The week leading up to our first excursion there was much anticipation and excitement among my roommates and I, mostly because we heard it was even colder there than where we are now, which seemed unfathomable!
This semester there are about 20 other students here with AIFS and we have a wonderful advisor here in Stellenbosch who we call Mama H. She sent us many preparation emails about how we have to dress extra warm for this incredible 6-hour hike; it sounded so wonderful yet terrifying at the same time. It is safe to say this incredible weekend didn’t even come close to any of the expectations I had. We arrived at this beautiful campsite after about 4 hours in the car. All the students divided up into two houses, which were so nice! I had anticipated a rustic cabin, but these were beautiful chalets with warm fireplaces, comfortable beds and much more!
We were greeted by baboons when we first arrived which Mama H quickly scared away with little plastic snakes; this was very funny to all of us who had never seen baboons in the wild before, but she warned us how vicious they can be and that we really have to be careful about them.
The most unforgettable part of this weekend was the 6-hour hike up the mountain. I felt very confident and ready as the hike was beginning, but I was soon shocked at how challenged my body felt. The first 3 hours were literally climbing up the mountain so it was the elevation change that was hardest for our bodies. Many of the students had read previous AIFS blogs about this excursion and kept anticipating the “birthing hole” so every time we came to a more challenging part of the hike someone would ask “is this the birthing hole?”
Finally we reached the ever so anticipated birthing hole: we had to lay on our backs under this huge rock and be pulled out the other side quite literally like a birth canal. It sounds cheesy to say it now but it was honestly like each of us were being re-born as we came out the other side because we had conquered this grand mountain and made it to the top. The exact emotions and feelings of this hike seem impossible to put into words, but I can say it was truly a life changing experience and one that I will never forget. I now feel more confident in my hiking skills and ready to tackle more mountains!