It Comes in Three’s

 

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Devils Peak (left) Table Mountain (center) Lions Head (right)

Even the most Iconic mountain in the world is part of a trio.

The culmination of April see’s us complete a third of the year.

As I write this, I’ve completed 122 consecutive days hiking up Table Mountain. This gives me a unique opportunity to explore the 3’s that have followed me through the experience to date.

3 MONTHS WITH 3 FULL DAYS HIKING

When I was training last year, my thoughts wandered to “but what happens when people who join aren’t as fit and take an extra 1-2 hours longer?”

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I had plans to have cut off points and politely excuse myself as I continued without them.

Thankfully, sense prevailed.

I quickly realised on the mountain the value of the conversations and an old army saying (even though I never went) rang true: leave no one behind.

The important thing to realise here, is when I was on my own that’s exactly what it was about: me.

When 365 Ubuntu Climbs started, the focus was no longer on me; it was about the people we can empower. Building homes; building a database for Leukemia; building childrens minds by teaching them to read.

The irony is that even with the slower hikes, the longer months (January March and April) have still only yielded a full 3 days of hiking (and some change).

This means everyone who joins has invested in our idea with both time and money.

That deserves every ounce of respect. These are perfect examples.

Craig, having traveled with work almost two weeks away from home, was delayed for three hours on his flight back the night before our planned hike from Durban (2 hour flight): and still joined at 06:30 on a Sunday morning. No excuses.

Jessie, flew half way around the world from San Francisco to support me and hike up seven times in eight days; including the very next day after landing. No excuses.

Lisa, has hiked up with me 13 times; early mornings, cold, and on the second windiest day of the year to date. No excuses.

My sister Caroline, has adrenal fatigue and an under active thyroid. Truth be told, probably should never have climbed with me. Her commitment, willpower and sheer determination to support me pushed her up that mountain. She made it up on day 62. No excuses.

Each of my family members that hike up with me get to choose a rock to represent them. This I keep on Ubuntu rock (13% of the way left to go) and with about 50 stairs left till Ubuntu rock and utterly exhausted – she chose what is now lovingly referred to as ‘MF Rock’. Yup – that’s exactly what MF stands for.

It’s this type of commitment you can’t foresee when you have ideas and why it’s so important to follow your gut when an idea sits well. It’s why doing what you love can only bring you rewards you never dream of. Seeing others put themselves outside their own comfort levels in aid of others? Priceless.

3 TIMES WATCHING THE FULL MOON RISE ON TABLE MOUNTAIN

A blue moon is when we have two full moons in a calendar month.

I watched on the 31st January (second full moon in Jan and first Blue moon month of 2018); the 31st March (second blue moon month in one year – hasn’t happened since 1999 and won’t happen again until 2037) and on the last day of April: the end of my first third of hiking up Table Mountain 365 times (which is why this is even more appropriate)

I’ve wanted to watch the full moon rise at the top of Table Mountain since day one, but my first time relentless wind meant the cable car wasn’t working and I had to hike back down, so watched on my own half way down Platteklip Gorge to avoid hiking in the dark –  where I found my January rock.

       January’s second full moon     April Rock, March, February and January Rock               

March fell over Easter Weekend and I was joined by two special people, Jaclyn and Avril. What I love most about being accompanied up is the fascinating conversations shared about each others experiences in life.

Up top was insanely busy. Intent on not waiting in a mammoth queue, Jaclyn and I hiked back down to my previous spot where, in the ever increasing icy wind, we sat mesmerized by the full moon rising into the dark sky. Our journey to Winter responsible for the darker moon rise.

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The moon peaking its head behind the corner of Table Mountain as we sat huddled about 2/3 up

The 3rd one, Monday the 30th April, was finally at the top. With perfect weather conditions to catch the cable car down, Imogen and I (having lost 3 of our companions) settled up top to enjoy this natural wonder. With the sun setting even earlier, unaware people left around sunset (18:05) and missed the spectacle of seeing the beautiful full moon rising like the sun, while darkness shrouded us above the twinkling city.

