en baieeee suiker. Onthou jy hoe naby aan ons Skepper voel? Onthou jy die vriende wat jy daar gemaak het en die baie vriendskappe wat jy daar opgebou het? Ag , Riaan, dis maar net "onthou jy's" wat ek met jou wil deel . Daar's nog vele meer. Te veel. Dis maar net nog een van daai makapan-goeters.  Jy kan net hierin deel as jy saam "ge-berghut" het saam mede BTK-aners. Dankie vir al die "onhou jy's " wat ek al saam met jou daar bo bymekaar gemaak het, Ek bêre dit veilig hier in my hartjie. Onthou jy nog die berghut?

Liefde Karen

Wim en Karen by die berghut

03 Mei 2017

Conquering the Mighty Witels

We have not hiked for a long long time.
We have walked. We have strolled. We have toddled.
But we have not HIKED

So we decided to take on the Witels.
The Witels is the king of the Cape kloofs: the ultimate 3-5 day kloofing experience.
Riaan and some of our other team members have an impressive number of Witelses on their hiking record.
It would be my first, and although it has been on my to-do list for ever,  I was a little apprehensive. The only kloofing I had done to date was Groothoekkloof, which has more abseiling and swimming than boulder hopping.

Our group was going to be Dr Browne and Mr Dr Browne from Sutherland, (kaalvoet) Colyn from Ceres, his brothers Sep and Andrew, both medical doctors from Cape Town, Riaan and myself.
2 Engineers, 3 doctors, and a lone horticulturist.
I know engineers can do ANYTHING, but I was relieved to have a solid amount of doctors on the team. Clambering up kilometer high mountains and hopping from rock to rock down a river for 5 days is not something we do every day, so I did not know how far we could trust our abilities and muscle memory.

When Colyn said that he was taking little Mia (8), a lot of thoughts went through my head.  When he mentioned casually that they had to do it in 3 days instead of 5 because he had to be back at work, and she at school,  I went straight into a little room in my mind that I hide very well. The one where I store all the unwanted parenting advice that I want to give parents that I think are fucking up. I usually keep the door firmly closed, because I know how much I hate being on the receiving end of such advice, but when I really need to, I go in there and fling some what if's and how can you's and what the hell do you think you are doing's around until I feel better. And then I come out smiling and let them do whatever they want.
Because they will do it anyway.

It was a quick session.
"Colyn..have you thought about this? Have you THOUGHT about this? 30 km's with an 8 year old in 3 days. Boulderhopping and swimming. Do you know she might not hike again in her LIFE?" was soon replaced by: "I actually like your guts. If she makes it without a mayor mishap, she might remember it for a very long time. And if she manages this at 8, who knows what adventures she will be willing to take on when she is 12. Maybe she will hike some unconquered mountain with a few sturdy adventurers at 16, when most other girls are chasing boys in fast cars."
I liked that thought, so I kept it and pushed the rest back behind the door.

We gathered at the Murray house late on the evening of 24 February. Erica and tannie Lizette were putting Mia to bed, looking just a tiny bit worried.  After a few jokes, comparing pack weights, and establishing that at least one doctor had brought a decent medical kit, we hit the mattresses so that we could get up before the crack of the crack of dawn and be at least halfway up the mountain when the sun decided to show up. The next morning we started out in the last bit of night, and drew the day up the mountain as we went.

We managed to get up most of the mountain in the shade, even though we had many small stops along the way, supposedly for Mia.

"The way is dark, and getting darker. The hut is high, and even higher. I wish you luck. there is none". 

The New Base hut - an interesting little structure built into a rock. I could almost see a little lady with a black pot on the stoep, making porridge for 20 cats.

Game break with the frogs and some red flowers that were hard to identify.

At last, the top of the mountain. A proud moment for Colyn and Mia. Pell's hut and lunch was in sight!

An elaborate beacon - probably built by those 2nd years whose traces we saw everywhere. 

The down was excruciating. More so than the up. But when we finally dropped down into the kloof, it was heavenly.
 It was a short hike from the entry point to Disa Camp, where we spent the first night. Disa Camp is the largest camp of the hike, with some very nicely laid out sleeping places. The Brown(e)ses had an upper room, quite private with nooks and crannies for all the necessities they brought along. Items which at first I thought a total waste of space and energy -and utter luxury, come on! , but some of which I was very grateful for later on the trip. Lip-ice and peaceful sleep, to name two.

A very gallant warning not to take the high route - I was immediately rebellious, so Riaan tested it out to make sure it was safe. 
Photos can not really do justice to the size and grandure of the cliffs

A little private waterfall

 Very unusual species of Rock Biting Trees - we spotted quite a few.

     The most magical, beautiful moment for me was on night three, when Riaan went to wash the dishes in the river, and he shouted for us to come and see. In the light of his headlamp, a huge eel lazily swam past the rock on which he was standing. It was so unexpected, that when it disappeared into the shadows it almost felt as if we had dreamt it.

On day 5, the slowcoaches (us and the Brownes) finished the hike with a hell of a long trek through the grass. The rest of the group had long since left us behind - Andrew started day two early and on the run and finished late that evening, Colyn, Sep and Mia started early as well, and ended late on day three. We found evidence of their journey along our way - even some clothes that was left behind to make things easier.

Here are the Brownes - visibly thinking that they should have been home hours ago, scrubbed clean with dove soap and enjoying a cold beer.

Halleluja for Die Oestafel, which have been built in EXACTLY the right spot. Just when tired hikers give their VLSE, there it is. And the waiters literally come running to offer you heavenly dishes that make you realize that you are, in fact, still alive. Or rather, that you want to stay alive until they deliver on their promises.
And then you can finish dying.

Thank you to everyone who made this hike a most memorable experience. Colyn for organising, Mia for showing us what girl spirit looks like, Andrew and Sep for being the best uncles ever - we will recommend you to anyone looking for one. Keith and Natasha for being our hikefellows for the whole 5 days. We still miss you. Natasha, I have been scientifically measuring and comparing the armpit hairgrowth - mine are equal.  I think.... yours could be a bit on the abnormal side. Maybe have it checked out? :--)

Here is to our next adventure!

04 April 2017

Loop in Kaapstad

Cape Town


Wondered about tails on cocks and soapy feathers

Window shopped the local cuisine and ate the holes of pretzel bread

Got shoelaces untied on Malawian chairs. Which Catherine brought down from R550 to R300 JUST for us. Who wouldn't feel special.

Ran from pushy sellers in Green Market Square
Contemplated tin art in the midst of whiffs of urine from the gutter

Tried to decipher secret codes on shop steps

And made a wondrous discovery of a HUGE music store with WALLS plated with guitars and ISLES filled with keyboards. Ryan overruled PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH and let us try them out - and even understood Vincent's big problem of plectrums falling into guitar bellies. ''That is a problem, Bru'". He showed Vincent how to hold the plectrum properly- and didn't laugh out loud at his puzzled discovery that an electrical guitar doesn't sound like much without an amp.

As if the day wasn't good enough already - we Merrily Popped In and managed to get half a wardrobe full of winter clothes for R300 in Bree St
- AND Julia Donaldson's whole collection on audio book for R260. Which took us through the 5 o' clock traffic all the way home - and right through to bed time.

 I would be so bold as to say  that this was a pretty good day.