September 17, 2016
Susie and I are wonderfully compatible in virtually every important way. We have similar interests and parenting philosophies. We both like art and the theater. Our favorite foods are similar enough to assure happy meals and variety.
She might not like sports as much as I do, but that is not a problem. When I watch games, she can check out the more obscure of BBC shows. [Note: Susie’ rule #1, everything is made OK with an English accent and period costumes. I think she would become a hip-hop fan if the performers all looked and sounded like Dame Judy Dench in Downton Abbey. I have yet to find a exception to this rule.]
But there are a few differences that can create tension. Perhaps the most common is our disparate views on exercise. Susie sees it as an important contributor to health that needs to be done. It should not be unpleasant or brutal. In contrast, I like the rush of endorphins and the feeling of overcoming difficult goals.
Of course, this is not a problem when we exercise separately.
Our differences, however, have made hiking a challenge.
In our first trip to New Zealand, we went on a route recommended to us when we asked for a “good route for two healthy hikers”. I think we were thinking “healthy 30 year-old Americans” but they heard “healthy New Zealand trampers who walk all the time”.
The climb was called the Ben Lomond Track, a multi-mile walk that climbs 3000 feet over 3 hours or so. The route starts in grassy fields with very modest elevation changes, but every step is a step up and not down. As you walk more, the path gets steeper.
We began to feel pain.
Here is where the difference in our personalities became concerning. As I began to feel pain, my instinct was to speed up my pace. To my mind, my logic was unassailable: by walking faster, I would end the hike faster, thus limiting the suffering.
Susie, on the other hand, has a bizarre counter-belief: if you are tired and hurting, you should rest.
Hmmm. Does not make much sense to me, but who am I to argue with someone so wise?
We ended up calling the Ben Lomond Track “the marriage tester”. We would climb it again 5 years ago when we traveled with the kids. This particular hike followed treks in Nepal, so we were in pretty good shape. During Nepal, we learned that Liam shares my approach to hiking, except on steroids, so he became the focus of Susie’s disdain.
I share all this because we have had a few good hikes on this trip. The climb to see the mountain gorillas combined steepness, hard terrain and high elevation.
In Cape Town, one of the top-rated activities is a visit to the top of Table Mountain. A visitor can arrive at the top in one of two ways: a 2 minute gondola ride or a 2 hour hike.
We chose the hike. In light of that decision, this board seems appropriate.
It was three miles with an elevation increase of roughly 2500 feet. Think of it as climbing 270 stories of stairs, except the stairs are uneven and often slippery. Surprisingly, we managed the walk without sparking any real familial tension.
The top was worth the climb, producing stunning views of a lovely city. We also know that we are still in decent shape.
While enjoying the view, we also saw some Hydrax (here called “Dassies”) taking in the scenery as well.
This is important because we will have long days of hikes in South America (Patagonia and Peru), which will combine distance and high elevation. We will see if we are looking at a great challenge or a new marriage tester.
PS We are staying in an area called Bo-Kaap. It once housed slaves, but is now famous for its vibrant colors and Muslim neighbors. Our apartment is at the top of this colorful lane.
PPS This photo is from a storefront 4 blocks from our rental. I think it is endorsing the right to arm bears. Actually, it reminded us of Budapest’s Museum of Communism’s ironic ad campaign. It is worth noting that this museum was a post-Soviet, anti-communism museum with owners possessing an odd sense of humor.