When I was in Namibia I was following around baboons in a desert landscape. We followed them all day, from sunrise to sunset. And even though I loved the experience, it wasn’t always easy.
It was the African winter, which meant near freezing night temperatures while you’re sleeping in your tent. Then there were the early rises, before sunset (maybe around 5AM), to make sure we’d get to the troop in time. That required a physically hard walk, which was especially daunting if the baboons were on a far away sleeping cliff. There was the carrying around five litres of water to stay properly hydrated during the long warm days. And only then there was the actual follow of the troop during the day, wherever they went.
Recently my boyfriend and I were in Scotland, where we camped next to Loch Achray. From our tent we had a beautiful view of Ben A’an, a 454 metres (1,491 ft) high mountain. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that in the UK a mountain is officially defined as a peak of 600 metres (1,969 ft) or higher. However, given that the highest point in the Netherlands is 322 metres (1,058 ft), I personally classify Ben A’an to be a mountain.
We woke up to a clear day and the tantalising view across the lake seemed to draw us towards Ben A’an. Described by my ‘Wild’ guidebook as ‘giving perhaps the best views-to-effort ratio of any Scottish mountain’, we knew we had to make the ascent. So up we went, my boyfriend sometimes slowing me down when my enthusiasm would make me speed up to an unsustainable pace. We saw a beautiful mansion disguised as a castle, heard a stream rumble, passed a bridge and walked along a big sad stretch of cleared trees. And then the steep part came. The part about which I questionably asked: ‘Ehm, do you think it’s that peak?’. Until we caught the glimpse of a bright red jacket and realised that, indeed, the last part of the climb would be that steep.