Not too many hike leaders would have taken us on at Foothold this past Sunday. Self-dubbed the No-Name Level, we comprised seasoned hikers Johann and Truia, no-longer-seasoned Willem, Veldskoen Richard and myself, Cynthia, about to embark on only my fourth hike ever.
Our hike leader, however, the inimitable Betsie, appeared undaunted by the task of getting us, her motley crew, through the many challenges for which Foothold is famous. Admittedly I am unfamiliar with the club’s leader training, but on Sunday were all, to a greater or lesser extent, the beneficiaries of Betsie’s inbuilt navigation skills, her stamina and her impressive nature knowledge. Courtesy of the latter, we got to meet the rock formations known as Goofy and the Three Women, and were introduced to the colourful clusters of emerging spring flowers she brought to our attention.
It would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge that I was also the beneficiary of support, physical encouragement, from another group member, Johann. Several bum-lifts from him kept me moving onwards and upwards through Chain Ladder Gully and I am still unsure who was more appreciative, me or the members of the group behind us!
At Western Pools, Richard and Johann went in search of the view of the end of the earth but subsequently re-joined us at our beautiful sanctuary where we refreshed our feet and legs in the chilly waters of the Pools while feasting on Truia’s gourmet beef rolls. The combination was bliss. All the while, Betsie watched over us, proudly, I think.
While the hike did serve up several mental and physical challenges, including Chain Ladder and Footloose Gullies, and a stretch of tree-hugging, they were more than offset by the camaraderie and fun that characterised the entire day. In-the-moment moments led to a lot of laughs, ranging from instruction on the Boksburg pronunciation of “stadig” and the authentic and unofficial use of “beklem”, to humorous suggestions from Willem and Richard that I advertise on Gumtree for a sherpa to carry my back-pack. My observation that a few of the (smart) women members of the Johannesburg Hiking Club manage to get men to carry their backpacks did not elicit the desired response!
On Sunday morning we started out the day as six people, for the most part unconnected. By the end of the hike, Betsie had forged us into a (sweaty) band of friends who had discovered the real magic of Foothold - together.