Once a month, at full moon, hundreds of hikers don their headlamps and tighten their laces ready for the climb. It’s a long and sapping four kilometers to the summit of Lion’s Head, the outcrop overlooking the rooftops of the suburbs to the east of the city Cape Town. At the top you have an unrivalled panorama of the city bowl; from an imposing misty Table Mountain to the pristine white beaches of Clifton and the blue Atlantic beyond.
On this day, people were there to see more than that. Hundreds packed at the peak of Lion’s Head to see the moon rise in the east and the sunset in the west. It is a rare moment of natural beauty. For Cape Town hikers, a sweaty rite of passage is to bathe in the dusk and then walk in the beams of moonlight.
Along the route is a tricky chain ladder that is not for the faint of heart. Some turn back, spooked by the dizzy heights. The final stretch is a cruel incline and scramble up the rocks that leaves you puffing.
For one man, this is more than just one of nature’s gifts. In a grey jersey he chooses the rise of the moon as his moment to propose to his love. As he drops on one knee, the crowd catches on. When he does the deed his blushing fiancé says yes; her face is as red as the sunset. The climbers of Lion’s Head break out into applause. This is surely a story for the wedding reception.
Others make the trek with friends, to share a drink. Selfies with yoga poses on the rocks are on their agenda to take in the moment. Another individual makes a Skype call to his family in England, they are impressed he made it up in an hour and a half.
It’s not always the safest place to be on top of a mountain. The weather can be misleading. Winds can gust and blow you off the rocks. Often hikers fall and need to be airlifted to safety.
As the night settles, the headlamps are switched on and a chill wind sets in – it’s time to go. The hundreds of people on top of the summit scramble down. In an instant there is a traffic jam on the rocks as slow as the streets of Lagos. At least the view is good.
All part of a night in Africa, hiking towards the sun and to take in the moonlight. Where else but in Africa?