The South African Series

Table Mountain In Very Simple Terms

Greetings, members of the MOM Squad and other Random Readers dropping by. You’ll have to forgive me this morning. This post will not be completed with any elaborate eloquence. My body is wracked by pain, but it is my duty to report the events as they unfolded as I made a fatuous attempt to climb Table Mountain yesterday – and drug my poor husband along as I did it. In fact, I’m going to write this post as if I’m talking to my sister. In fact, feel free to stop reading now. It’s going to be ugly.

table mth 

Chaaaley. A-Dub. Why? Who sent me to go there? Eh? Why?!?!

First, let me say that Table Mountain is not the type of place you go in order to get fit. You only venture there if you already are fit. I can admit that now.

When we came to Cape Town last time, at least a handful of people asked if we had ‘done’ Table Mountain. I told them no. I’ve climbed several mountains as you know, and come out tired, sure… so why shouldn’t I climb Table Mountain as well?


We made some simple inquiries and some guy told Marshall and me that it was like climbing stairs.

“It should only take an hour and a half,” he said. “It’s like climbing a bunch of stairs.”

Oh fine! I can walk for 90 minutes; no problem.

Then when we arrived in Cape Town, the inn keeper at our B&B said that that was not exactly true. It would take more like two hours. Still; no problem!


And then we arrived at this foolish mountain. We had to park 20 minutes from the base of the trail. They told us to look for a brown shack.  The trail begins then. I had romanticized images of our ascent. The mountain looked very green from a distance, and I fabricated images of a wide, green valley leading to the summit. Perhaps I might frolic in wild flowers along the way. Feeling very confident about our impending ascension, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain. That’s when I heard it speak to me. I spoke back in defiance.

lions headHeh. Black Woman. What are you doing here?

What do you mean?! I am Malaka Gyekye and I have to climb you!

Have you seen any other Black Women here?

Mtseewww. Nonsense. Am I every Black Woman? I say I am Malaka Gyekye and I have to climb you!

I’ll punish you ooo.

Shut up! I say, shut up over there! The Bible says if I say to the mountain “be thou removed” I can move it! Do you want me to send you to Singapore?

Then the mountain was silent. I took that as an indication that it acknowledged my superiority.

Up we went, into the mouth and bowels of Table Mountain. It looked as though we were going into a rocky version of Hell.

Forty minutes later, when we had climbed 300m (about 984 feet) we came to a sign that said we had two choices: either go down the ravine to the lower cable card of go up to some guy’s gorge.

“Malaka. This is no longer pleasant,” Marshall breathed.

I know what he meant. He wanted to quit. He wanted to go back like that American woman who admitted she couldn’t finish the climb and had to go back down. I was not having it.

“You can go back if you want to, but I’m getting to the top!”

“But the sign says not to split up.”

“You have the cell phone. You back without me. I’ll be fine.”

Now of course my husband wasn’t leaving his wife to climb some treacherous mountain all alone without a cell phone. How would that look? He took a seat, cleared his head and said he would continue on with me.

I was eager to get a move on, because 3 other couples had passed us by as we were debating our next move.

The sun was very bright, and it reflected off the white and grey rocks. Fortunately I was wearing sunglasses, which I seldom do. Also, and perhaps more fortunately, I had a bottle of water. We were encouraged to take one by the parking attendant. I will be forever in his debt. I was absolutely planning on making this climb with no water. (Remember this part A-Dub. It’s important. Marshall and I had ONE 12 oz bottle of water to share between us.)

There is nothing to report about the beauty of Table Mountain. I couldn’t see it. I saw razor sharp rocks and my impending doom if I took one misstep. Unlike our national parks in the States, there were no guardrails to protect you as you made your climb… only barbed wire fences that stood as a barrier between you and the ravine below.

We climbed and climbed, A-Dub. And when we thought it could get no worse, it only got worse still. To keep my spirits up, I sung spiritual songs and hymnals in my head.

Jesus! Be a fence, all around me e-ver-y day!!

When that didn’t work, I muttered curses under my breath.

This is some f*ckin’ bullsh*t.

In time, we made it to the middle of the mountain… or so we thought. We were informed by an elderly White man making his way down that the middle was still 2 hours way.

“Are you okay?” Marshall asked him with concern.

