From Boatsheds to Battlefields 4 A life full of adventure

End of 3rd Entry:  Bertie moved away from dangerous ground – “You take the Claremont side Mick and I’ll keep straight on – bet you I get more disas than you do.””Bet you, you won’t,” replied his chum and the boys took to the moor again.

For a mile or two they wandered seeking orchids then came to the head of a dark deep gorge, slowly and cautiously the two boys began to climb down into it. The drop was one of some fifty feet with an almost vertical cliff face, hand and footholds were crumbly, wet and full of slippery moss. Disdaining the help of their ropes however the boys managed the dangerous descent and at last stepped into the bottom of the ravine.

Seating himself on a rock Mick drew a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and offered them to his chum who shook his head. “They’re rotten for a chap’s wind,” he said.

“It’s a queer thing now,” said Mick. “Every darn thing that’s nice isn’t good for one – smokes, girls, beer, everything – not that I can see anything nice about beer or whiskey, but they seem to give some chaps a lot of pleasure. But every time a chap wants to do anything he wants there’s always someone to tell him that he mustn’t do it.”

“Life,” said Bertie, “is a continual battle – the things you want to do are suggested by the Devil, and if you want to become rich and respected you’ve got to kill the old Adam in you and live a clean, godly and sober life.”

“Well I don’t want to be rich and respected” answered Mick, “I want to be a sailor, soldier, cowboy, and miner, knock about the world and have a darn good life. God can’t put every chap that has a happy life full of adventure into Hell, and all people that have made money into Heaven, if he did I’d want to go to Hell myself. Christ and the Apostles were fishermen and Christ didn’t jolly well go live with all the blighters who wore top hats – he went down to the docks and in the pubs with sailors, soldiers, and fisherfolk.”

Bertie grimaced – “Well it doesn’t sound respectable and I’m not going to argue not until we’ve no more rock climbing anyway.”

The gorge into which the boys had climbed deepened sharply from its head. A few yards down, it’s walls rose several hundreds of feet sheer above them, wet, slimy and mossy. In the gorge itself ancient mountain trees, great tree ferns, and brambles flourished amongst the loose waterworn boulders. Growing amongst the moss on the cliff sides were hundreds of blue-grey rock orchids, amongst them scores of buds of the glorious Disa Grandiflora some just beginning to show a tinge of red.

Discarding their rucksacks the lads sought for and cut a long stick at the end of which Bertie fastened a pair of scissors. To the one handle, he made fast a length of thin fishing line and taking a small grappling iron bent his Alpine rope onto it. Carefully the boys began to climb the slippery eastern wall of the gorge. The fluttering blue butterfly flowers were always in the most inaccessible spots, the ledges were narrow and wet, and the holds precarious, but with infinite care, the flower seekers crawled upwards.

Now and again Bertie would find a fairly secure hold and Mickey climbing on his shoulders would bring hand or rod into play to snip off the coveted blue treasures. Sometimes the grappling iron was used, being flung upwards until it caught. Testing its hold one boy would climb, aided by the rope, until he found good holding ground, then making the rope fast around his body take a portion of his chum’s weight as the latter climbed either upward to him or outward to the flowers.

An hour of this and Bertie began to complain of twinges of cramp whereupon the two started to work back into the gorge a hundred feet below. Slowly, carefully, testing every hand and foothold the adventurous couple regained safety and Mick wet, mudstained but gloriously happy lighted another cigarette.

“I didn’t funk much there, did I?” he enquired of his pal.

“No you were fine,” answered the other handsomely. “But that’s only a second class climb – wait until you get on Silverstream Buttress or Stinkwater Needle or Kloof Corner.”

“Rats!” replied Mick “A chap that’s used to ships can climb anywhere. Bet, you don’t come down to the Docks tomorrow and climb up to the top-gallant of a full-rigged ship.”

“Bet you I could, only tomorrow’s Sunday and I’ve got Sunday School.”

“I’ve got to go to the eleven o’clock service in the morning,” said Mickey with a sigh. “I wish I was like Clive and Renè, they don’t have to go to church and it hasn’t done them any harm. I bet God would sooner see me out in a boat enjoying myself than sitting for hours in church hating religion. That’s one good thing about Catholics as long as they go to Early Mass they can spend the day as they like.”

“Well, you’re not a Catholic. Come on Mick we’ve got 30 disas each and three Grandiflora buds – let’s get out.”

Once out of the gorge the boys set off at a fast swinging walk back to the tunnel top from where they continued on eastwards once again spreading out in search of flowers.

 

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