After a packed matric preliminary examination schedule, my eldest son requested a break from the stressful Grade 12 routine. He expressed a desire to take four of his school mates for a hike into the Drakensberg. En route to Giants Castle, our point of departure for the hike, one of the young men in the car stated that no one in our party should point at the mountain where we were attempting to ascend, as somebody had told him on a previous trip that such an action would result in poor weather or bad luck. I, of Irish descent, and thus a superstitious fellow, took this statement to heart.
We commenced our hike at midday on Saturday and reached Bannerman Hut without much difficulty. This a basic hut where hikers can rest and sleepover before continuing their journey. After a restless night that was punctuated with baboon calls and the cry of an owl, we drank our coffee and began climbing out of the pass.
I was fourth in line and suddenly heard the shout “rockfall!!!”. My son, directly in front of me, dived to the left, and I was left facing this large rock that was hurtling at me at some speed. I was not agile enough to pick a side and was struck on the side of my knee and knocked off my feet and started rolling down the pass. Fortunately, my backpack caught on to some vegetation and arrested my fall. I quickly established that I could move my legs and that nothing was broken, except for my confidence. After taking a painkiller and redistributing some of the contents of my backpack to others in the party, I climbed out of the pass with a tender knee, and we descended reasonably quickly.
We arrived at a deliciously cool pool and had a quick drink and “shower”. As we were loading our backpacks to set off, I noticed a tear in the bottom pocket of my pack, and my heart sank- the key to my H1 Hyundai bus had been in that pocket. It must have fallen out when I fell in the pass. There was a stony silence when I announced the news to the rest of the party. After some thought, the light bulb moment then struck- I had just purchased the vehicle the day before our journey and was fairly confident the spare key was in the cubby- hole.
I hiked with more vigour as there was now hope on the horizon and arrived at Giants Castle to find the matriculants lying exhausted outside the reception. There is no cell phone signal in that area, but the team at Giant Castle allowed us to use their landline to warn loved ones of our predicament and that we would arrive very late that evening. We summoned a locksmith who eventually retrieved the spare key, and we left Giants Castle at dusk.
Life was good again, and the party was full of joy until we reached Van Reenen’s Pass to cross the provincial line back into the Free State. We could see the stationary lights stretching for miles, and the net effect was a 2-hour duration to travel 17km.To make matters worse, my son and I are fanatical Liverpool Football Club supporters, and we picked up on the Supersport app that Liverpool was on the receiving end of their worst defeat since 1963.
As we left Van Reenen’s and raced to that welcome coffee at Harrismith, the one young lad in the bus piped up “so who was it that pointed at the mountain?”
At last, we all arrived safely home
A carefully planned journey can still result in the unknown, much like most of life, a tale like mine reminds us how important appropriate insurance cover is. When I sit back and think of the potential alternate endings, I feel relieved that I have sufficient cover in place, if the worst-case scenarios had played out, my family and I were in a sound position.