Table Mountain - Skeleton GorgeOver a year ago I had a near-miss with the muggers of Skeleton Gorge.

My brother and I had struggled our unfit way up to the top of the Gorge and there encountered a party of walkers in hot pursuit of the three men who had just robbed them of cellphones, cameras and wallets.

To cut a long story short, we soon realised that we had just missed being mugged ourselves and though we breathed a sigh of relief at the time, the encounter left a lasting (disturbing) impression.

The reason I bring this up again, over a year later, is because of a comment posted today (in response to this post) by someone who has just been mugged there herself:

Being in Capetown for some meetings I could take a day off today and decided to try to discover Disa uniflora, a magnificent rare terrestrial orchid…I had a nice walk up from Kirstenbosch via Skeleton gorge and a gorgeous day.

Then on my way down at 16:20 I was attacked by two guys, coming out from the forest below the ladders. They kindly showed me their knifes as I tried to resist a bit. That was the end of my wallet, camera and cell phone.

10′ later on my way down I met a Park ranger who with his talkie-walkie sounded alarm. Kirstenbosch staff was extremely friendly, took me to police, to my hotel. But alas it is a place to avoid. I was told by the rangers that a lady was molested last Friday, with an attempt to rate, is still in hospital due to wounds received from the criminals.

Ouch. And she wasn’t the only person mugged today: a Belgian tourist met the same fate, also coming down from Skeleton Gorge.

It makes me spitting mad! It’s not so much the loss of property that I find distressing – stuff is stuff – but the loss of personal freedom… How dare these people make us afraid to walk freely on the mountain we look up at every single day?

Because of them I am constantly looking over my shoulder, paying close attention to the body language of other walkers, and constantly thinking about what I could do if I were to be attacked.

Simple theft I could handle (I like to think), but unfortunately one cannot escape that chilling awareness that the filching of property might not be the only thing on an attacker’s mind (that, more than anything else, sends shivers down my spine).

I was merrily backpacking my way solo around Europe when the last spate of Table Mountain muggings were reported:

But, as there hadn’t been any (that I’d heard of) since I got back, I’d rather hoped things had settled down, and were under control.

Seems not.

It’s Our MountainSo, in retaliation (for what it’s worth), I have decided to do what I can to help by volunteering for ‘It’s Our Mountain’.

Born out of the 3Poles “Make Table Mountain Safe” campaign, ‘It’s Our Mountain’ is a collaboration between the Table Mountain Safety Action Group (a volunteer group set up to assist parks with visitor safety) and companies like the Cape Times and Cape Storm.

They ‘co-ordinate groups of volunteers to carry several key functions to assist making Table Mountain safer’, including ‘distribution of safety information, observation walks [“eyes & ears”] and observation posts’.

I rather like their attitude:

We are not waiting for answers… we are going out and knocking down doors to get them! We are not waiting for officials to figure out funding… we are going out and finding it! We are not waiting for police or parks to ensure the safety of visitors… we are going out and helping patrol the mountain!

A weekly roster of walks is emailed to volunteers at the start of each week. If you’re free that weekend, you reply, indicating which observation walk you’d like to participate in.

Sounds good to me, and I am definitely looking forward to prowling the mountain in the weekends to come.

Related entries:
3 Poles: The ‘Make Table Mountain Safe’ Initiative
Skeleton Gorge Attacks: My Own Close Encounter Of The Mugging Kind

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