Giant’s Castle

Day 5 (continued)

No one is talking about what happened. Every now and then it’s like someone is going to say something, but then they seem to forget and just…trail off. I’ve tried to tell everyone that we should go back but I can’t seem to speak either. Every time I try to approach someone it’s like they fade away … or I do.

We should be most of the way back home by now.

That fog’s still hanging around – just clinging to the ground like some kind of living carpet. It’s weirding me out a whole lot. My feet haven’t been warm since…whenever it was that came before yesterday.

The wind was rising, and there was fog… and then something.

Jeez, I can’t even write about it to myself. I guess it’s not surprising that no one else is saying anything either. We should move though. Really really really. And soon. Now. Sooner.

I need to go. Get out. Get away. Run. Hide.


Giant’s Castle trail – Day 3

The pace today was BRUTAL. De Groot had us going from dawn ‘til dusk (without the vampires – dankie tog! Hee hee – bad joke, I know, but I’m TTIIIIRRREEEDDD).

We’ve made incredible time though, and complaints, aches and bruises aside, it’s been good. We’re actually just a couple of kays below the summit, and should be able to make the rest of it before lunch tomorrow.

I think the angle’s a bit off though. I’m no Magellan, but I’m pretty sure that the cave we’re in is not Injasuthi Cave. I know we didn’t take the more traditional, easier route; but something still feels off. Mariska, Trent, Schoep and de Groot were huddling together worryingly earlier – it sounded like the GPS has conked out. Makes sense: if there’s no cell reception, there’s probably no GPS hook up either. Not that I have the foggiest clue of how those things actually talk to each other anyway – it might all be done by invisible fairies, for all I know.

But you know, lying here, on top of a mountain, staring out at what seems like the whole creation, I don’t know if it bothers me if we are lost. I could blissfully just lie here forever and simply … drift away. Become one with the cosmos. The flowers, not the universe! 😀 I’m not one of those mystical new age Buddhist-y types who are all “become one with everything”. Although one can understand why they feel that way when you’re out here in the everything. And their mountains are WAY higher than these, so the effect must be, like, tripled.

There’s a feeling of such love up here. So much unlimited welcome! It’s like this place has been waiting for us to arrive here; just us, just now; for literally eons.

Ooh! Juicy skinner! Johnny and Sam wandered off together earlier, looking very, um…intent. He is SO scoring right now! She’s ok, I guess – not who I would have expected him to go for, but I guess choice is limited when of the other two chicks one is your sister and the other is married! She could do better though. ‘Skidding, bro!

Campfire time!! I could totally eat a horse. Or at least one of those bokke that we’ve been seeing all over the place for the past three days. I’ll have to make believe that the same old biltong and dried fruit is prime steak and chips. Love hiking – hate the food!

The breeze is getting a bit stronger now. The extended forecast I checked just before we left said that it might get windy from tomorrow, and for once it looks like those weather guys knew what they were talking about.


Day 6

Mariska’s gone, too. Trent looks shattered. No one has said a word to anyone else at all for more than thirty-six hours. We didn’t even notice that she was missing until Trent suddenly looked down at the hand that had been holding hers and started crying. That was the worst thing. He didn’t scream, or shout, or even get up. He just sat and looked at his hand and wept and wept and wept. Without a sound.

It took me ages to realise that I was crying, too.

The four of us that remain – crap, three now – are just…..

I have no words.

No one would believe them anyway.


Giant’s Castle trail – Day 2

De Groot has assumed the role of trail leader. Not that he knows anything about hiking: this is his first extreme hike; something that everyone seems to have simply forgotten. Hell, he hasn’t even done the Otter Trail! But he’s got the expensive equipment and the fancy GPS and the brand new two thousand rand hiking boots. Which are probably giving him ENORMOUS blisters – hah! Kry vir jou! Just because you happen to have the cash to buy the really pricey stuff, doesn’t mean that you have the right to act like the bloody King of the Castle. Even if you are nearly tall enough to be the Giant. And built like Hercules.

Ok, so maybe I smaak him just a little bit. I’ve always been attracted to arrogant players. Doesn’t mean I want him or anything, or would take him if he offered.

Anyway. Schoep doesn’t seem to have a problem with de Groot going first. Of course, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with anything. Even if we hadn’t taken him on as a sort-of guide, I think he’d be up here by himself right now. It’s almost like he’s … waiting for something. Brrrr. Just freaked myself out a little bit. I’m not normally this deep. Hah! The heights are giving me the deeps! Bizarre.

Johnny’s cosying up to Sam, which is messed up. She’s so…not cool. Trent and Mariska are surprisingly awesome though – so REAL. We were chatting the whole day today (as much as we could between gasping for breath!) and they’re just chilled and awesome. Turns out that they’ve actually done part of this trail before – the shorter option that excludes the Castle Climb – and so they know all the best camping spots and some truly SPECTACULAR view sites. Mariska was telling me that on their previous trip it was earlier in the year, so slightly warmer, and the whole place was just green from horizon to horizon, but they got caught in a bad storm, which is why they decided to come with our group now. I told Johnny when we started planning this whole thing that this would be the best time of year for this trail!

