Table Mountain And the Smart Taurs

Table Mountain is one of the most famous tourist attraction in Cape Town, South Africa. It has the signature flat tabletop when viewed from its profile, and when low flying clouds descend on its plateau, the resulting looks are called a table cloth. Table Mountain is not the tallest mountain in South Africa. That honour goes to the Drakensberg, which is among the top 10 tallest mountains in Africa. However, Table Mountain has both the looks and the location. It has earned a glamourous status.

Back in 2012, Mark Mlambala, a friend in Cape Town arranged a hike up Table Mountain as a birthday present to me. Mark, who is an outdoors enthusiast, quickly assembled a team of friends. There was Gerald Abraham, who I had grown up with in Nkolokosa, a high density neighbourhood in Blantyre, Malawi. He was now trying his luck in the vibrant film industry in Cape Town. Grecia Fulumame was also there. He too was once a resident of Blantyre City before he went to Cape Town and established a business in the transport industry. He had a private shuttle service offering luxury rides from the airport to areas of interest around the city.

Table Mountain has well developed trails with multiple access from different parts of the city. We opted for the route overlooking Cape Town’s Water Front, next to where the Cable Car starts its ascent to the top of the mountain. Being that this was my first time to climb any mountain outside Malawi, the excitement was through the roof. There was also some concern beneath the thin veneer of courage. My recent experience with a big mountain had been physically taxing and I expected nothing less. Nevertheless, it is not everyday that one has an opportunity to go up this world famous bastion right at the bottom of Africa.

Apart from the mountains of Lesotho, I don’t recall ever seeing so much exposed rocks and stones on a mountain as much as is on Table Mountain. It is basically made of Legos blocks sculptured from stones of all sizes. You get to see rows of craftily arranged cascading layers receding to the sky. The trail itself was cut in stone. And all this is then smoothed out with a carpet of low lying vegetation popularly called fynbos. The ecosystem is world famous for being only endemic to this region. One step on the path, and one is drawn into a fantastic world of swirling ruggedness and silky delicateness. The balance between the two worlds has perhaps not been achieved in many places around the globe.

At the turn of last century someone introduced a wild population of goats. They thrived and dominated the area, and soon started posing a threat to the fynbos species. A tough decision was then reached to remove the goats permanently. It looks like they were probably exterminated. Whatever method was used, the goats were completely removed from Table Mountain. It was therefore, a surprise for our party to spot a she-goat with her baby goat. They were very quiet and hardly made any movement.  So despite being not very far from the trail, they blended into the terrain and went unnoticed by the steady stream of hikers going up and down the mountain.

We quickly figured out that there must have been a third goat around as a daddy. We searched everywhere but we were not successful in locating it. I wanted to alert the officials about their presence, but the idea of the extermination team pouncing on the kid choked my throat. In the end, I foolishly rationed that a single goat won’t eat all the fynbos. There was still time before the population could explode again and become a threat. At that point – in the way future -something will need to be done.

What I found very fascinating was the fact that the goats had learnt to shush their mouths. Now I know goats love bleating, so how did they figure out to control the urge to melodiously express the glee of eating fresh grass in the morning? And importantly, how did the she-goat teach her kid to hold its peace? How I wished I spoke goat, and got to have a small chat with the mother. Anyway, there was a hike to have, so we proceeded with our adventure.

There was so much to learn on this particular hike. At one point we met an old man who had had a knee surgery but he still insisted on having his weekly hiking. And he had been doing it for aeons. And on our way up, we were overtaken by a group mountain runners speeding up the trail. Before we had reached the top, the group returned still running, and still energetic. And when we reached the summit, we found someone proposing to their beloved! He went down on one knee, held out his hand with a beautiful ring on it, and cameramen were busy doing their job. She said yes, and we all cheered.

The view from the top is simply amazing. You get to see where the land meets the ocean, Robben Island and beyond. Of all the international destinations, it is safe to assume this is the one spot that has been visited by a lot of Malawians with a passion for mountains.

As I reminisce with fond memories the birthday present of 2012 from my brother Mark, I have a side thought with an incessant itch. How did the mountain goat figure out to teach its baby to remain quiet in the face of imminent extermination?

I can only conclude that the wonders of nature are indeed without end. Praise be to God.

Read It Again: The Tree of Life

Amazing views from nature.
Amazing views from nature.

