African Adventure Part 6 – Cape Town: Table Mountain

Table Mountain is the foremost natural attraction in the Cape Town area. It’s actually impossible to miss since it frames the skyline no matter where you go. The mountain with its distinctive flat plateau top rises 1,058 meters above sea level. It actually looks like a table top, hence its name. There are more than 60 different trails of varying difficulty that one can hike to the top of Table Mountain OR you can take the cable car. Of course we have to hike up….I mean, seriously, of course.

TMtn-02914
Let the cable car go on ahead of us…who cares…we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing we got to the top on our own!

We’ve been warned that many of the trails to the top are challenging and sometimes difficult to follow as they are not well marked. People routinely get lost and even die on this mountain. Since it’s our first visit here AND we plan to hike on our own without a guide AND we’d prefer to arrive alive at the top we opt to take the most well worn, well marked and “easiest” trail: Platteklip Gorge, aka “the tourist trail”.

We’re on the mountain and hiking by 8am but by 8:30 it’s already over 20C out. Clearly we should have been here much earlier.  The climb isn’t technically difficult, in fact it’s sort of like climbing 1,000 meters worth of stairs almost straight up! The further we get up the trail the more amazed I am by the number of people we pass who seemed quite unprepared for the task they’ve taken on. We see people in flip-flops and strappy sandals, hatless and waterless, not to mention seriously out of shape. I admit that we selfishly hurry past these climbers afraid that if something happened to them we might feel obliged to remain and help! I’m not sure how or if many of them made it to the top or, in some cases, down to the bottom.   I stop one woman who’s clearly taken the cable car to the top and now decided to hike down the mountain. I smile and ask here if she realizes what she’s gotten herself into: she’s wearing a sundress, flip flops and has an almost empty small bottle of water. She assures me she’ll be ‘great’. My daughter’s voice in my head warns me to “mind my own business” so I wish her good luck and continue my climb. We’re in good shape, dressed in proper gear (including sturdy shoes, hats and sunscreen) and have brought lots of water with us and still the heat and the two hours it took to complete the climb almost beat me!

The view when we finally reach the top of Table Mountain is stunning. I can’t help but think that our long, hot climb has made it all the sweeter!

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We’re also lucky that it’s sunny and bright as we can see for literally miles. It wasn’t until we were on our way down (in the cable car, we’re not that crazy to want to hike back down again) that the clouds started to move in. I’d heard that Table Mountain is notorious for unexpectedly being covered by a large cloud, nicknamed the “tablecloth” by locals. One of the myths associated with the ‘tablecloth’ cloud is that it represents a smoking contest between the devil and a legendary local pirate known as Van Hunks. There is also, of course, a logical meteorological explanation for the cloud.

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