Stories like this one on IOL are becoming more and more prevalent in the Mother City (never mind the rest of the country) :

Seven people hiking in two groups have been mugged in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens since Friday, with the latest victims being a couple from Australia.

“They were hiking up the mountain route to Skeleton Gorge,” Kirstenbosch curator Philip Le Roux said.

“They were approached by four men armed with knives and were told to hand over their valuables like cameras, cellphones and wallets.”

(IOL News)

Kirstenbosch GardensWe hear about it all the time, and normally we just feel sympathy for the people involved and relief that it didn’t happen to us. We take all the precautions that we’ve become accustomed to working into our daily lives, believing if we do all of that, we’ll be fine.

It’s only when it does happen to us, or nearly does, that we really start paying attention, and we suddenly realise that whilst precautions will help most of the time, they can only do so much.

When my brother was visiting last month from London (he’s South African, but has been over there for a few years now) we decided to brave Skeleton Gorge, from Kirstenbosch, and make our way along the top of Table Mountain to the Cable Car.

Despite having lived in Cape Town for most of my life, and having spent a lot of time on the mountain, that particular stretch was not something I’d ever done, and I was very keen to give it a try.

Stream on the way up Skeleton GorgeSo, unfit though we both were, we slowly made our way to the top – cameras, cellphones, water and food supplies in hand.

It was a tough climb, but we got there eventually, and at the top of the gorge, whilst catching our breath, we bumped into an unusual party: three or four hikers, accompanied by three officials (park rangers?), all looking rather solemn and determined.

The hikers, it turned out, had just been mugged at knifepoint by three guys, who’d run off with their cameras, cellphones – the works. The hikers had managed to contact the SanParks/TMNP rangers very quickly (must have met someone with a cellphone, or had one hidden somewhere) and together they were hunting down the muggers.

We hadn’t seen anyone going down Skeleton and another group coming from the reservoir side hadn’t seen them either, so it was determined that they must be nearby, or heading around the corner to Nursery Ravine (another route down to Kirstenbosch).

Top of Skeleton GorgeThanking our lucky stars that we hadn’t encountered them going down Skeleton, we started (a bit nervously) walking along the trail towards Maclears Beacon, whilst the others searched in the bushes.

We hadn’t gone far at all when a loud angry cry erupted from the area they were combing and a lone mugger shot out of the bushes and up the mountain. He was as nimble as a goat, leaping up from rock to rock. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time, as we shouted across the distance, pointing to where he had gone (they couldn’t see him so easily from below).

The rangers scrambled up after him, but struggled to catch up. He disappeared up over the top of the mountain, and wasn’t seen again.

The good news was that the hikers did get their stuff back (I phoned the guys at Table Mountain National Park to say that we had photos of the mugger, and to find out what had happened) and that we didn’t get mugged.

View Over Southern Suburbs from Table MountainBut I had to wonder what might have happened had we been up there even a few minutes earlier… The mugging took place on the exact route we were headed for – between Skeleton and Maclears Beacon – and if something like that happens, there is very little that you can do, because resistance means you’re likely to get stabbed.

It’s bad enough not to be able to go walking on my own, but now even groups don’t seem to deter these guys!

For a depressing look at what’s going on on our mountain, check out these stories:

The authorities have been trying to get it right:

But it just doesn’t seem to be working, does it? No wonder there’s a world alert on SA crime.

PS. Our photos of the mugger made the front page of the Argus – check it out!

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