Monday, February 13, 2012

hiking the hakos mountain range

we woke up on Sunday morning to strange noises that sounded like wild horses fighting. I popped my head out of my tent and saw that it actually was, in fact, horses fighting, kicking wildly and excitedly, right outside our tent. And then, as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone. I wondered if this was a hallucination I had brought on by the crisp mountain air.

it was 6:30AM and time for us hikers to get up anyway. while the drinkers slept in, we had ambitious plans to take on the Hakos Mountain Range, a hiking trail that the guest farm owner had told us was about 20 kilometres long and would take anywhere between four to eight hours to complete. it sounded like a wicked challenge. we packed up about two and a half litres of waters each that we would carry on our backs and a fistful of sausages from last night's campfire, and set off, me, Julia, Mark, and Andrew.

you best put on that sunscreen, mark

on our way out, we passed by the same horses from that morning, standing in the field and watching us without any expression in their eyes. Julia thinks they are beautiful creatures. I keep thinking about the horsemeat restaurant we went to in Jejudo, Korea.

We wanted to start early at dawn to cover as much of the trail before the blazing heat of the day set in. It's always hard to figure out what to wear on hikes like this though. The mornings in Namibia can be quite chilly, and one can be tempted to bring a hoodie and jeans. But once ten o'clock hits and the sun is making its way to the top of the sky, it's so hot that you want to shed everything and run up the mountains naked. At that point you certainly don't want to be lugging around extra clothes. I've therefore worked out the perfect hiking outfit for Gloria, for which everyone makes fun of me but it works.

1 pair of white superstar sunglasses from Mr Price
1 totally cool baseball cap
a bikini top
jeans that roll up ("aren't you hot, Gloria?" "Baby, I'm always hot.")
1 pashmina scarf

The pashmina scarf is probably my favourite part of my hiking gear. The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy always urges you to carry a towel with you:

"A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough..."

I posit that a pashmina scarf has all the benefits of a towel PLUS the advantage of looking fashionable wherever you go (especially with my hat). In the mornings, I wrap it around my body to keep warm. When the sun starts to get hot around noon, I drape it over my hat, and i've got an instant tent to give me shade from the sun, plus i look like an Asian girl trying to dress up as Lawrence of Arabia. Pashminas are more compact and lighter than sweaters, plus if you come across a river on your hike that is NOT infested with crocodiles, you can swim in it and use the scarf as a towel.

Enough about the scarf. Along the hiking trail, a zebra appeared before us, like a dream spirit, or another hallucination like the morning's fighting horses. He saw us, blinked, and then turned around and ran away.

Later on down the path, we found the torn carcass of a dead zebra. hopefully not the same zebra. or maybe what we had encountered earlier was the zebra's ghost.

It was a gruelling hike, all six hours and twenty kilometres of it. The sun rose quickly. The mountain ranges were about 2000 metres high, and the worst part was that it wasn't a single climb up and then climb down. It was a bunch of climbs up a bunch of mountains and a bunch of climbs down. Experienced hikers will acknowledge that climbing down is not actually that easy; it's a different kind of gruelling.

And yet, totally worth it. by the time we reached the end of the trail, at the highest peak, we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the entire Hakos mountain range, and miles and miles of untouched nature, and not a soul or sign of civilization in sight, except for our little campsite far off in the distance near the horizon.

We wolfed down our sausages, feeling proud of ourselves for our accomplishment. I'd gone from being hungover from a bachelorette to climbing several mountains in one day. And then we had to face the fact that we had only done half the hike: we still had to hike back. another three hours, ten kilometres.

In other news, today is Valentine's Day. I totally forgot to wear red/pink to the office. Instead, I post this video that I made a little while ago of a song I wrote after I got robbed and started thinking about all the things that I am grateful to still have, including my wonderful fiance in Canada, who I miss very much.