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I truly wish you get to experience this in your lifetime

3 RAINY DAYS IN ONE WEEK

I always knew this was coming.

Like mid year exams looming in the distant future.

I’m exceptionally happy about the rain. We desperately need it – our dams are collectively sitting at 20% full. I’d be happy to hike in 200 days of rain – its all about mindset and dressing correctly plays a massive role in this.

I’ve been blessed to have Cape Union Mart (a South African outdoor, hiking, camping – gear and equipment store) come on board as a sponsor. This means they’ll help me stay dry, warm and safe. It was serendipitous that our meeting happened the day before I hiked up in complete mist (which is as good as being in fine rain) and the week before it rained three times.

The rain means the mountain transforms into a winter wonderland of sound and sight as waterfalls appear in places summer hikers would never conceive of. I consider it a great honour to bear witness to these changes that happen hourly as water collects higher up and rushes towards the ocean, as if in its own ‘rush hour traffic’.

This was highlighted on my second rainy day hike when, after a thunderstorm hit us between 3 and 5am, I expected a bigger rush of water at the start of the hike. Strong winds up top meant the cable car wasn’t operational and so I hiked back down; frozen hands dreaming about the gloves I’ll get from Cape Union Mart for just such future days.

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Yep – the exit is down… down Platteklip Gorge!

Thankfully, my parents sponsored me a proper K-Way rain jacket last year already. When it started raining on the way down I was even more grateful. Well, I say rain, but I didn’t see any water falling to earth. It was more like precipitation seated in Airline Cloud traveling up Platteklip gorge. It was blowing directly into my face. Already warm from ascending 760 vertical meters and on my way back down I felt life flowing through me as life happened all around me.

Every step was as careful as though stepping onto thin cut glass. My Barefoot hikes perfect training for this as I become completely mindful in every step, and lost to anything else happening.

I’m alone on the mountain and I feel absolute peace. Bliss. Gratitude.

Some tourists have started hiking up (with appropriate gear, which is a first) and have just made it to half way as the rain and wind picks up. They turn back wisely, and I see them up top the mountain on day three – ironically also a misty and cold day with rain.

Day three the cable car, however, is working and cold soaked hikers fill the wifi lounge huddled around coffee cups.

Mervi, all the way from Holland with her husband, had heard about me through a friend and pushed on through the rainy bit to experience Table Mountain in a way most people avoid. Her smile at the end echoed her understanding of what she had just achieved.

Once again, the weather had been incorrectly ‘predicted’ and rain slammed into our faces  at the top. Having hiked back down the previous day my heart sat heavy at the prospect of the cable car being closed. This wasn’t in the script for Mervi’s hike up and, conscious of time, hoped it worked for them to do more exploring in Cape Town. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem and we were able to enjoy a fantastic lunch at The Roundhouse where they spoiled me.

Here’s to the next 122 days

For the first time in my life, I’m creating my own adversity instead of waiting for it to happen to me. Reading this and my previous blogs this year gives you a snippet into the support I receive to make this possible.

I’m not doing this alone.

This happens because of my family, close friends, new friends and even strangers messages on social media’s support. Together we understand that this is about a greater purpose: empowering those without the means to empower themselves (yet)  – this is how I’ve climbed over 366 000 stairs.

Never underestimate the power your positive words of encouragement has on the recipient.

Ever.

This post is dedicated to all the people that have donated and the 215 people that have hiked up with me to date. Together we are making Madiba proud.

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Andrew Patterson has embarked on an ambitious project in 2018 to climb Table Mountain 365 times. This is all in aid of raising money and awareness for three organizations:
  • The Sunflower Fund – building a database for Leukemia
  • Habitat for Humanity – building homes for those living in poverty
  • One Heart – helping under resourced schools teach children to read.
To pledge your support and invest in this project visit: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs

 

 

An Austrian Christmas

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I could never have predicted how special this Christmas in Austria was going to be.

Spending Christmas with your family overseas is entirely different to spending Christmas with another family overseas.

