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Skeletons, tables, castles and caves

As I lie here recovering from spinal surgery, I thought I would post about my last hike of any consequence before the double bout with operating theatres, one planned and the other not. Santie organised this classic route ascending Skeleton Gorge from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, following Smuts’ Track to Maclear´s Beacon, across the front table to the cableway and then down Kasteelspoort to Bakoven, where we caught an Uber back to Kirstenbosch. Photos follow.

Relive 'Table traverse'

Near the top of Skeleton Gorge
Turistas at Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir

Santie near Maclear´s Beacon
Robben Island and Table Bay from the eastern table
The table
The reservoirs and Hout Bay beyond
Atlantic seaboard and Twelve Apostles
Cableway lookout
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Gerhard and Santie
View from Kasteelspoort

The subsequent saga of the spine

I had my first spinal op in 2003 exactly fifteen years ago, having popped a disk between L4 and L5. As I struggled to walk 150 m everyday during recovery, I would often wonder whether I would be able to hike with a backpack again, or windsurf. Excellent physiotherapy and a decision to take up yoga and subsequently Pilates put my back in better shape than it had ever been in. Besides the hiking and windsurfing, I took up kayaking and cycling, engaged in more extreme activities like abseiling and kloofing, and as the rest of this blog attests to, I never really looked back. Until a month ago, that is, when a walk up Swartboskloof in Jonkershoek proved to be the ¨last straw that broke the camel´s back¨.

I had felt some discomfort off and on for a while, and this time near the top of the kloof the disk between L3 and L4 finally ruptured. I managed to limp the 7 km down to the car in extreme pain, collapsed at home on all fours and eventually begged Marion to take me to hospital emergency, where I waited for two excruciating hours, was admitted and placed on a morphine drip – thank goodness. An MRI scan the next day decided my fate – another spinal op. I suspect that almost a year’s worth of lugging buckets of grey water from shower to toilet has been the main culprit as we struggle to survive the unprecedented drought.

So now as I lie here or take daily walks of 4 to 7 km while the damaged nerve recovers and sends sporadic bolts of burning lightening down my inner thigh and over my knee, I wonder again whether I will be able to hike with a backpack again, cycle, windsurf and kayak. I suspect that I will. But I will have to be far more circumspect and careful. Disks rupture gradually and I don’t want to ever go through this again.

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