The weather has been perfect so far (okay – it’s only two days, but still). Blue skies, light breeze, cool enough to making the walking (and climbing. And scrabbling) an absolute pleasure, but not so cold that crossing the river this morning was a problem. Completely ideal.

The actual hiking today was hard again – the gradient is KAK. But I feel incredible: like I’m truly free for the first time in, like, ever. Mariska was saying the same thing earlier. It’s like you’re all alone, and yet so much more connected than you’ve ever been before: to the earth, to other people, to God. It’s like the whole world is part of you and you are part of it.

Jeez – it’s really early in this hike to be getting this philosophical. Maybe I’m tireder than I thought. I just wrote “tireder”: I’m definitely that!

Day 7

I don’t know where anyone is.

I don’t know where I am.

I don’t know IF I am.


Giant’s Castle trail – Day 1

The kick-off point was deserted, just like we’d hoped. Obviously this is not the peak (hah hah – pun!) of the hiking season!

There should be eight of us, but Simon pulled out at the last second, so it’s just us seven. I think we’re going to get along really well – we’ve already managed to have some lekker social chat flowing. I do kinda wish that I knew more of the guys than just Johnny, but he says the other okes are ok, so I’ll take his word for it. Not sure about the chicks though. Mariska doesn’t look the type to handle hardship well (who gets a manicure just before going on a hike, for Pete’s sake?!), but we can all see that’s she’s only here because Trent dragged her along; and Sam is just a little bit scary. But it’s just six days – I’m sure I can manage! I’ll just keep my head down and keep up and keep going.

I’ve been looking forward to this hike for AGES – ever since I started training for it seriously last year. I figure that a lifetime’s worth of regular hiking has to be good for something (aside from the killer calves, which is, let’s face it, a pretty awesome side effect!) And now every blister and sprain is going to pay off: this is the ULTIMATE trail! I also decided from the beginning that I will be the official recorder of this pinnacle of human endeavour. All those years of tweeting and blogging will finally pay off!

So, here it is: the official record of the first annual Giant’s Castle 6-day hike.

Participants:

Moi (your humble correspondent and trail instigator)

Johnny (my boet)

Mariska and Trent (married – I think)

Sam (probably gay)

De Groot (super hot but completely doff. And seriously: is that a first name or a last name or what?)

Schoep (Berg veteran and sort-of guide)

Oops! Gotta run! Everyone’s packing up and setting off.

Day 1 – later

Wow. Ouch. I was expecting it to be tough, but to be in this much pain after just the first day is probably not cool. Even my hands are stiff! Good day though: we got to our scheduled stop without incident (unless you count Sam stubbing her toe and sobbing like a little girl – way unexpected!). Almost as unexpected as Johnny rushing to her aid!

I’m going to sleep like the dead tonight – and just look at all those stars! Love the air up here. It’s like you can see right into heaven, and we’re not even halfway to the highest altitude yet!

Giant’s Castle trail – Day 4

Lunch break. We’ve been going since just after dawn and we’re all pretty buggered. That wind that started up last night feels like a gale now, and we’re walking right into it. The “couple of kays” to the summit are taking three times as long as they should because of it. And there are clouds for the first time, and they’re getting lower – looks like tonight we’ll be sleeping in fog. But tomorrow we start back down again by the much shorter route, so we’re way more than half way done with this thing. I’m glad, but I’m also not.

It’ll be great to have the hot bath and soft bed and TV and all that; but to be out here, with these really nice people, looking out at how huge the world is and realising how far we’ve come to get here – I want to bottle this feeling and keep it with me forever.

Although with better food – trail mix gets old really quick.


Giant’s Castle trail – Day 4 (Continued)

The wind was too strong, so we’ve decided to come back to the cave for tonight. We should still be able to make it up to the summit and down to base on the rations we’ve got. Thanks to Simon bailing on us, we’ve got more left than we expected, so it’s all good.

Schoep’s managed to get the fire lit – at last! It’s getting cold and the cloud is well foggy now. The wind keeps blowing it into the cave – looks like fingers searching for something in the dark. And with the smoke from the fire added in it’s just a bit grillerig. At least we can get some moer koffie going – I think we all need it!

De Groot suggested that we should tell ghost stories. Stuck in a cave, around a fire, at night? Duh! Brilliant plan!!

Day 5

The wind was rising again, and there was fog. Schoep’s voice drifted out over us, like one of the elements. I can’t actually remember the story that he told, but I should, because it’s true.

It’s our story.

Trent and Mariska, Johnny and Sam, me and de Groot: all of were hanging on Schoep’s every word, so intent that I don’t even know when we realised that he had stopped talking, and that the words were coming from someone, something, impossibly larger, impossibly impossible, impossibly with us. As Schoep was not.

We all seemed to wake up at the same time. The first one to react was Sam, and she was running out the cave before any of the rest of us had even fully absorbed what we were seeing. And then: pandemonium. Johnny ran after Sam. I don’t know what happened to them. The rest of us tried to grab all the packs; to get out to follow them. The light was bad, we kept getting in each other’s way. I got a pack but it’s not mine. De Groot kept trying to get us to stay together. My brother is out there somewhere and he has NOTHING. Schoep is just – gone.

We entered the Giant’s Castle, and the Giant found us.

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