30 May 2010

Side Note: Mugged on the Mountain

Yesterday Michele and I were mugged on Table Mountain. We weren't hurt, but our stuff (backpacks, cellphones and cameras) was taken.

This is how it happened:
We were on the Saddle and had just started up the path to Devil's Peak. We saw two guys moving quickly up the hill towards us from the Newlands side. We both had a bad feeling and we decided to turn around. We then saw that another two men had come up from below. They moved towards us very swiftly. One had a knife. They demanded our camera and backpacks, which we handed over without arguing. We asked if we could keep our keys which they allowed. And then they were gone, very quickly, back towards Newlands. It all happened really quickly.

We made our way back down to Tafelberg Road as fast as we could and reported the incident to the TMNP official at the bottom of Platteklip, who immediately alerted other rangers and the SAPS. We didn't get a terribly good look at the muggers - four young (early 20s) African guys wearing dark clothing. The SAPS think they might be the same lot who carried out some muggings in the Skeleton Gorge area a few weeks ago. They know who they are - had them in custody but had to let them go.

There were a lot of people on the mountain yesterday, but we happened to be alone at that place at that time. Unlucky. Although of course incredibly fortunate there was no violence and that we are fine. Perhaps we shouldn't have been walking just the two of us, but I feel this gang would not have hesitated to confront a group of four or five people. They were out to steal.

Michele is feeling enraged about the whole thing and is full of vengeful thoughts. While I am angry too, I also feel so sad and helpless and resentful that this happened AT ALL let alone TO ME. Walking on the mountain is one of my favourite things to do and now I feel scared to do it. I'm not sure yet what this means for me or for this blog.

For everyone using the mountain: please be mindful of your safety at all times and take every precaution!


Anonymous said...

I'm a recent newcomer to your blog but I have made up for lost time by enjoying many old entries, and I love reading your take on the walks that I enjoy so much, too.

So it really makes me mad to read this bad news and I hope you won't let it put you off walking.

I really resent the fact that we are not 100% safe walking in our own mountains :-(

all the best, Fran

Helen said...

Thanks for your supportive message Fran :)

Reggie said...

Oh, dear Helen, I am SOOO SORRY to hear that you and your friend were mugged! I'm extremely relieved that they didn't injure you, but losing one's cameras and cellphones is serious enough! Again, I am sooo sorry, and sending lots of love and hugs and happy thoughts of healing your way.

Hubby and I have always hiked on our own, because it's just easier and more convenient than trying to get a large group of friends of different fitness levels together (though, as you say, even that might not be a sufficient deterrent for these dastardly criminals!), and we try not to think too much of the possible dangers of muggings (or worse), but hearing these stories really does shake one up.

We wish you and Michele a quick and full recovery, and I pray that those evildoers will be captured and punished appropriately (instead of being released! unbelievable!).

Juanita - Our Hiking Guide said...

Dear Helen,

being a victim of any crime is really awful! This is really sad news, as I too have a very special place in my heart for this mountain and hiking with my boyfriend.

Again, Im so sorry to hear of your experience as it has touched me deeply. I did Devils the week before you were mugged and Skeleton just yesterday.

As a fellow hiking blogger, (the love for documenting my experiences) I wish you all the best in going forward.

The only other thing that I can suggest is to hike in places further away :(... places where the 'locals' dont 'hang out'. This suggestion really does not help what has happened to you, but it could motivate you to continue blogging and hiking.

All the best friend,

Helen said...

To Reggie and Juanita...

Thank you both SO MUCH for your comments and words of support.

I'm feeling better today - much less anxious and despondent. Talking it through a fair bit has helped. I'm surprisingly unfussed about the material items taken from me, but it has been hard to lose the sense of freedom and fun I've always felt being out on the mountain. And I hate that it happened on a part of the mountain so close to my heart - I've always considered Table Mountain and Devil's Peak home. Giving up walking and blogging however would be letting them win, so I'm pretty determined to carry on doing both! I think joining a hiking club may be the way to go.

I've joined the Table Mountain Watch / Safety Action google group, and reported the incident to them, although they haven't responded it. Keep a look here for updates:

Firefly said...

