The raincoat

As the legendary Billy Connolly says, “There is no such thing as bad weather, there are only the wrong clothes. Find yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little!” It was this in mind that I looked forward to hiking up Slangkop yesterday despite a forecast of a little rain. First of all, I must point out that my raincoat is far from sexy – I bought it in a charity shop in England a few years ago thinking it might be useful. It was brand new, still folded tightly in its original packaging, and it was only when I unwrapped it back home that I saw why it had been given to charity. Bright red in colour, with white zips, reaching to the knees, straight up and down. Extremely practical, totally drench-proof, hooded, but sexy? No. Not even attractive, unless there is a rescue helicopter out there on the mountain looking for you in a storm. Perfect for that.

However, taking into account my age and the degree to which I am bothered by others’ opinion of my outfits, I readied myself for the hike, smoothing out the still-evident multiple creases from years in a packet. There was plenty of room inside it to enable me to wear a warm jacket and my backpack, although the resemblance would be to the hunchback of Notre Dame. After doing many hikes in my Heinz Baked Beans black bag, this was of little consequence.

At 7am there was no sign of the promised rain, but a fresh and icy breeze was blowing in off the Atlantic Ocean just a stonĂ©’s throw away. Dawn was still breaking and the best assessment of weather – looking out of the window – didn’t show much of what was to come, but positivity still let me dream of hiking over the mountain among fields of spring flowers and twittering birds in the next few hours. But a cold wind is far more unpleasant than a drop of rain, and the thought of being buffeted around on the very exposed plateau led me to reluctantly give an assessment of ‘not suitable conditions for octogenarians or others’ and our hike was abandoned.

Kommetjie is a strange place, most notably for its weather, and with an unobstructed horizon to the west, approaching rain is clearly visible. With a little practice and knowledge of wind direction, a lone cloud shedding large volumes of water can be tracked almost to a pinpoint as to where the rain will fall. After the cancellation of the hike, I watched the rain cloud approach from the north west, and when it arrived, it dumped 12mm of water directly over Kommetjie. A kilometre or so to the south, blue skies and sunshine. Such are the vagaries of rainfall on the Peninsula. As so often happens, the wind that preceded the rain died down and the skies cleared, with only a further 1mm falling over the rest of the morning.

I gazed frequently at the mountain, telling myself it was still cold, damp and slippery up there and that the flowers and proteas and scampering mice and lizards sunning themselves on warm rock faces would be there next time. I hung my unsexy red raincoat back in the cupboard, smooth, dry and ready for another rainy day.

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