“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Neo Matsei.

I recently visited the Mother City, Cape Town, for the very first time and during my stay there I climbed up Table Mountain. On my way up, I swore I’d never do it again (LOL).

As physically unfit as I am, I thought, “this shouldn’t be too bad”. Trainers and sunhat on, sunscreen applied, plenty of water in my carrier bag, but no strategy. I was ready to get to the top, but little did I know what awaited me along the hike.

At the start of the climb, my energy level was really high; I was going up like an Energizer Bunny. Gianluca would have been proud. But within 10 minutes of the walk I was exhausted, panting heavily and feeling dizzy. My heart was pounding to the point I could hear it beating through my ears.

I was on this mission with two of my friends: Thato, who was also going up for the first time, and Carminda, who has been up and down the mountain several times. They both advised me to take small steps and to go at my own pace, and to take a break whenever necessary. They encouraged me that I was capable of doing it, even when I thought I couldn’t.

From left: Carminda, Neo (me) and Thato

After taking a break, sipping on water and eating a few Powerade jellies for the sugar, I was prepared to start again.

I took my friends’ advice and went up as slowly as my body allowed. Every steep incline was different. I sometimes used my hands to help me balance. I took water breaks to try and build up my energy and then would be ready to go on up again. I stayed focused on my walk and avoided looking up the trail and the miles ahead of me.

We came across a lot of people taking on the challenge along the way. Some of them were already making their way down the mountain. At one point we stopped to look at the view from where we were. When I looked down, I saw more people behind us still coming up.

Along the way we motivated each other. It helped to stop and chat – even just for a few seconds – as we would lose track of time and not focus so much on what was happening inside us.

It was also very therapeutic. I slowly relaxed and developed some patience in myself.

Such with life, we are all climbing our own mountains, though they’re mostly not physical (unless you’re Blake). Everyone is on their own journey. Some reach their goals a lot quicker and others lag behind, but that does not mean they will not reach their own set goals. It is a lesson to not look at them, but to stay focused on your own journey. As we go along, it is also important that we celebrate the small wins – how far we have come from where we were – because there’s always someone who still has to go through that stage in their lives.

The climb didn’t get any easier. The higher we went the more intense it got. But the further I climbed, the more determined I became. Also, I felt a lot better as I climbed than I had when I started.

Finally we reached the top of the mountain. I did not realise until Carminda congratulated us for making it! This was when I realised that I did not just conquer the mountain, but I had just conquered myself as well.

At this point I was happy to not see any incline. We continued our walk on the table top, appreciating the beautiful scenery from the top – the amazing work of God’s hands.

That satisfaction of completing the hike is quite powerful. It is a great accomplishment to know that you pushed through the pain and did not give up.

Climbing up a mountain is not only physically challenging, but another level of a mental challenge.

Would I do it again? Hell, yeah!

Few tips for first time climbers:
– Take a sunhat
– Apply sunscreen
– Take plenty of water
– Take some energy bars (or Powerade jellies like I did) for some sugar
– Wear good trainers (mine were a bit slippery, which is not safe)