I spent a week with dear friends in London first, who generously hosted me in their spare bedroom (naming rights have already begun to call it Andrew’s Room) It was an inspiring week in my old home for two years back in 2013. I challenged myself to find new experiences every day; one of which included Stonehenge on winter Solstice. How’s that for timing!

Now it was time to head to Austria for Christmas. M had ‘hijacked’ my holiday and insisted I join her family for Christmas; this had all been arranged before meeting me let alone get to know me properly. A gesture I will struggle to repay this lifetime.

The magic starts just boarding Austrian airlines as you are greeted with classical music playing over the pa. It may have been 10a.m, but we were on holiday and so nothing but an Austrian Beer on board would do as the three of us winged our way to Vienna.

I had great anticipation for this part of my European vacation, I’ve never been to Wien (Vienna) or Styria (beautiful countryside about ninety minutes south of Vienna in the hills) so to do this with an Austrian family was going to be a treat beyond belief.

It didn’t take long. K collected us and bounced towards us in hello. It was a gloriously happy welcome – my first experience on Austrian soul and I was already smiling.

For those of you who have travelled, you will appreciate how wonderful it feels to be relaxed about not to think where you are going and how you are going to get there (transport wise) — especially when driving. Even more so when you are now driving on the opposite side of the road.

A short trip into Vienna and my next memorable moment was upon me, G2’s head out the flat window waving with her beaming smile I would become fond of. We were at the parents flat where the mother had prepared Wiener Schnitzels for lunch together with potato salad.

They were the best schnitzels I’ve ever eaten.

So I ate five!

The laughter came unexpectedly as each one of the family spoke a Zulu word to me – I was NOT expecting that! C is doing an amazing job of cross-mojinating Austria and South Africa. Essentially, they were warming me up for all the laughs we would share together during the course of my stay. My abs have never been harder.

K’s flat is wonderfully placed about a twenty minute walk from the city centre. The first night I was treated to a Christmas market in the Museum Quarter. Having Swiss heritage, I am no stranger to Glühwein, but my southern hemisphere brain (a cold wine lover), had forgotten that this is not a wine made warm for the fun of it. With the temperature dropping to -4 degrees and my gloves being in my main suitcase I quickly realised why the wine is heated. Switching to beer at one point I could barely hold the cup for three minutes before switching hands to eagerly shove the other deep in a pocket.

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Interestingly, this faux pas on my part meant I noticed an interesting Austrian custom: they take their glove off to shake your hand hello or goodbye. Loved that.

One thing I appreciate about most Europeans is their ability to speak multiple languages. Vienna was no different with most people being able to chat to me in English. I look forward to the day my French and German is good enough to chat to people in their native language.

The next day was spent walking around Vienna sight seeing loads of buildings and monuments steeped in history and culture. Sights from the historic city centre including St Stephan’s cathedral & Hofburg to Belvedere. I was even blindfolded to get a true breath taking moment, enchanted by Schönbrunn Palace (my blog title picture)lit up at night with the Christmas market buzzing below. Centuries have passed since all this was built; humbling to think about what has come and what has gone. You get a true sense of how old Europe is in Vienna. Makes me realise how, in comparison, South Africa is just an early teen sitting with its grandfather.

It wasn’t all walking, we even had a drink in the smallest pub in Vienna.

December in the Northern hemisphere is poles apart

That night we ended up at one of M’s friends’ local pub and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to him. It highlighted to me the value of travelling and how it opens your mind and broadens your perspective. Makes for deeper richer conversations. My favourite thing about him was that he asked me about South Africa and our challenges – he didn’t just give me his opinion having travelled there three times already. Most people do it the other way around.

Walking back through the city at night you see how many Christmas lights exist. It’s something we don’t get in South Africa. It’s a magical experience to be walking all wrapped up with scarves and jackets; the cold air nipping at the skin on your face and your eyes constantly reflecting Christmas lights. They don’t just feel the Christmas spirit – they embody it.

I’m not sure I went two hours without hearing Christmas carols or songs of some sort either. For the first time in years I was completely overflowing with the festive spirit.

