This past Thursday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to tag along on The Cape Leopard Trust’s hike to Lion’s Head with the Hoofweg Primary School, one of the eco-schools from Wesbank. As a Communications intern, I was thrilled to be able to take part in conservation efforts that extend beyond the office. Hadley Lyners, Environmental Educator for the CLT and leader of the hike, expressed to me that the majority of these students have to deal with daily issues of poverty, environmental degradation, gangsterism and drugs. They rarely get the opportunity to explore a place as beautiful as Table Mountain National Park.
I was also accompanied by Nicole le Roux, who provides support for the education team and was also on her first hike with the group. The excitement on the students’ faces when we met them at the trailhead was unforgettable. We started off with some brief introductions and had each student tell us something that they love; responses ranged from playing sports to speaking Afrikaans. Then we set off on a light stroll up the mountain where Hadley frequently paused to teach the kids about plants, geology, and wildlife, and to let them get a good look at their surroundings with a pair of binoculars.
As we continued to ascend the mountain, the trail gradually became more difficult and, as the students ran by me leaping over rocks and flowers without hesitation, I quickly discovered that I am terribly out of shape! I was also reminded of a quote from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, “Curiosity often leads to trouble.” Let’s just say some of the kids were a little too curious and excited, running ahead to see what else there was to explore. As heartwarming as it was to see their enthusiasm for being out in nature, we had to remind them that safety comes first when you are on a mountain.
The scenery throughout our hike was unmatched by anything I have experienced so far in this beautiful country. Daisies and all different coloured flowers dotted the grasses along the trail, drawing your eye to the silhouettes of the far off mountain ranges and the vast ocean behind them. Students discovered some cool rock caves to explore and even managed to catch a black girdled lizard. Hadley held the critter out for everyone to see and explained a little bit about it and why we should let animals roam around freely, when suddenly the lizard hurled itself right at me! I’m not sure whether it was the kids’ screams or the lizard flying towards my face that frightened me more. Either way it was quite the moment to remember.
The last leg of the hike proved to be a very steep climb, but with Hadley’s help, the students navigated it with ease. Some of the boys even had to help me! But the view from the top of Lion’s Head proved to be worth every minute of it. It was there that our group took a long rest on the rocks, sharing snacks, taking pictures, and checking off all the plant and animal life we saw on the fact sheet Hadley provided us with. Hadley made me try some biltong for the first time as well while we waited to regroup. I’m not one for beef jerky, but this was surprisingly tasty!
Just before we began our descent, one of the boys pointed out a bird soaring by in the distance that he had seen earlier. It turned out this was the last black eagle left on Table Mountain. Moments like this are what solidify my belief that we should be educating kids about the importance of the environment and wildlife so that they grow up with an appreciation and adoration for our earth’s most precious and quickly vanishing wonders. Hopefully, by allowing these students to experience nature with us, they too will want to save it. Now if I could get paid to go on a hike like this one every day, I might have to change career paths! Until next time...
Stay happy and wild,