The traffic lights flicker to the rhythm of the city—green to orange to red—and cars blur as they weave in and out of the narrow streets. The sound of a long honk, then echoes of shouting pedestrians from the street below pull my eyes away from my laptop momentarily before I return to feverishly typing away. I take a quick sip of coffee to jolt my nerves and rekindle my focus. Then I scroll through my social media feeds, blink, and suddenly a half hour has passed me by. I set my phone down, sit back, and breathe. Consumption. Distraction. Technology. Those three words could be used to describe the lives of people who work and live in the city. We often get consumed by the 9-to-5 hustle and bustle that makes us forget what it really means to breathe. Living in Cape Town, South Africa, I’m lucky to have nature’s playground all around me, from the chilly Atlantic Ocean to the wonder of Table Mountain. Yet somehow I still get caught up in the race. Not today, though. I want to invite you on a journey to the place where I go to breathe. A place in South Africa called Betty's Bay. Situated on the East Coast of the Western Cape, only a short scenic 45-minute drive away from Cape Town, Betty’s Bay was once a sleepy little fishing village nestled amongst moody mountains, deep gorges, and the untamed Atlantic ocean. It grew into a quaint holiday town featuring a beautiful nature reserve called Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. It sits within the Kogelberg mountain range and is home to a rich array of floral biodiversity and endemism, though it is best known for its waterfalls and sediment-rich rivers. I’m at Leopard’s Kloof hike, aptly named after the local leopard that frequents the area. As I walk, the gravel crunches beneath my shoes and somehow the sound triggers a sense of contentment. Soon I amble along the red dirt path, admiring beautifully manicured gardens filled with bright flowers. The sun beats down on the back of my neck as I listen to the birds chatter in the trees above. And as a tortoise munches happily on green grass, I make for the mountains, and the whoosh of the highway is swallowed by the sound of the mountain. The sound of silence. In time the path gives way to fine white sand and low-lying shrubs scratch at my ankles. The gradual incline into a forested gorge narrows, weaving along the bends of the river. Tall, leafy overhangs provide refuge from the sun and crisp mountain air fills my lungs as I listen to the sound of insects and croaking frogs near the river’s edge. It’s followed by the echo of baboons barking in the distance and I march on. Awareness. Discovery. Joy. I hop from boulder to boulder toward drier ground. A series of wooden ladders lead me into a forest of dense trees, and the faint smell of varnish wafts as I climb each rung of the ladder. I freeze. The branches shake as the chatter of the baboons grows closer. Then a deafening bark rings out of the valley from atop the waterfall like an alarm. And it’s the very fall that I’m supposed to summit. Still, as I look at the waterfall that I’ve seen so many times before, I’m awestruck. It thunders onto ledges below and plummets into a series of deeper pools. I stop to drink the icy mountain water, then I remove my hiking shoes. The water is cold, but a hike up to Leopard's Kloof isn’t complete without a swim, so I dive in and swim to the waterfall. As I sit there under the water, I remember what it feels like to truly breathe. The intrusive ring of cell phones is replaced with birds singing. The roar of traffic is reduced to the buzzing of bees at work, and the flow of coffee meant to stimulate us gives way to gentle, undulating streams. This is where I go to get away from it all. This is where I go to breathe. Images by Ben Brown. For a behind the scenes look at some of the shots used in this post, check out his YouTube vlog! Be sure to check out Nicole's video for #thebreatheproject! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da49Hd6BkiU
We asked global thrill-seeker/blogger/vlogger, Nicole Eddy, to take us on an adventure through Cape Town, South Africa. Join Nicole on her epic hike through Betty’s Bay and experience what it truly means to breathe!