Climbing Lion’s Head on Full Moon

One fact about living in Cape Town is that
we’re surrounded by breathtaking wilderness
we don’t feel safe to enjoy. The pilgrimage to
the top of Lion’s Head on full moon is a prime
example of people reclaiming their city in the
comfort of numbers.
The experience begins with trying to find a
parking spot. Upwards of 500 cars line tricky
gutters, and vehicles squeezing past in every
direction makes manoeuvring into a safe spot a
treacherous start to the occasion.
At the base of Lion’s Head, in the fading
light, the mountain peak looks grey and scaly,
like the ruffle on a pterodactyl’s back. From
the bottom, the rock looks difficult to climb.
Of course, we won’t make a direct ascent but
meander upwards in a circular mandala-like
motion, adding to the spiritual implications of
the occasion.
This is less of a full-moon mediation and more
of a hike. Backpacks, lycra and well-toned bodies
prevail and there’s a notable absence of mistyeyed,
tie-dyed earth worshippers, who I suspect
opt for a less strenuous way to mark the monthly
ripening of the moon.
Huffing, puffing, sweaty bodies pass. Part
of the climb involves hoisting yourself up on a
metal chain – a titillating challenge that gives
Lion’s Head the reputation of a slightly difficult
climb. As we approach, two guys in front recall
the time their female companions point blank
refused to hoist themselves upward and they
had to take the easier circular route. They debate
the length and merit of the two options. There is
a queue waiting to use the chain. A lithe oriental
woman followed by her young child slips down
with enviable insouciance.
As we walk, the sun turns apricot yellow,
with brushstrokes of peach. A thick white cloud
spreads languorously over Table Mountain,
making it fit for the Gods to dine on. As the
sky darkens, the path becomes more difficult to
discern, dropping away sharply in places.

After a good hour and a half, we reach the top where
people are crammed like passengers on a busy
ocean liner. The space is thick with cigarette
smoke. The young crowd is drinking and
chatting. There’s only one toddler, getting a lot
of attention. Groups of friends claim rocks and
appear to float in the sky like dakinis. Tripods
are everywhere. Camera flashes go off madly as
people try to capture the moment. An English
honeymoon couple basks in the romance of
the occasion, making obvious comments: “It’s
amazing,” he says. “How can we bear to leave,”
she replies. I imagine her dreaming of this
moment in the midst of a soggy English winter.
How will she carry this memory?
As the moon begins to rise, a Spanish group
sings praises to La Luna, and a few people clap.
There’s no djembe drumming or didgeridoo
blowing. Just murmurs of appreciation.
I guess that it’s sacrilege to say that I’m more
mesmerised by the lights of the city than the
moon. At first they flicker like fireflies. Then
suddenly, it’s as though the city throws on a
glittering gown. 680 metres below pulses and
throbs with a hyper, restless, man-made energy.
Well-prepared people have brought torches
or lamps that they can attach to their heads.
Naturally, our tribe is not one of them. We’re
devoid of Cape Union Mart trappings. But it
doesn’t matter: people shed light on slippery
slopes, offering encouraging words. As we move
down the mountain, our eyes soon become
accustomed to seeing by the silvery moonlight.
Four hours later, we reach our car tired, content,
and bonded together by a blissful experience.

Dawn Kennedy – Oct 2nd 2013, 14:25

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