Readers Blog

Apartheid Mountain

Posted on: June 30, 2008

My Sportivas were a bit leaky and I felt a bit under-dressed as I looked around the campsite. I didn't have time to shower between trips. The Euro's were comparing wrap around glasses snuggling their flabby thighs into their insulating spandex and staying warm in their sleeping bag jackets.

"This mountain is neat, but when I was hiking the Inca Trail. I was so much more hardcore,"

"So you have done Inca trail? Well have you ever climbed in the... ADIRONDACKS! The crimps and run-outs are crazy, and when the weather comes in it comes in fast."

"The Adirondacks seem neat, but you should really check out some of the ski resorts in Canada..."

The conversation continues on this way, but I need to walk away, I am getting nauseous. Later in the day I am going to have to run around the mountain to find these guys wheat toast, they won't eat the white toast that my guiding company has provided.

Maganga sits on the other side of camp with the futbol I gave him. The Orlando Magic wind breaker isn't exactly gore-tex and looks a lot more soaked than my La Sportiva boots. In fact his boots are nikes, and look like something Axel Rose would have worn back around the time of Use Your Illusion One.

"Mambo Vipi"

"Mambo Poa... na wewe?"

"Baridi kidogo,"

That is about the extent of my Kiswahili. I do understand the card game though, and upon seeing me Maganga is already doing the African style of shuffling, mashing the cards together in a disorganized way.

As we play more porters come out of the tent, and soon enough a candle is brought to light the game. There is a lot of yelling in swahili that I don't understand, but get the picture of. The clothing looks like something out of the Cosby Show, patterned sweaters and scarves. Most porters shiver around the circle. Maganga lays a high card down and in disjointed English states,

"white men can't jump," followed by laughter from all the porters.

I lay a higher card, and say "I am Barack Obama," which gets most of the porters rolling on the ground with laughter.

The game goes on like this for an hour or so until I get a yell from the other nice tent (the one that is dry without holes that my clients don't even sleep in).

"Mista Bill your dinner is time"

I give some handshakes to the porters and walk to the mess tent. Looking back, I can see the twenty or so bodies smashing themselves in the cook tent for warmth on the other side of camp. I stroll into our tent where, counting myself, there are three of us. There is also one black guy that brings us food and pours our drinks. Maganga comes in, but doesn't look me in the eye and just serves the food.

I feel sick again.

"Tell me about the summit morning Bill," my client says.

I go through it in all the details. Talk about how great the peak is, and how wonderful the sunrise is. I know I am going to have to help him walk to the summit and Maganga will shiver the whole way.

"And then when we get back we are going to have to tip these boys right? What is a decent tip that won't leave them expecting more?"

I feel sick again. Being a mountain guide sucks.