The speed with which the jeep was moving it was difficult to believe that we were going uphill on a rocky terrain. Bongani and Masego, with their unsmiling faces, looked straight ahead as if trying to keep their focus on a particular tree or a stone on the path -- an effort that was constantly being frustrated by the moving vehicle.
There were seven of us – six women and one man -- in the jeep apart from Bongani and Masego and the driver. We looked ridiculous with our helmets and full body harness, pulleys and climbing equipment. In retrospect, to Bongani and Masego our half-hearted laughter at the lame jokes we were attempting must have seemed more ridiculous. They had surely sniffed our fear. It was not as if we were the first bunch of people they were taking uphill.
I really do not know how I got talked into it. I am no adventure freak. I mean I like adventure, but not the deliberate kinds where you prepare for months in advance to take on the elements. My adventure is more like finding a quiet corner on a trek and settling down there with a book...and then daydream! I also get my adrenaline rush (if you can call it that) from more mundane things like hunting for a specific local craft, or anticipating the perfect pot when I sit on the potter’s wheel.
Riding on the jeep with my mind blank (maybe that’s how I got talked into it!) and heart in my mouth, was perhaps the most heavy duty adventure trip I was undertaking. We were in the midst of the Karkloof indigenous forest in South Africa on our way to experience the canopy tour that would last not one, not two but a whole three hours!
The canopy tour involves traversing from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended up to 30m above the forest floor. The tour comprises seven platforms and eight slides that zig-zag down a forested valley. Whew! And one more thing, there’s no way you can change your mind once the driver has deposited you in the middle of nowhere. The only way down to civilization is the Tarzan way!
So there we were seven ‘daredevil’ women and a lone man hanging on to each word from Bongani’s instruction. He was to be our guide along with Masego and his three other companions, who had preceded us.
Words fail me whenever I think of that particular moment. Before I could tell myself this is it, I was pushed out from the platform. There was no gadget to maneuver, no breaks to apply. It was just me hanging on to the steel cable stealing glances at the deep valley below despite my better judgment. I was off with such speed that there was no time for fear to linger. It even seized to matter. I was flying!
It is nearly three years now and if I try hard I can almost feel the ripples of, if not the same, sensation. I had locked up this experience in my once-in-a-lifetime box: Happy to milk pleasure from it occasionally.
And then it happened again. I threw caution to the winds and jumped onto a little wagon (www.inktalks.com) which was pretty much getting set on an incredible journey that promised many discoveries. Interestingly, we were five women and one man, guided by many unseen helping hands. We were in the pursuit of what one may call our ‘aha moment’: The stuff that makes everything worthwhile.
Two years later, I find myself yet again in unchartered territory – working for myself -- without the harness of a regular job and not knowing when the next pay cheque would actually come.
I am learning to fly…yet again.
(This was written in 2012)