* Waffle Group *
_Official-Looking Waffleletter No.18_
_The Horrible Hike of Horrible Horrors Issue_
As you can see I’ve given up trying to get the colours right in HTML.
Plain text is what you are getting from now on. I apologise to the
readers who had no problems. To those complaining whinging types – I
hope you’re happy with the drab, boring and plain black & white. How am
I meant to draw the youth back to the medium of the printed word now,
and keep them safe from occult that is Harry Potter (parading as
children’s books, but obviously evil propaganda published with the
intention of turning children into basket-weavers, or something even
So I went hiking, and this is what this issue is about. Other stuff has
happened since the last issue, but it all pales in comparison to what I
experienced the weekend of the 16^th and 17^th July.
Before I go any further, a message for Louise. I’m not angry with you.
Really not angry. Because of this trip, I finally got Angie to agree
with me about the importance of camping with the correct equipment. So
actually, in retrospect, I thank you.
Three new members this issue.
Friends of mine find themselves girlfriends/ fiancées/ lovers/
dominatrices. They get sucked on to the list. Welcome to Kim and Gaby
who fall into this category. They have Gareth and Quinn to blame.
Then we have Mr. Andy, who should have been on the list a long time ago,
but never gave me (or Angie) his email address. This has now been rectified.
New members: If you’re confused about this, visit the official Waffle
Group Web page (http://myweb.webmail.co.za/halfhaggis)
Clicking on the words is likely to cause more confusion.
Clicking on the waffle itself might be more useful, but less entertaining.
See the end of the message on how to unsubscribe.
*Arm-twisting and other pursuits of love*
“Oh Neil my love, Louise and Rob are going on a /snow-hike/ in the
Drakensberg in the middle of winter, and I’d like to go with them. It’ll
be /fun/,” says Angie.
“Good for Louise and Rob. And good for you too. It’ll be /cold/,”
“Don’t be such a bore. We never do anything fun or interesting.
We’re always stuck in Jo’burg. I really want to go.”
“It’ll be cold. [insert expletive] cold.”
“Ok Neil,” says Angie, “you don’t have to go if you don’t want to,
but I’d /really/ like you to.”
[Insert expletive] thinks I.
“Ok, I’ll come along,” says I
“You really don’t have to go if you don’t want to…”
I had other reservations about our little mountaineering adventure –
such as our lack of camping equipment. You see, the ‘snow-hike’ was
actually a snow-hike and snow-camp (and snow-freeze-to-death — but more
on this later).
Apparently many people have camping equipment, and a number of them like
us enough (or perhaps hate us enough) to lend their equipment to us.
I point-blank refused to be involved in any way in the preparation for
the trip. My viewpoint was that if Angie wanted to go up the mountain
–dragging me in her wake– and freeze our butts off, then she had to
organise everything. That way I could blame her when we lacked something.
Somehow Angie managed to scrape together backpacks, a tent, sleeping
bags and ground-mat thingies. We stuffed the backpacks full of blankets
and woolly clothing to cover every part of our bodies. Food and water
was jammed in there too. Seemingly well equipped for our journey into
the arctic tundra, we set forth early Saturday morning (Friday evening
having been utilised for my idea of fun – good food and drink at an
excellent restaurant (built of material more sturdy than tent-canvas)
with charming company and air temperature regulated at a
*Drive Drive Drive Drive*
After roughly 4 hours travelling, we reached the mountain, and I’m
pleased to state that most of the journey up the mountain was by
motor-vehicle. I’m less pleased to state that by the time we got to the
mountain, I was the driver of the motor vehicle. But most alarming of
all was that the motor vehicle was a Peugeot 206. I now see the merits
of 4×4 on steep gravel roads.
Louise and Rob and company were waiting for us at the top (well, the top
in terms of motor vehicle travel). They made us breakfast and plied us
with alcohol – but not enough.
I’m relatively sure that when a damned soul arrives in hell, Satan gives
the poor bastard a backpack and then he chuckles maliciously as he tells
the soul to hike up steep mountains that very closely resemble the
I knew that the camping bit of this horror would be really unpleasant
but, since I actually quite enjoy hiking, the hike bit was meant to be
much nicer. My fatal error was of course forgetting that a backpack has
stuff in it. Lots of stuff. 12 kg of stuff (I checked when we got home).
And now, a little Newtonian physics:
W = F.s
W is Work
F is Force
s is displacement
F = m.a
m is mass
a is acceleration
Let a = g
where g is acceleration due to gravity
Ok. Stick all the bits together and you get
W = m.g.s
Now let’s throw in some numbers:
m = 12 kg
g = 9.81 m.s^(-2)
So I had to expend an extra 117.72 J for every metre that I went up the
I hope that seems like a lot. Because it isn’t. One Romany Cream biscuit
provides 315.18 kJ of energy, so I’d need to hike up 2677 m before one
biscuit wouldn’t be enough to replenish my energy.
