Some travellers just seem to be born with the mountain goat gene, but sadly I am not one of them. What’s a mountain goat gene I hear you say?
It’s the gene that enables you to be surefooted scrambling over rocks and uneven surfaces, up and down slopes of gravel or shale, jumping from one rock to another, fast and balanced. OK, it may not be a scientifically proven gene, but trust me, in all my years of travelling I have realised that there are only two camps – every person either has the mountain goat gene or they don’t, and there is no in-between. It’s not a factor of age or fitness, it’s an innate ability and balance when going where any mountain goat might go. If, like me, you don’t have this gene, you can’t fake it, and you can’t learn it. Give me a well built path of tramped down earth, a walkway, some steps, and I can walk all day. But throw in uneven stones, clambering up and over rocks, loose gravel and steep slopes, and I hesitate, I lose my rhythm, I stop and try to figure out where to put my foot next, I over-balance and then grab your shoulder, I graze my knee, I bruise my leg, and I probably end up on my bum. Sometimes I choose to sit down and edge forward gingerly, sometimes I trip myself up and end up there anyway.
When I was younger I envied those with the mountain goat gene, but in the end I realised it doesn’t matter. Because the truth is, if it’s something I have to do, to get to somewhere I really want to be, then I do it anyway. I will be scrambling without elegance, clutching at any guide or tree or random stranger for balance, cursing too loudly and sitting down when I need to – but I’ll do it.
Because if I am in Cappadocia I can’t ignore the amazing landscape and rock dwellings.
Because there’s rarely a waterfall that doesn’t need some rock scrambling to get to it. (but I try and save it for pretty spectacular falls these days, any old local one just won’t do)
Because sometimes you need to get to the top of the hill (and back down) via a mountain goat track to see the most amazing sunrise or sunset.
The people with the mountain goat gene can’t understand why we with the “klutz” gene are so bad at doing something that is as natural as breathing for them. And us klutz’s don’t understand how they don’t fall over and injure themselves, preferably painfully! But if like me you are a klutz, just remember that we are the truly brave ones, because we actually choose to force ourselves over these mountain goat tracks, without the right skill set and against the full force of our genetics, just so that we can enjoy whatever is on the other side.