This was all just building me up to two experiences that will live with me forever.

Christmas eve

In Austria, just as it is in Switzerland which I experienced as a child, the main celebration with family is Christmas eve. Usually the tree is only decorated that day by everyone but G2 had already sorted that. A real tree. Incredible ornaments and to top it all off – real candles. Small differences that make a world of difference.

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Before the evening wonder, I was treated to a scenic drive up the hills by G1. The city was not too visible as mist from the Danube slithered its way through Vienna, but I still got a beautiful sense of the city below. There was still some snow on the hills as we stopped for a beer to enjoy the sunset over Schneeberg next to a church, built in honour of King Jan (John) III Sobieski of Poland for his assistance in defeating the Turks. Like I said earlier – history at every turn.

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We even made a quick stop to Klosterneuburg Monastery. The finishing touch to a wonderful afternoon being driven around learning even more about one of the world’s most liveable cities

Thankfully I had been warned so I was prepared for this part; everyone dresses smartly for the occasion. With dinner nearly ready, presents are exchanged before you eat and I was honoured to be able to share in a family’s love and appreciation for one another. The love covered them as though a gift wrapped in shimmering paper under the tree.

This was my Christmas present this year.

True to their generous spirit, I was handed presents too to which I will treasure – especially my beautiful pen and my orthodox prayer bracelet. This was the next best way to spend Christmas without my own family. I honestly felt like I was part of theirs.

My new Austrian family.

The goose was exceptional and had been hand selected from G2s sisters farm in Styria. Í ate so much I’m sure they thought I was pregnant. I felt like what the Roman emperors must have felt like during their feasts.

Happy Head, Happy Heart, Happy Stomach. My physical holy trinity.

Christmas day service

We attended a service in a church over three hundred years old; a truly impressive building with lavish decorations; sculptures and paintings galore – even Christmas trees inside!

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Although the entire service was in German, the choir and orchestra made me feel like I was privileged to be attending a show in one of the oldest theatres. It was a treat with every song that they sang and played.

The standout moment though, was the finale. The very definition of saving the best till last. The hard wooden bench seemed to turn to a lazy boy recliner as Silent Night started.

I have no words.

I was reminded of the prisoners in Shawshank redemption standing mesmerised as Andy Dufresne played an opera song over the pa. Appropriately, that Song is by Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria.

At first, two voices alone. Seamlessly joined by everyone in the choir moments later only to sing alone again in an instant; this left my hair standing at attention and my heart overflowing in the moment.

There is no amount of money in the world that can buy that experience.

They say the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. I believe the same is true for culture. Having the opportunity to live as an Austrian for a week has given “once in a lifetime’’ true meaning.

Standouts of this experience

The beauty about travelling is the insights it gives you, here are some of my observations

  1. We really are all the same. Language, culture, geographic location may differ; but everyone connects, has dreams and worries about aspects of life common to all of us.
  2. Subtle differences. While on the surface things may look the same, it’s the small finer details where things change and that can dramatically change an experience; remember that in your own life because you may be looking to make a dramatic change, when all you need is a subtle one
  3. Hospitality. Never underestimate how the power your generosity of spirit will positively impact someone else’s life. What may appear small to you could just make a world of difference to them (being picked up at the airport as an example)
  4. Special ingredient to thrive. The one thing that stood the most for me in a city that’s rated as one of the happiest places to live – is respect. I’m not sure if it’s because as a nation they have experienced countless wars and difficulties that this is so prevalent; almost like an adult in their 40’s that’s been through the highs and lows of relationships appreciates a working relationship more. Respect for one another; for your city; for where you have come from (even the bad parts of your history)
  5. Humour is so important. Even with limited understanding language wise, we can all still laugh together. If you choose to look for humour in moments and can laugh at yourself perhaps you could enjoy yourself even more so than you are right now?

 

When I arrived, it was with two people very special to me.

When I left, I had five I was carrying close.

This is the beauty of life. If you are open to it, you can have experiences that most people only dream about.

This was most certainly one for me. Thank you – my new Austrian Family.