“As I inch up further I begin to loose myself in the puzzle, to think with my whole body. After 15 meters of careful progress I must traverse a little, and I rail along above the void, feet smearing on featureless rock. Suddenly the present moment seems to hold all the time I have been alive. The moves aren’t exactly easy, but wings seem to have sprung from my back. I am THAT climber, on THAT wall, but fear doesn’t rule me. Instead I am balanced between the power of surging adrenaline and the calm of rhythmic intent. I switch my weight this way and that, levering my body efficiently to gain holds otherwise out of reach. It all makes sense as the universe and I toy with each other, and I climb on reflected in the eyes of myself as a child.”
“He had a poodle tucked into a purpose-built bag on his back, and told us that he was heading up to go free-solo “Roulette”, one of the mountain’s most infamous routes. To climb this route alone and without ropes was a very bold undertaking indeed. But he was going to do it WITH THE DOG! Well, that certainly left an impression.
This turned out to be only one of a thick novels’ worth of tales that seemed to stream off the man like confetti as he went.”
From WHIPPER TAAL
“In my defense, I had always thought that the CLIMBING TRIP! and NEW YEAR’S EVE! combo sounded a little painful. Aren’t those diametrically opposed objectives? But come the day and it felt like a masterstroke: a having our mountain cake and eating it party! The genius part of the plan involved taking a photo of the whiskey bottle’s label before decanting it into plastic water bottles for the 3 hour hike in. Once up the mountain we would call up the photo on our phone, tape the phone to the water bottle as we were drinking from it, and thus maintain the pleasure of Black Douglas’s motivating company.
As this plan was being formulated our entire crew had succumb to a thick interpretive brogue of one kind or another. It was hard to understand anything being said, so we decreed that if someone didn’t understand your brogue then you had to SPEAK LOUDER until they did.”
Back in camp after a long day out, our musical instruments weave harmonies into the surrounds. Birds and animals emerge, made brave by the onset of night. Soon sparks crackle up from our fire to write syncopated rhythms on a dazzling ocean of stars, and, as our eyes drift amongst its tides, we are lulled into an ancient time.
The longer I spend here, the happier I am with less. For every breath of the crisp, dry air I take, I step further outside myself, exfoliating another unnecessary layer. And as my personality becomes leaner, I become lighter on my feet. It is a gift to revel so elementally. As I negotiate my body up these magnificent walls I move from being ‘in’ nature to being a part of it and my spirit opens up to the startling breadth of the sky. Suddenly something becomes blindingly obvious: desert time is the time of my life.”
“At the start of proceedings, McNeal Poni, the student who had instigated the lecture series, stepped towards the mic. Poni is of Zulu and Italian heritage, hails from Paarl, and identifies as Cape Coloured. As a symbol of the riotous diversity of ‘South African-ness’ amongst the approximately 250 people present, he could not have been more appropriate. And there was another metaphor that those attending hoped he might represent, both regarding the speaker of the evening as well as her ultimate political quest:
It took just a few words to discover that Poni suffers from a serious stutter. Sometimes he went well, but often he got stuck, at times totally breaking rhythm. Things went very quiet. People wrinkled their eyebrows, leaned in a little closer. The content of what Poni was saying became embellished with thoughts of how brave one must be to speak so very publicly with such an affliction. Poni’s quiet courage in the face of adversity drew us in even closer, and his intelligent, empathetic, no-bullshit style soon had the whole audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Up there in front of everyone, in a room attuned to his struggle, Poni must have exulted at the precedent being set – after all, the venerable Justice Albie Sacks gave the inaugural Smuts Hall lecture last year. He must also have felt the crackle of electricity amidst the applause that followed his words. Considering Ramphele’s unique place in our current political firmament, and her journey from humble beginnings, through this university, into the medical, corporate and finance worlds, the Smuts Hall Lecture felt like a place where important things might happen. Poni must have been just digging how his idea was turning out.”
The best-laid planets
Of ice and gems
Are split into shards and stems,
Past tense prisms of the survivalist sense.
And through the dense forests of kelp that keep falling
And can’t get up again to answer the calling
Of mans’ setting up round nature’s foundation
Float stories as old as that cracker of creation,
Spinning the wheel of juicy folk lore
In which immolation is a bore,
As is the spluttering of once core values and beliefs in the good of the nation,
And not nearly as important as the laying of track
To shunt the frontier of ‘progress’
One more station.
Packed together in the resourse tray
With clashes of wills, hardened under clay,
The razing agent of bread and butter decline.
Meanwhile billion dollar bills are traded for the sign: ‘This Is Mine’ (PTY, LTD),
Find your own batter ‘cos this mountain of it’s for me.’
But justice, the weight of history, inclusivity
The need to breathe in the smoldering coals of the past
And with lungs of steam to reverse the ferment,
To instead distil the need
To wipe the bloody slate clean,
Then stare through the looking glass of the spirit that we find ourselves in.
For no man is an island in waters as rough
As the swaying behemoth that outside intrusions have hinted enough
For us to need to awake from our slumber
And realize the illusion within which the number of people potentially rendered asunder
Will soon rouse even Neptune to come to our aid
Only to sift through the ruins of the gleaming Atlantis of mother of pearl we have made.