Mountains, Shepherds, and a Broken Ankle…

This weekend, we are in Clarens and the Drakensburg Mountains.  My amazement with the beauty of this country continues to grow by the weekend.  Clarens is about 3.5 hours southwest from Joburg.  Driving longer than usual distances here doesn’t seem as taxing as in the states.  I’m certain this is due to the luscious landscapes and topography.  Have you ever seen the double-rainbow video on YouTube? I’m pretty certain I sounded creepily similar to this dude (minus the crying) while snapping pictures every other second.  Clarens is a small touristy town laden with quaint artsy shops, beerhouses, coffeehouses, and restaurants. It provides a different walking atmosphere than Joburg.  Walking in Joburg brings my blood pressure up about 10 points per minute.  It’s like New York City, but worse.  The difference—people in New York have places to be and people to see, so get out of the way.  In Joburg, while that may be the case, people are also in their own world so add that to the hustle and bustle, and you have a jigsaw puzzle of walking space.  Enough about that.  Clarens is quiet, friendly, beautiful, and relaxing.  Rock formations and tall green mountains cuddle the small town which makes the scenery that much more lovely.

Yesterday, we hiked the Drakensburg Mountains.  I had no idea what to expect with this hike.  I’m used to the usual dirt trails with some sticks, and twigs scattered along the path.  This, was nothing like that.  Think of 11k’s of climbing and stepping over rocks ranging in size from as small as your foot, to larger than your entire body.  It was exhilarating and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that getting to the top was a proud moment for me.  Crazy enough, there were real shepherds dressed in long cloaks while herding cows and sheep. We were stunted with the question—how did they get there? Looking down, all I could think is that the landscaping belonged in movie–Lord of the Rings no less. Lush green mountainsides tapered alongside us as we walked, hopped, and climbed, at times only a few inches from the drop-off.  The entire time, I was enthralled with the experience.  I’m incredibly blessed to have a husband who thinks outside the box when it comes to traveling. 
Now, let’s be real for a minute. An experience like that wouldn’t be complete for me without a battle wound. That’s correct, only a bit more than 1k from the car, I broke my ankle. That’s correct people.  We climbed over rocks, climbed chain ladders up a mountainside, and balanced our way through narrow trails, but it wasn’t until the easiest part and last stretch of the hike that I injured myself.  Leave it to me.  Luckily, I have a man who immediately took charge and carried me, I repeat, CARRIED ME the entire way back. Alternating between over the shoulder, piggy-back, and me hopping while resting 90% of my weight on his shoulder, he managed to carry me through loose-rock trails some only the width of a single foot.  I’m grateful.
What was supposed to be a night filled with celebration and relaxation after the hike turned into an additional hour drive to a hospital, chilling on a hospital bed for a good 1.5 hours, only to receive news that what I thought was a simple sprain, was actually a fracture. The doctor and nurses insisted that the pants I was wearing would have to be cut in order to pull over the cast.  The doctor was just full of good news.  No thank you, I’ll risk it.  I left the hospital wobbling on the crutches that resembled walking sticks and rode home in the back seat with a large order of self-pity and disappointment.  Considering we didn’t eat since lunch that day (we left the hospital at 10pm), we asked the hospital receptionist where the nearest place would be to get food at such a late hour.  She said KFC. Those three letters never sounded so good to me. We headed there only to, get this, wait for 45 minutes in the drive thru line. We were stuck in between a truck in front vomiting black exhaust fumes, and a pee-wee car in the back blaring music that was all about the bass.  To my right, a blinking sign for Chicken Zingers and Krushers kept turning on and off. The experience was trippy, and at that moment, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at what the last 4 hours provided.
This morning, while Brian was packing up practically everything, I was watching a rerun of the Ellen Show.  A boy named Tayt was a repeat guest who Ellen invited over the last couple years. He has half a heart. Half-A-Heart! There I was, a lingering guest at my own pity party thinking about how the rest of our stay here will consist of me being a struggle-bus, and an 11-year-old boy has half a heart. That was a huge smack in the face. Immediately, I was overcome with gratitude that my injury wasn’t worse, that I was at least able to finish the hike, oh and that I didn’t fall of the side of the mountain when I injured myself. Crutches are temporary, but there are people with health issues that are permanent.
Right now, as we enjoy an authentic German lunch while enjoying the light breeze and mountainsides before departing on our drive home, I am still amazed with the experience and fully believe that it was completely worth the injury.  Here’s to an exciting and humorous story to tell when we are older.  
Until next time, stay balanced my friends.

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