We overlook Dovedale from the hill where we’re currently living and it doesn’t look that far away, that high or that grand from afar. We can’t see the stream from this side of the valley, but we’ve been told it’s there. The promise of hiking Thorpe Cloud (942 ft above sea level) gets us excited and I recall pressing my face against the window as we drive up and get closer.
There’s a constant lull of children’s voices – screams, laughs, squeals – along the comforting hum of the stream on our right. I gaze up at the hills that run adjacent along the path. Mace is jumping in and out of the water like a pup and thoroughly enjoying himself. It’s a sunny day and we’re not the only ones out here today. I wonder if you’ll ever get the chance of having this place all to yourself – I know the limestone hills are a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike and I don’t have to wonder why.
The stepping stones lead us across the water and soon enough, up along a rocky path with dusty sand and gravel, bending around a group of rocks humans either couldn’t or didn’t want to go right through for a change. I think to myself, this is pretty easy. This isn’t too bad. We turn around the corner and the snake-like sandy road is suddenly crawling up the hill in an almost vertical manner. Holy shit.
S waits at the foot of the hill while the rest of us + two dogs make the climb. We stop several times along the way to look around and attempt to grasp the beauty of this area, but it’s too much. Coming from a flat country, I’m not used to this. We have dunes and I call them mountains – it’s that bad. This, this is something else. This is exactly what I was looking for.
We make it to the top and rest on the brow. A and L set off to the crest to find visual treasure and take pictures, while M and I stand, wait and feel so utterly victorious.
The wind is tugging at our clothes, almost inviting us to take the leap, jump off and fly away. The constant howl in our ears is Mother Nature welcoming us up top and showcasing a spectacular display of her work. We don’t speak much – we just look around, trying to memorise every inch of mesmerising scenery at our feet.
I could sit on this mountain forever. I look at Mace and tell him “Hey, let’s just build ourselves a camp here, we’ll improvise on our tent, or maybe dig out a cave, and we’ll stay here. At night we’ll have camp fire howling sessions, dancing around until we’re drunk on thin air with vertigo and have to sit down to catch our breath. We’ll tell the tales of monsters and ghosts to scare the people away and we’ll have this place to ourselves. We’ll be known as the two living atop the hill, the ones that went up and never came down.”
He looks at me as if he understands.
M calls out to us, smiling at our effort to get up and get back to the group graciously, but my balance is off and I suffer from vertigo terribly. With my arms spread out as if I’m a bird taking off, I try to walk steady, but it’s clear the depths below us are beckoning me and every small mistake I make might just send me tumbling down. We’re heading back, I’m told.
With gravity now in our favour, the stroll down is easier than up, albeit I am constantly searching for balance. We make it all down, safely and unharmed and I look up one more time – all the way to the top. That’s where we were. Right there, all the way up. We were so close, we could have touched the clouds.
I tear my gaze away and start walking back to the car as if it doesn’t bother me what I’m leaving behind.