 

One of the joys of hiking is getting to see all the amazing trees nature has to offer. For instance, on Mulanje Mountain you get to see Mulanje Cedar, a coniferous species endemic to this massif. When fully grown, the cedar has a wide girth it would take two teenagers to encircle it by holding hands to each other. And while being still on Mulanje, the tallest mountain in Malawi, you also get to see protea, a supple tree with brilliant blossom. It has a bulbous flower, with silky tendrils that wrap around the petals when the flower is closed. And when the bulb opens, it exposes beautifully arranged petals in white, or mixed colors of white and pink or soft red. And I think I have seen some with traces of yellow. Whatever the color combo, the exquisite flower is a beauty. A species called King protea is the national flower of South Africa.

 

Around many rivers and at the bottom of several mountains in Malawi, you get to see the mighty m’bawa tree also known as mahogany in English. It is a towering giant with strong roots that have been known to upheave foundations of structures that are built near it. Most people still mistakenly plant it near schools, hospitals and churches. M’bawa will weigh the foundation of these buildings and will find them wanting. In other words, it will destroy anything it will catch its in radial root architecture. Other than its underground adventures, mighty m’bawa offers plenty of shade in summer, and unfortunately, it is also susceptible to illegal harvesting due to its sought-after hardwood. M’bawa gets to live for hundreds of years, and when fully grown, it will take several grown up men to ring it by holding each other’s hands.

 

On Kilimanjaro, you get to see another towering giant at the bottom of the mountain, and a strange looking tree towards the top. The latter has a jacket of old leaves, which it uses to cover itself when the temperatures drop low.

 

Jacket-wearing trees on Kilimanjaro
Jacket-wearing trees on Kilimanjaro

 

Another wonder that comes to mind is the baobab tree. A giant of immense proportions, this fruit tree is a darling to many children due to its sweet and sour summer treats. The fruit is covered in a hard shell, decorated by a thin layer of short velvet hair. Once you break the shell with a help of stone, you are treated to rows of white, compact powder wrapped around a black seed. The rows are separated by coils of fibre that protect the seeds. You eat the fruit by letting it dissolve in your mouth, or if you are impatient, by sucking it just like sweets. To the more aggressive souls, you can break the seed by biting hard into its black shell to reveal a soft white paste, more like the meat of groundnuts. The baobab tree prefers hot weather and it is found in abundance in districts along the lakeshore, Nkhotakota, Salima and Mangochi. You can also find it in Mwanza, a district in the Southern Region. The tree is also found beyond the borders seeking refuge in many parts of Southern Africa.

 

By the way, despite its immense size, the baobab is hollow inside acting like a giant reservoir. It will absorb the scarce rainfall whenever the patched grounds it prefers to grow on receive any rains. And sometimes, when it has drunk more than it can handle, it gets compromised and will fall down to its side due to its relatively weak root system. It is not uncommon to see the octopus like roots sticking in the air, next to the fallen hero after drinking one to many a raindrop. Such is the beauty and diversity of trees one gets to see in the wild.

 

But then the Bible introduces another type of a tree. It is called The Tree of Life, and it is first mentioned in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. We are told it was in the midst of the Garden of Eden, next to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The latter had a fruit that was pleasant to look at, and would make one wise. Now, that’s some tree.

 

But before going for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Let’s look at the Tree of Life. It appears in the last book of the Bible, at the end of the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, it is mentioned three times. Access to the tree had a special clause in Genesis. It could only be taken if and only if man would not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And in the Book of Revelation, its fruit will only be eaten to him that overcomes (Rev 2:7). This special tree will only grow along the pure river of life, clear as a crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in New Jerusalem, that will rest upon a great and high mountain (Revelation 21 & 22).

 

It does not stop there. It says the Tree of Life will bear twelve manner of fruits, and will yield her fruit every month. And its leaves will be for the healing of the nations.

 

So read the passages again. Of all the trees that are in the world, of all the wonders that they offer in terms of fruit, flower and other potent uses, none can compare to the Tree of Life. This is the only tree that was protected by the flaming fire of a cherub. And in the new world to come, it will only be found in one location, and enjoyed by one group of people – those that overcome. Now, that sounds to me like a motivation to face life’s challenges not as cowards but those that are determined to rise above the limitations of fallen humanity to celestial beauty of a saved life. All thanks to the precious works of our only Redeemer and Provider, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

I want to see the Tree of Life, enjoy its joys perched high above the world on the greatest and highest mountain in the world while sipping the cool waters of Life flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. This is not just another good story. It is the Good Story for mankind.

See you at the top.