I can't understand how there isn't more patrols along the trails in the Table Mountain National Park. Its a great pity. I am sure that this wouldn't put you off from hiking though.

Helen said...

I'd also like to see a more visible presence by the rangers. However they have some real challenges particularly that there are so many access points to the mountain, on the Southern Suburbs side especially.

Anonymous said...

I am a police officer who regular go hiking in Cape Town. I also noticed that there are a lot more people around in the mountains than ever before. Most of the Crime in our country is being generated by the youth and the same goes for Cape town .The new child care act regarding children(up to 18 year's old) are being used by criminally minded "children" to commit crime because they know they can't be procecuted because they are underage. That means they can Rob , Rape,Murder ect. witout ending up in court because of their age. My motto is that if you Rape, Kill ect, your are not a child anymore , but a murderer, Rapist, ect and must be punished accordingly. It is for this reason , that I always carry a fire-arm on me when I go Hiking and won't think twice to shoot to kill if I or any other hikers are attacked.

Leslie said...

So so sorry to hear this news, Helen. I feel deeply for you and Michelle - that all of this is challenging your presence on the mountain. I hope that you guys will find yr way back in the "saddle" soon! :-)

Helen said...

Andre, pity you weren't nearby on Saturday :)

Leslie, nice to hear from you again (wish it was under better circumstances!). Heh, only time I've venturing back to the actual Saddle will be in a *large* group. For now I'll stick to the promenade and such places.

Caroline said...

I think that the muggings are very sad for Cape Town. Like you we walk a lot - every Wednesday and Sunday - but have never had an incident. We tend to walk more on the Hout Bay and Kalk Bay side. The news of muggings does however remove some of the feeling of freedom that one used to experience and one becomes ultra suspicious of other walkers. I often wonder what I can do about it and will join the google group that you mention to keep informed. Thanks for your fantastic blog. I hope that you recover your nerve soon - and that it doesnt put you off walking as before. We have a very elderly friend who also walks with a gun and says he will not hesitate to use it if necessary! The sad thing is that if he does, he will be the criminal too.

Reggie said...

I happened to read the People's Post this morning, and saw that your mugging on the Saddle was mentioned on the front page. They didn't give your names, but I knew from the description that it had to be you and Michele. I'm glad that it is being publicised, and hope that it does remind hikers to be aware and watchful. Even more so at this time when there are so many overseas visitors here.

From the article, I guess that they haven't caught the criminals though, which is worrying. If they haven't been caught, then they're definitely still on the prowl (why would they stop, after all?), and I don't want to meet them.

It sucks, you know. The mountain and the forest and all those wonderful healing places of nature are right on our doorstep. They should be accessible to all of us who love nature, and who love exercising in the fresh air instead of the gym, and who want to share the beautiful sights and sounds and smells of mountain, forest and ocean with friends and visitors alike. And we're scared of venturing out there. It's maddening.

I hope both of you are feeling better and gradually getting over your shock. Love and light to both of you.

Helen said...

Thanks Caroline for your comment. I'm doing fine but still haven't ventured out onto the slopes (though that's more to do with weather and the world cup). It is something I want to do soon... maybe this weekend. PS I'm delighted to have found your blogs, they're great!

Yes, Reggie, you're correct - that article was about me. What you've said above is *exactly* how I feel about the whole thing. It makes me sad and exasperated. Thanks for your concern though - we're doing alright!

Anonymous said...

Hi Helen,
I just found your blog, well both of them and find them interesting.
I am a newby to blogging myself and love the outdoors.
Myself and friends are often in the mountains aswell, exploring new and fun routes.
Would be great to chat sometime about hikes.
hope to hear from you.

Helen said...

Thank Tim - if you're blogging about your walks in the mountain perhaps you'd like to share a link to your blog?

Anonymous said...

Hi there Helen,
I'm starting a new blog about safety for solo hikers,and women in particular. I've been hiking alone for more than a year now, and have luckily never encountered any danger. I believe this is because of the specific routes and my attitude, and I hope I can share it with fellow hikers.
It's called Two Shoes: A woman's guide to safe solo hiking in Cape Town. It will be up and running soon. Would you mind if I used some of your photos and information on the specific hikes like Deerpark, Lion's head, Table mountain etc?
Let me know, thanks!