Bouldering in Rocklands, South Africa
~ Adventure By Tember Hursh & Morgan McNeill ~
She is beautiful and kind, yet she is robust and will snuff the life right out of you if you turn your back.
I took off with my two climbing partners, crammed in our little silver Toyota Avanza, for the Cedarburg Mountains. A few hours later, we were about to begin our six-week South African adventure. When you chug up the snaking asphalt road towards the mountain peaks, nothing in this world can prepare you for what you will see: thousands, upon thousands of sandstone boulders. It’s sickening to look at all that rock. Your eyes just never find a moment to stop and focus. It’s honestly overwhelming to realize there is absolutely no possible way to even touch every boulder, let alone climb all of them.
Climb we did.
We made the best of our time in Rocklands by starting out timid, and leaving a tad more sturdy. We all had projects; some that were finished relatively quickly, and others that came at a much higher price. I figured Rocklands boulders would be a true test of my abilities, because of its prestige; I definitely did not set high expectations for myself. This changed very quickly as I finished my first project within 12 hours. I started scouting much more difficult problems, and in the end, these would take the whole trip to finish. I had successful ascents on all my desired problems, and unfortunately, the climb that required the most time and energy kept me from the other boulders I wanted to try. For this reason, and multiple more, I will return to South Africa.
It was summer in the southern hemisphere. It was very warm at the peak of almost any day, but easy to seek refuge in the shade of a boulder. The guys would take a quick siesta on the bouldering pads, but I took a different approach to my resting place. A vivid little xPlor hammock had its own spot in my daypack, and it was worth its weight in gold. It was a comfort knowing I was off the desert floor when my eyes were closed, since during the first few days of our trip we saw a six-foot spitting cobra streak past our boulder of choice. That same evening, I almost stepped on a scorpion the size of my palm.
The terrain, wildlife, and even weather can jeopardize your health in a short amount of time. The day we boarded a plane to leave, wildfires swept through the valleys of Rocklands. Drought is common during summer seasons, but massive fires in Rocklands are not. The flames threatened many homesteads and were not so kind to wildlife and vegetation. We were lucky to have already left the area, but we certainly held heavy hearts in our chests when we learned of the situation.I did not leave South Africa without seeing, and photographing, some of the most stunning wildlife you will ever lay your eyes upon. When you are breathing the same air and can smell the scent of the beast you are focused on, it’s something truly breathtaking.
There is a compilation of African autobiographies and many photography books on my shelf. I respected and loved this land before my arrival. I knew there was great potential in this journey; I just never realized this place would take hold of my soul. I left Africa with a stronger heart, tougher skin, and a few tears in my eyes. Whether it’s the grit of a sandstone boulder at your fingertips, the red dust from an elephant’s trunk, or the smell and taste of the sea, South Africa leaves a song in your heart that you simply cannot ignore.
Written by Tember Hursh