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Facing adversity with good vibes

Friday September 17 2021
Hike

“We’re now going to climb higher,” their guide yelled abruptly in the silence that followed the rude man’s remark, “…as we head into the moorland and this,” he smiled at Toni, the only person in the group who seemed to share a true love of the mountains like he did, “…is going to be very exciting.” ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA

By NADYA SOMOE

Toni leant one long leg on a large boulder and stretched luxuriantly. She’d been looking forward to this hike for so long, she couldn’t believe she was here. Deep in the most beautiful forest in the Aberdare range, by a wonderfully magical waterfall that was throwing up spray as it crashed into a crystal clear pool of frigid mountain water full of submerged rocks smoothed to perfection by time and the powerful waters.

She stood apart from the group of hikers she’d come with, seeking to take in the complete fullness of the waterfalls beauty, but knowing no memory would do it justice. One simply just had to be there, experiencing it, to understand how the cold spray tasted and felt against one’s face, or how the light glinted off the drops so that the water twinkled as it fell, or how the wind blew fresh delicious scents and cooled their sweaty skin as they stood there.

“Nothing there of value I bet,” a smarmy voice cut into Toni reverie, “Aside from those earrings,” it came again, with a snort of laughter that grated on the nerves.

Toni dragged her eyes unwillingly from the crashing water and turned around just in time to see one of the hikers in the group pointing at his head and mocking her as she stretched. He stood amongst the other hikers who ashamedly looked away, although not a few of them hiding smiles. There wasn’t a person there who wasn’t jealous of Toni in some way. She’d shown up looking like a misplaced model in the wilderness, yet kept up energetically with the group as they made their way through the forest.

“We’re now going to climb higher,” their guide yelled abruptly in the silence that followed the rude man’s remark, “…as we head into the moorland and this,” he smiled at Toni, the only person in the group who seemed to share a true love of the mountains like he did, “…is going to be very exciting.”

It was. Countless miles of rolling highland covered in tall, thick scrubby grass that could swallow your foot to the knee if you stepped wrong, a moaning wind that sounded like a mournful but beautiful song that reached its icy fingers through the thickest of their jackets, a never ending blue and grey sky; a wild freedom that beckoned and yet held you at bay, one that revealed some of its secrets yet held most of them away. Toni was enchanted. She kept stumbling in the treacherous grass, unable to keep her eyes from wandering all about her. There was so much to see in the sky and on the horizon, how could she train her eyes on the ground?

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“I told you,” the sniggering man said from somewhere to her left, “Falling all over like a baby goat,” he raised his voice as Toni purposefully continued ignoring him, “Probably only came to take pictures for Instagram.”

Toni bristled and on the tip of her tongue was a smarting come-back, but their guide cut in before she could retort.

“So uhh,” his fear tinged voice made even the lax in the group alert, “There’s a fog rolling in over there,” he pointed a shaky finger to where the horizon merged with the sky in a thick haze of grey, “We need to try and get back down to the forest,” he was already retracing his steps as he added a panicky, “Uhh guys, I mean right now.”

It had seemed far off on the horizon at first, but even as they turned to flee, they begun to feel it wrap its moist hands around them, enveloping them in a dream world where visibility begun to fall fast.

“We won’t make it,” Toni called to the guide who was literally running up ahead, “We’re going to get lost!” she called again, and the man slowed. He knew well of these fogs. They could cause you to lose your way for days on end, walking in circles. He stopped, panting like a hungry hyena, allowing the less mobile of the group to catch up with them.

“We need to stay here together, wait for it to pass, then make our way down to the forest when…”

“And who made you leader of…” the prickly man begun, despite his red face and wheezing as he and the last in the group finally caught up.

But he was roundly shushed this time, as the guide nodded his head vigorously in approval to Toni’s plan.

“Huddle together,” the guide’s strong voice called out, “Don’t go anywhere without alerting the group,” his voice was dismembered as the fog fully rolled in and he disappeared from view of most of the group aside from those standing directly next to him, “Stay together!”

It was miserable. Cold, wet, with nothing but swirling mist to stare at for what felt like hours. Toni sat quietly, willing the fog to pass, her mind still in awe at the scenes she’d seen, then she remembered a large bar of chocolate she had and broke some off before passing it around. It was just what the group needed to revive them, that and the sun that broke suddenly through the never ending clouds. Soon, they were waking back through the quickly dissipating fog.

“…You know,” the rude man piped up, and Toni cringed, “I actually knew a model who had a degree in…”

Toni exhaled and let her tension drop. The fog had cleared and with it it seemed, all misconceptions.

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