Physicists clearly need to climb more mountains. If they had, their
stupid formulas would be designed to work properly.
I’m re-evaluating my vision of hell: damned souls must hike up mountains
with heavy backpacks and solve non-linear differential equations in
their heads while juggling piranhas.
Hike up. Hike along. Huff. Puff. Rob says we’re almost there. He says it
a lot and at regular intervals. We stop believing him.
The shadows grow long. The packs grow heavy. The pains and aches just grow.
When we thought things could get no worse, we arrived at the
chain-ladder. Just up the chain-ladder and we’re at the top.
Just. Up. The. Chain-ladder.
Ha ha ha we nervously laugh. Ha. Ha.
We’d been warned about the chain-ladder. No. rather we’d been told that
there was a chain-ladder, and would that be a problem. Nah. No problem.
Angie and I had climbed chain-ladders before in Cape Town – no sweat.
Obviously there was a miscommunication somewhere. Either this horrific,
endlessly uprising, vertical, rusting, linked chain behemoth was a
‘chain-ladder’ or the short series of metal rungs linked with chain on
Lion’s Head (in Cape Town) was a ‘chain-ladder’. They could not both be
chain-ladders. They were not the same thing.
I climbed the chain-behemoth for a long time.
A long long time
I reached the top. Others followed. Angie was very impressed with
herself (since she has an intense fear of heights) and I was impressed too.
Oh look. What’s this? *Another* ‘chain-ladder.’
I was unimpressed. Having laboured away the whole day (about 5 hours
hiking/resting/moaning) we got to the top. It was flat (and not even the
most top top – we’d made it to the base of Mont-aux-Sources). Flat
like a plateau. Flat like the Free State. Flat flat flat. Flat.
Other mountains still towered above this pathetic flat bit I found
myself on. To say I was dismayed does no justice to my feelings at that
point in time.
*The Camp Site of Hypothermia*
The flatness wasn’t all bad. Because the camp site was several hundred
metres away in a valley, the walk to the camp was far less painful than
it otherwise might have been.
By the time we made it to the camp the sun had already set and light was
receding rapidly, as was the warmth of the sun.
Pitch tent! Put on more clothes! Shiver! Go for a piss! Move into
I don’t want to dwell too long on the warmth and comfort that Louise and
Rob’s tent provided, because then you might think I enjoyed myself for a
moment there. Although that might be true, I am trying to pain a picture
of Horrible Horrors. Horrible Horrible Horrors.
Louise and Rob were properly equipped with a thermal tent, and so about 7
of us huddled into their ‘sleeps 3’ tent. It was warm and comfortable
and fun and festive in ABSOLUTELY NO WAY AT ALL.
Unfortunately we couldn’t all sleep in the tent, so after supper Angie
and I skulked back to our tent.
At first it didn’t seem that cold (the floor, however, was just as
uncomfortably solid as I’d expected). But that delusion didn’t last
long. As Angie put it, it got so cold in our useless borrowed summer
camping equipment that “we both pulled our beanies over our faces and
waited to die.”
It was a long cold uncomfortable wait. We’re still waiting which, I
suppose, is a good thing.
The sun finally rose after one of the longest nights in my memory where
I dreamed of terrible twisted cold things. Our water bottle was solidly
frozen. Our cell-phone stopped operating in the middle of the night, the
liquid in the liquid crystal display frozen in place. I was angry.
“You’re insane! I’m never going camping again ever!” I said as I stormed
clumsily out of the tent (stupid ropes and zips and crouching and
crawling — grrr). I marched off to urinate and found the sunrise to be
quite beautiful. Wow. I should take a photo or many. One of Angie’s
propaganda angles on this camping expedition was that I’d be able to
take many cool photos. Indeed, excellent photo opportunites were now
available (and the temperature was starting to rise, pushing my spirits
up with it). Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe the photos would make
the torture worth it (or at least, I could tell myself that and feel
Clumsily back into the tent – a grunt at Angie, just so she doesn’t
think I’m liking anything about the trip – and back out again. Photo
*A stupid way to die*
A small river runs passed the camp-site. I think it’s got something to
do with the Tugela, but I could be making that up. It was completely
frozen over and ran to the edge of the plateau, and then plunged over
the edge – a sheer drop that would very likely cause immediate death on
impact, except water isn’t alive, so no problem there.
Naturally the best photos to be had are near the edge, and more
specifically, near the frozen waterfall. I was to have the best photos
that were to be had, or else I’d be most annoyed.
