Unconquered trail

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In 2013, the singles ministry at church decided to embark on a mountain hike; and while I was a year too young to be part of the ministry, I went. In fact, a number of young adults went. As I’m writing this, I’m slowly remembering the events of that day so forgive me if this turns out a little scattered. The day started at about 5am for most of us. We got ready and had to meet in a neutral area which was church. Everyone’s spirit was up and lively. Everyone was excited. No one knew what the day had in store for us except that there was a mountain we would have to conquer…

Now Zuurberg Mountains are a playlist away from Port Elizabeth. But not your regular playlist…the one that has to keep you going even when you forget where you’re going. As such, we were advised to leave before the sun came up in order to remain on schedule. However, because there were a few unexpected folks, we were delayed. There was limited transport to where we were going but we couldn’t leave anyone behind. Come to think of it, we (the young guys) almost didn’t go because of the limitation.

We eventually all made it to the hiking trail spot and we were soon on our way. Not so far from where we started, we had to choose between two trails: one was a 3 hour trail and the other was 5 hours. We all decided to take the 5 hour trail considering that the 3 hour one could be steeper. And just by the way, not a single one of us had been on this trail before. We had no one from Zuurberg to accompany us. All we had was a map. So we went. We were singing and chatting and laughing along the way, in complete bliss of this experience and the beautiful weather that came with it.

We went through shady and bushy parts and we went through open land where the sun scorched with no mercy. We stopped at two water pools to rejuvenate as well as look at the beauty surrounding this remote land. There were times when one would need a stick to hold on to while going up and there were times when knees would wobble as we walked downhill. What I consider the defining moment came hours into our hike when we found out that we were lost.

If I could, I would’ve cried but I was too tired and scorched to even try. After hearing the news, a couple of people continued walking in the hope of finding one hiking base or another. I was part of the people that decided to go back and find where we had taken the wrong turn and correct that mistake. The decision was very impulsive and it was based on the fact that we didn’t know what was ahead but we knew what was behind us. The sun grew cruel as though to spite us. There was less shade. We had less water, nevermind energy levels.

About an hour into our hike back we grew quieter and quieter. I found myself in a place I couldn’t come out of. My head was throbbing, my skin was burning, my mouth was dry, my prayers had stopped, my faith was barely hanging. I was depreciating. I remember going up one particular mountain that was so steep that if you’d miss a step, it would be the end of you. In that very mountain we decided to sit for a while and regain whatever strength our bodies had stored up. Five minutes of my life went missing on that mountain. I blacked out. I started coming to upon hearing people’s voices. Then I realised they wanted to carry me up. I pushed myself and opened my eyes, got up and we all started walking again.

I thought reaching the top of that mountain would be a relief until I got up there and saw absolutely nothing. There was no sign of base camp whatsoever, only a car trail. So we decided to follow it. About an hour into that walk we started seeing where we were going. All of sudden there was hope. Our voices got a little louder. Our faces lit up. We were close to home. Now at this stage we had split into two groups where one was almost a kilometre ahead of the other. I was part of the ones that were one km behind. As we walked, we saw a car coming our way to give us a ride back. The guys ahead decided to continue by foot considering that they were really close. When it got to us, I didn’t think twice about it; I hopped on. But instead of it going to the base camp, it went back to look for other people that had not returned to base. Eventually we went back and arrived at base camp at sundown.

While I learnt a lot in that experience, one thing about it has always haunted me; I didn’t finish it. Two kilometres to the finish line I took the first way to get there faster. I didn’t finish. I may have walked longer than some people did, I may have climbed more than some people did but I didn’t finish. When Christina Yang was leaving Greys Anatomy, she had a moment with Meredith where she confessed that she didn’t want to leave because it felt like she was not done; she needed to finish something.

Leaving Port Elizabeth became a difficult task because of that very reason. I wasn’t finished. I needed to finish. I didn’t finish Zuurberg, I didn’t finish serving, I didn’t finish being a friend, I didn’t finish being a daughter, a confidant, a helping hand, a loving heart…I didn’t finish. And there’s a hole in my heart that’s labelled “Not finished.” But sometimes you have to ride on the will of God even when you don’t want to. I have watched that last episode of season 10 over and over again and for a long time I too didn’t feel finished. It wasn’t until God inclined my ears to what Meredith’s response was. “You don’t feel finished because this is not the end for you.” Just that one line made leaving what I had called home for the past four years easier. “There is no finish line, there is no end point…you just have to go.”

I’ve gotten better. The hole in my heart has gotten smaller but of all the things I felt unfinished about, Zuurberg remains unsettled. I need to finish that mountain. I need to finish that one thing. I don’t know when and I don’t know with whom, but I know that I have to go back to that mountain and conquer it because though it has no end point, it does have a finish line and I owe it to myself to cross it.

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