“Oh, I’m fine,” he replied nonchalantly. “You see when you get old, you skin gets very soft. I cut myself on a branch and these are the results.”

What were these two talking about? I looked in the direction of my husband’s gaze and saw the reason for his concern. The old man’s arm was gushing blood. Dear God!

He left us with some parting words of wisdom: rest when you need to and drink water. I looked at our bottle of water, which was now more than half empty. Two hours in and we had not even cracked half the mountain…

Eventually we go to this enormous rock where there were notes left by climbers of yore.

Just keep walking, one exhorted!

rock encourage


By this time, there was no choice. We had to go up. If we chose to go back down, it would have been a disgrace. Marshall later revealed that his pride would not let him go back. Good man. Good, foolish man, following his foolish wife.

What more is there to be said about terror, barbed wires, slippery slopes, spritely blond men and their brunette girlfriends running past you as you make a tortoise pace up to the apex and the theme song from Lord of the Rings and Gollum’s demented cackle playing in your head? Not much. You get the hint by now, I’m sure.

Let me tell you now about hope.

Eventually I had to leave Marshall behind. He was stopping every few feet and frustrating me in the process.

“The longer we stop, the longer it’s going to take us to get to the top!”

“Then you go.”

So I did. I got to the top a full 30 minutes before he did. But before I got there, I was serenaded by the softest, most beautiful music. I was going mad, I thought. Turns out I wasn’t. There was a Xhosa man sitting on a ledge playing a homemade xylophone. He told me the traditional name for it, but of course I’ve forgotten it. I had only had room for two ambitions at that moment: getting to the top and finding more water.  Neither seemed like they were going to be my reality any time soon.

“Eiii. Sistah! Don’t give up,” he said, trying to encourage me. “It’s only 20 more minutes to the top!”

(But because he was Xhosa, he said “*click*wenty”, not “twenty”. God’s honest truth.)

“Really? 20 more minutes?”

I was desperate and so tired. And I needed to pee ever so badly.

“Yesss sisi. At this pace, *click*wenty more minutes.”

“And if I was going faster?”

“Ten,” he said with a genuine laugh.

That gave me all the power I needed. I thanked him and told him my husband was some ways behind me.

“When he comes up, please tell him it’s only a few more minutes to the top!”

He promised he would, and went back to playing his xylophone. That’s when this South African and English couple behind me over took me and stopped to take pictures. As I took the opportunity to rest while they commandeered the path way I looked over the ledge for my poor spouse. I didn’t see him anywhere. I didn’t hear the couple speak to me over the sound of pounding blood in my ears and my worried thoughts. Maybe I never should have left him…

“Will you snap a photo for us?”

“Huh? Oh! Yes! Of course!”

I took a picture of this happy, fit 20-something couple with their tight bodies and grinning faces. We chatted for a bit and then they said they had to dash. They were in a ‘race’ with another couple.


“Would you like me to fill your water bottle?” asked the girl with manic blue eyes and a grin to match. “You look a little low.”

“What? Oh no… I couldn’t. I can’t take your water.”

“We have two bottles,” the man assured me. “And they’re both full.”

Look closely on my cheek.

Look closely on my cheek.

I passed them my bottle without another word. You see, by this time I was so dehydrated I was sweating salt. There were actual, literal, granules of SALT coming out of my pores.

I talked to a few more people as I waited for Marshall to show. A gay guy with hipster glasses and perfectly coiffed hair and a married couple from Phoenix who sympathized with Frodo’s trek to Mordor as I did.

“Shoooot. Cast ME and the Ring into the fire,” I snorted.

They laughed and wished me luck. Marshall still had not made it. It was getting cold in that part of the mountain so I needed to move. Finally the end was near. The mountain split at the summit like a giant labial fold, and I emerged dripping wet like a newborn calf. For you see, in its final act of degradation, the mountain dehumanized me by drip-pissing on my head as I struggled up the final 80* incline.

It was now 1:14pm. At 2:05, Marshall appeared. I was elated.

“I saved some water for you babe!”

“Thank you,” he heaved, chugging it down. “Let’s go find some more.”

And so we did. In a bathroom. I drank BATHROOM water. And when I finally did take that piss, it was the color of week old Guinness. Though they rhyme, the two should not look alike.

And that’s it. I climbed Table Mountain, and I sweated salt. I will never do  either again.