How I would love to hike the Baviaanskloof Leopards Trail!
I used to love going away to spend days in the bush.
I remember finishing our last performance of Othello. We had a mad success of a run. This was 1987 and apartheid still ruled in South Africa. Here was Desdemona, a white woman played by the beautiful Joanna Weinberg, opposite the black Othello, John Kani. They played a couple who were passionate about each other until jealousy in the form of Iago stepped in the way and the tragedy rocketed on. As you can imagine, people flocked to see it. It was a wonderful production directed by the inimitable Dame Janet Suzman.
After a five week run in Johannesburg, my housemate, Kate, Joanna and I took off for an old cottage owned by Jo’s family in Venda. I stood in her cottage doorway, looked out at the dusky veld and the mountains in front of me and said: “C’mon, let’s go!”
We took the car for part of the way and then got out and the three of us climbed. The sweat poured off my body in little shirt drenching pools. I paused for breath. The air was crystal clear with bird song, lifting it up and away. How I loved being out there. We reached a beautiful mountain stream and instantly our clothes were discarded and the three of us cavorted in the icy water. Nubile maidens galore! I sat on a rock at the top of the mountain and got an unbelievable tan. All over! I breathed in the fresh mountain air and gloried in my surroundings. Hills, rocks, trees, little dassies skipped over tussocks below. The smell of wide open space, a vaster sky than the one I knew in the city and the absence of the crowds of people one was accustomed to. I found it vital to get away like that. It was a total necessity.
Last week, I learnt that my friends were going to hike the Baviaanskloof Leopards Trail. I was unbelievably hurt that they hadn’t invited me along. They hadn’t even discussed it with me. They had planned the whole thing and I just didn’t feature in their plans. I wanted to shout loudly: “What about me? Gaynor, your friend! Why can’t I go? Why? I would so love to join you!”
For goodness sakes, they were treating me as if I was disabled! I stopped short. That was exactly what I was!
I was disabled.
They knew that I would be unable to do the trail with them. I was able to walk fairly well along a level pavement. Climbing hills would be another case completely. I did something that night that I very rarely do. I cried myself to sleep.
I cried for my loss of the veld, of walking along orange earthed mountain trails, the wind in your hair, your eyes skimming the hills and plains in front of you.
I cried for a life that was no more.
Perdita woke me the next morning. Her little tongue rasped across my eyelids.
“Glory, Perdits, I have overslept. Let’s get you outside, Angel-Face!”
I put my Cochlear Implants in and the world came tumbling out to greet me. I stood under a tree outside sipping my coffee. My eyes caressed the huge mountain that lay in the distance. A few stray clouds pinned themselves to the enormous bulk in a haphazard way. On my right, there was the shadow of the moon. It had been a full moon last night and it’s husk was still visible in the soft morning light. Shivering I moved back inside to re-fill my coffee mug. Waiting for the kettle to boil, I thought back on last nights tears.
When I fell into the bowels of the State Theatre, people thought that I would die. I didn’t.
Or maybe I did. The Gaynor that is living now is totally different to the old Gaynor.
A new Gaynor was born that Saturday afternoon!
This Gaynor still delights in life but………..
No, I am not able to traipse over the veld of Baviaanskloof. This Gaynor enjoys walking with Perdita and friends along a level-ish path in the Outeniqua forest. She gets so much pleasure watching her Mother’s lively face sparkle at a dinner party she’s prepared. To listen to Eva Cassidy’s voice while working on a blog is heaven. Seeing Perdita racing round and round the shed as she fools with George, our gardener is hilarious. Watching her fall asleep at night, her head on the opposite pillow to mine makes my heart sing. Some people have lovers or spouses. I have Perdita!
These friends of mine, I met after my fall. They have no knowledge of the woman that sat naked, high up on a rock, surveying the valley below, breathing in the fresh mountain air. These women love someone else. The new Gaynor.
I stood looking at the mountains and the moon. I will never again climb a mountain. In the same way, I will never go to the moon.
Yet still they are both able to enchant me with a spectacular magnificence all of their own.