Did you know that frozen rivers are slippery? I do. And I did. That was
why I carefully stepped over the icey river surface (low water season
making this possible). I took a couple of photos and crept towards the
edge. Not wanting to slip over the edge I kept about 1.5 metres away. I
decided it was far too dangerous to get any closer and take a photo
hanging over the edge. Time to back off and take a photo of the
waterfall from further away – I hadn’t hated this camping thing so much
that I wanted to kill myself. Survived the freezing night just to throw
myself over the edge of the mountain. Now that would be stupid.
My favourite thing is irony.
Don’t you like irony?
As I start to walk away from the edge, my feet suddenly stop holding me
up. By this point I’m already facing away from the edge, with a solid
rockface to my right, camera grasped in my right hand ready to take the
next shot. I’m leaning to the right, towards the rockface because of the
slight incline. There is nowhere for my feet to move to rebalance me.
I collapse. Instinctively my my right arm shoots out to break my fall.
It succeeds. It also does a good job of slamming my camera (lens first)
into the rockface. I slide down the incline a little, but fortunately
stop short of the river. Having averted certain death, I inspect the
state of my camera. Much like a tortoise head, the zoomable lens has
retracted into its shell, and refuses to be coaxed out. The lens cover
is nowhere to be seen (presumably knocked over the edge).
The fact that people across the river were trying to determine my state
of health only started to filter through to me.
“Are you ok?” I heard them asking. No-one seemed in a big hurry to jump
across the river and save me though.
“No! I’m not okay. My camera’s broken!” is something I thought but
*Look Who’s Feeling Sorry For Himself*
Back at the camp, I presented the remains of my camera to Angie.
“What?” she asked.
“Uh… It’s broken. I slipped on the frigging ice and broke my camera!”
I told her.
This had an unexpected effect. Angie broke down into tears. I chased her
and we ended up back near the edge of the cliff (but further back, and
away from the river) watching the sun rise. We resolved the issue. Then
something took a liking to my butt and tried to take a chunk out of it.
I thought I’d sat on a thorn or spiking pointy thing. A pointy spikey
thing that tore a hole in my pants – and left three tooth marks, and
bruising. I was probably poisoned in a mild sort of way (since I didn’t
swell up and die). I’m still classifying it as Life-Threatening-Event
No.3 on the Mountain Where Bad Things Happen
I returned to the camp again and felt generally annoyed about my broken
camera. Broken cameras can’t take photos. Grrr. I suddenly stumbled upon
a brilliant idea. I will destroy the ice on the river! It was the icy
nature of the river that caused me to slip and break my camera, and so
the river must suffer! The river must die! The ice must be destroyed! I
will destroy it! And I will use this rock.
I threw the rock with considerable force at the ice expecting the impact
to cause an explosion of shards and splinters. It just skipped off the
surface, leaving a minor chip in the ice. Unsatisfied, I found a much
large rock and threw it as hard as I could. If anything, it made less of
an impact. I cursed. Clearly the rock was part of the mountain and so it
was friends with the river and they had some sort of treaty that didn’t
I later discovered that the ice was about an inch thick, but I still
think it was a conspiracy.
As the sun rose I moped. We packed up the tent and all of our equipment
and we waited for Rob. Rob wasn’t in a hurry to leave the mountain, but
then it hadn’t tried to kill him three times.
I hatched a cunning plan in my impatience. Leave the mountain
immediately. The main problem with the hike had been the backpack. Most
of the stuff in the backpack was other people’s anyway, and the stuff
that was mine I could replace. Of course Angie would be pissed off, but
she loved me and she’d forgive me. All I needed was to take the car
keys, my wallet and some water and just go. Angie could get a lift home
with Rob and Louise. The equipment I’d carried up wouldn’t be my problem.
The only thing stopping me was my consideration of how pissed off Angie
would get. While I was mulling this over I saw Angie check whether the
keys were still in the backpack. She gave me a suspicious look. I gave
her a suspicious look.
Abort plan! Abort abort!
Down is better than up.
Except the chain-behemoth. Going down the chain-behemoth is worse than
going up it. That extra 12 kg on one’s back really makes one feel
unbalanced. And one has to look down. Down is splattery, and with the
memory of the mountain’s murderous intent fresh in my mind, it made me
*Picking up the Pieces*
I took my camera to a photography shop for an assessment. He guessed
that to repair it will cost R2500, but referred me to the Nikon
technicians in Midrand to get a proper assessment for insurance purposes.
As I left his shop he mused, “An expensive weekend. Enjoyable; but
I decided not to bore him with the tale, since that’s what you Waffle
Group people are for.