So I went to volunteer at one of the Fire Stations instead.
Capetonians eyes have been on the mountain since Sunday morning when the fire broke sometime during the night…We can only make our own assumptions as to how this happened ..during… the… night… As it was before sunrise (5:45am) and still very much dark outside, the flames were clear from our view point but couldn’t pin point exactly where as the mountains were not visible yet. From the outline, it looked like Silvermine side but later #muizenbergfire were trending. For a hiker, this would be the Steenberg Plateau in the Silvermine Nature Reserve. The Reserve is on both sides of Ou Kaapse Weg and not restricted to the picnic/braai spots.
We were all glued to social media for updates as the fire which was swiftly spreading around Muizenberg, St James, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, Clovelly to Noordhoek, Houtbay and Chapman’s Peak. The fire jumps over to Tokai, it gets lower and lower. Then Constantia lookout is on fire and still spreading further to Vlakkenberg.
Please don’t reach Constantia Nek (I know I complained about this route in my first blog but I don’t want it destroyed!) This side of the mountains is lush with forests, fynbos and fauna. All this and then Cape Town went on to have the hottest day in 100 years and also hottest city in the world yesterday. Environmentalists and Nature and animal lovers are in an uproar. Hikers and trail runners are in an uproar as our trails are being destroyed and we are helpless. The firemen (bless them) are doing all that they can and the weather is not helping (heat and strong winds). The masses were praying for rain and today we were blessed with much needed rains (not too much as to cause mud and rock slides please). Capetonians came together and volunteered any which way they are able to.
I had every intention of hiking the unspoilt mountain and even received a message from a friend that I should not hike (that person was worried about my safety – bless that person) but I am not about to take unnecessary risks. If I had in the past, I would not be here to write this blog but in the back of my mind I was wondering if I should rather be volunteering instead but I made a commitment to my hiking buddy that we hike every Wednesday…I did not know which route yet as it all depended on the fire and weather…
This morning I woke up to drizzle, checking mountain side every 30 minutes but couldn’t see anything! Now I’m seriously two-minded about hiking at all but would leave that decision to my hiking buddy who eventually messages me and we cancel. Also, I was feeling guilty hiking when the mountains were burning just a few kilometers away and here I am enjoying nature while firefighters are battling to put the fires out!
Then we could smell the smoke, ash were floating in the air…was there a fire close by that we couldn’t see? Only later realized that the heavy rain clouds insulated the smoke across Cape Town and couldn’t escape. What happens when you throw water over a fire? Excess smoke happens that’s what.
Now where to volunteer, who needs it the most? I ask on Facebook and the responses are Lakeside Fire Station. Updates vary all the time, they need food and water, they don’t need food and water, they need this and that, they don’t need this and that etc etc etc. My intention was to go ASAP but was delayed several times and no surprise, 45 minute metrorail delay as well sigh. I kept reminding myself that everything happens for a reason and thought of that story about a man being late for work and everything that could go wrong, went wrong and how he pleaded to God and God replied saying that this and that happened and his life were saved at many turns. If he was on time, he would’ve been dead. If I wasn’t delayed, something could’ve happened to me as well.
I put on my hiking boots in case there’s an opportunity to go up in the mountains to save some tortoises J
Finally arrive at Lakeside train station and was greeted by helicopter flying over us (I was too fascinated to take a pic and also it’s a train station, don’t take phone out!) And then I see the mountain through a haze of smoke. I take a walk over to the fire station and it’s abuzz with people. I ask if I could help out but to my utmost disappointment, the response is that they have too many people volunteering already and not taking on anymore. I came all this way for nothing! Volunteers are not giving up their posts even though it’s supposed to be on a 3 hour rotational basis and they flatly refuse to do so when asked by the supervisors. If I arrive there at 7:30am for the latest tomorrow, there should be a position for me ^_o
Well, off to Fish Hoek I go. While waiting at the station for another late train, I look at the mountains and see a fire flaring up on a hiking trail! and watch the flames get bigger and bigger and hope someone sees it and puts it out. It burnt out in less than 10 minutes. I was to see many such flares on the train.
Only when I arrive in Fish Hoek, did I realize that I actually don’t know where the fire station is lol. I ask a stall holder and he tells me it’s up the road and I make my way there only to remember that the Police Station is that way and not the fire station! I go ask at the Police Station and back track my steps. At this point I’m starving and thirsty so pop into Fresh Stop coz I remember that they sell Pieman’s Burger Pies (yum!) and walk in the general direction of the Fire Station still not knowing exactly where it was but I do find it 🙂
It’s awfully quiet at the station so hand in the koesiesters I sugared this morn and ask if I could help out. Was relieved when they said that there is not much to do but I could hang out as it gets busier when people drop off donations to be sorted into various boxes. I realized then why there have been posts that they no longer need food or water. There’s an overabundance of water, cooldrinks, energy drinks, sandwiches, burgers, hotdog rolls, various snacks and first aid goodies. Eye drops were low. So this is the scenario – as soon as someone posts a specific wish list, people rush and donate these things. Soon there was 2x 5l ice cream tubs filled with eye drops lol. They clearly do not need anything else but they are still accepting donations. How can they turn people away when they have made the effort hey?
I then ask where is the halaal food and they show me a small packet of burgers amongst the trays and trays full of non halaal food…that’s it? Despite Muslims running over their feet yesterday to provide halaal meals after a plea message was reposted several times and that’s it?
But soon Muslims were coming in with their donations yay! One lady even added a little muffin in her sandwiches 😀 Parcels are made for the firefighters and other fire stations in need and this is where labeling is of utmost importance and started labeling the individually wrapped goodies. As the others didn’t have much to do, they joined me and soon there were 2 boxes full of halaal meals! If you are making goodies, please use cling wrap as wax paper and foil breaks easily and please do label them halaal. I asked the volunteers if there are any kosher foods and they looked at me with worried eyes until I burst out laughing saying if its halaal, its kosher lol (well I think it is?)
Volunteering at a Fire Station basically means carrying and sorting goodies as it comes in and that’s what I did most of my time there. Someone donated a whole lot of empty bottles and caps which was used to mix the rehydrate and energy sachets – I referred to this as the water bottling section lol
Another person came in and asked if we are having a market! She must be the only person in Cape Town not knowing what’s happening around her.
Harbour House Restaurant went on a shopping spree and several others popped in after work and it was time to make my way home as my kids had to eat and I had to get done for classes. Even though I just read that the fire has finally been contained everywhere, there’s still hotspots being watched, I am still going to make my way to Lakeside in the morn as I’m sure people will still be dropping off donations.
Just a note, perishables won’t last. Unused fruit will be given to the animal shelters, meals will be donated to homeless shelters and energy bars, various snacks etc will be kept in storage so please be mindful what you decide to donate.
Also please donate to the volunteers as well as they are too mindful to eat from the firefighter’s stash even though there is too much. Thirst and hunger is a reality for them and tell them its for them so they can indulge with a clear conscience lol
As far as I know, it’s the animal shelters requiring the most donations but please confirm with them before you go make mass purchases.
I may or may not update this blog tomorrow with Day 2 of volunteering. If I do not, until my next hike, ciao for now