I’m not very good at getting out of my comfort zone. When I’m tricked into it, though, it’s an awesome feeling.
That’s what happened to me today when Ted and I climbed Cape Town’s Table Mountain – that giant flat-topped hill that overlooks South Africa’s southernmost city.
I wanted to trek up, rather than take the cable car, because I like a good mountainous challenge. But I thought Lonely Planet’s warnings about the necessity of a guide (thank goodness we listened), were precautionary and aimed at those who don't do much tramping.
And when we began the ascent, up some steep but straightforward steps cut out of the rock, I was gutted we’d parted with our cash to follow a guy who looked as though he was on the wrong side of a big night.
I also couldn’t understand why so many people had died up there. Our guide told us more people lose their lives on Table Mountain than on any other peak in the world (mainly due to falls).
How stupid are they? I thought. I knew that the mountain was rocky (it’s obvious when you look at it) but I assumed there’d be a path that somehow zig-zagged between the boulders (wishful thinking much?). Then we reached the top of the steps, and there was nowhere to go but up a sheer face. I gulped.
Have you been inadvertently forced out of your comfort zone before? It’s an interesting feeling, because you haven’t had time to psych yourself out.
I don’t do heights, and I certainly don’t do rock climbing (I try to avoid activities that could lead to my early demise). But suddenly our guide shook off his lethargy and took charge. Without his sensible advice about where to place hands and feet (just there on that smooth, smooth stone – uh huh), there’s no way I would’ve made it. And his calm manner meant I had no time to think “holy s***, if I fall, it’s all over” (okay I did think it a little bit). There was nowhere to go but up, so I reined in my fear and got on with it.
It was one of the most beautiful and rewarding things I’ve done, as well as the most difficult. Not only did I get all outward boundy, but the vibrant plant life, the impressive rocky outlook, and the turquoise sea views were incomparable to anything I’ve seen before.
I’m pleased I didn’t know about all the rock climbing up the India Venter route beforehand, because if I had, I think I would’ve bailed. As our guide Warren said to me when I complained about my weak legs: "The most powerful muscle is your mind – if you can do it in your head, you can do it with your body."
Marvellous inspiration. Now for that bungy jump (yeah right).