Environmental Education camp in the Cederberg with 2nd year students from Centurion Academy
By Rona van der Merwe
We are on our backs in a Cederberg dirt road surrounded by silence on a moonless summer’s night. It is one of those settings, one of those perfect moments where reality meets complete fantasy and whether I open or shut my eyes I am left with an image of stars shimmering above and around me. Someone whispers: “I’ve never seen stars like this before.” All I am left with is: “how lucky are we?” I can fall asleep in this spot, right here, right now. In fact, my tired body is begging me to do just that. But my mind is alight in energy as I reflect on the last two days in the Cederberg Mountains.
“This some-what strenuous hike is one of those perfect proper Cederberg hikes,” Catherine, our Environmental Educator, briefs us on the road ahead. “We’re going to do a little bit of climbing but I promise it’s fun,” she says with a climbing rope tied on her back (just for in case). The merciless sun seems to have little respect for our endeavour on this first day in March. Every now and again Catherine stops to point out a Protea species or to explain the erosion impacts of trails. We gulp away at our precious water and eagerly steal pictures. Finally we make it to the top, the start of the renowned cracks, where we take a few minutes to cool in the shade of magnificent, towering sandstone structures. Torches on and the ‘real fun’ begins. The Wolfberg Cracks hike is a first for me. I turn towards my colleague and all I am able to utter is: “I am in awe.”
Here in this ancient landscape where time has no grip but is instead trapped in layered greatness. I imagine the wisdom and power that these structures hold. How deep shall we have to look for it in ourselves? My feet tread on the sand, weathered away, grain by grain, little pieces of eons-old wisdom and power. I am humbled in the presence of these structures, the arch towering above my head. And I wonder how long I must stay, with all my anthropogenic elements, before I am accepted by this beauty, before I become the lizard in the cracks.
Back on my back in a dusty Karoo road I am still transfixed under the stars. And as a lay here I make a wish for myself, the students and all of humanity (there are shooting-stars around): May this night-sky, rather than make us feel small, remind us of our infinite responsibilities and power. May we realise our place in this galaxy and in the infinite galaxies beyond. And may we understand our role, as a human species and fall into a deeply wild, everlasting, boundary-breaking love for our magical planet.
I do believe that I speak for everyone present at this camp when I say that we are lucky. Lucky for opportunities like these to experience remaining wild places, to be able to return to our home: those places in the mountains that make way for the places in our hearts. We have the power to daily find and protect, beyond mere tangible measures, our homes which our well-being so vigorously cries out for.