How Sliprock saved the day

We got up this morning just not in tune with each other. No argument, just missing the normal companionable vibe. Maybe because we both wished we were in SA to be part of the elections.

It was set to be a tough day. Hot (with a chance of a thunderstorm later in the afternoon), a hell of a climb at 14km (14-19km), and we needed to resupply. All of this and we didn’t want to sacrifice our distance of min 27km as we are chasing to get to Damascus by Friday evening.

So when we crossed a road at 9h45 with a sign to a lodge and Trevor said “shall we go for a coolie?” I said I didn’t think it’s the best use of our time. As you can imagine that did nothing to improve the mood, he stormed off without a word πŸ˜€ (in my defense, it was going to be a long day and we needed to get over that mountain before the sun was at its hottest).

On our way to that dreaded mountain we came across the Laurel waterfall and river. For about 6km we could either see or at least hear the river. We climbed down to the waterfall, then walked next to the river for a few kilometres, at a point skirting the ledge of a beautiful rockface sticking into the river, crossing the river several times and seeing (I think) wild azaleas in bloom.

All of this beauty – yet still we were not in tune with each other. We tackled the mountain. On our way up another hiker was coming down. As always we stepped aside making room for him to pass. Then slowly made our way up again.

Halfway up the mountain we sat down on a rock with a view for a rest. After a while the same guy we let through on his way down came sweating up. He said he suddenly realised he was heading in the wrong direction, after his break he must have just been thinking of other things and headed down the same slope he just slaved up!

He introduced himself as Sliprock and though I didn’t really follow the logic for the name the context was this: he was an orphan who ran away from foster care all the time, and his surname was something similar to a Flintstone character which leads to the nickname Sliprock. The association was with Trouble and Bad Luck. The part I liked was that he was an orphan with a nickname which he hated and which belittled him, but when he had to choose a trail name he thought he ended up with a good life, a good wife, good kids, a grand daughter called Jozi, and that he doesn’t have Bad Luck anymore. Because his old nickname can’t hurt him any more he chose it as his trail name. I found it beautiful how he could condense the story of his life and how it had a happy ending: tough life at 15, content at 60, what’s in a name….

When we started walking leaving him in the dust πŸ˜€ our normal companionship was restored – how not after such an uplifting interaction.

At the top of the mountain I put my Snickers in the stream, weighing it down with a rock, for the melted chocolate to settle before I ate it. We then strolled downhill (another 5km) to town level.

Where the trail crosses the road (5km out of town) is a hikers hostel Boots Off. We decided to – instead of going into town – chill there for an hour and buy food for the next 2 days from whatever stock they had. We are going to be having strange meals untill we reach Damascus but it was worth just getting the hour’s rest in.

While we were resting we consumed a few items. Trevor had 4 cold drinks and I had 2. He had 3 packets of chips and I had 2. We each had one Little Debbie chocolate swissroll (like Bill Bryson, I LOVE Little Debbies) and we shared a hostel made hot dog. As a outspoken “I don’t eat processed meat” person it was quite embarrassing to take a bite expecting to be disgusted but feeling my face pull into a “I HAVE to have more of this” expression.

After all that eating and drinking we set off to do the last 6km (bringing us to 30km for the day). It was a lovely walk, we basically walked around the Watauga dam, over the dam wall and found a camp spot not too far from the wall. At some point it started raining but it was a very gentle rain and stopped soon after it started.

A good day indeed.

5 thoughts on “How Sliprock saved the day

  1. I love your frankness, Ria. It really gives me a sense of what you’re enduring on the trail. Well done on completing a long and stressful day.

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  2. Definitely looks like an azalea! There are tough days, even when things are relatively easy, so you two will be able to counsel anyone after all this.

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  3. They’re Rhododendrons. Same family as Azaleas. I just googled it and thanks to your clear photo I could count the stamens – 10 per family for Rhododenrons and 5 for Azaleas! And Rhododendrons tend to be bigger. Are Snickers paying you to advertise Ria or are there no other chocolates? The Americans aren’t good at chocolate are they?

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    1. I will take a photo of what I think is the Rhododendrons – there are loads and loads of them, their leaves are a darker green and bigger and they are close to flowering, maybe another week.

      In SA I eat BarOnes when hiking. Snickers work well as the mix of choc, nougat, caramel and peanuts gives a nice texture and taste and stand up against the heat better than a plain chocolate πŸ˜€

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