on October 21, 2009
Table Mountain is probably the most widely recognised landmark of South Africa and no trip to Cape Town would be complete without seeing the city from the top.The mountain looks unique due to its steep sides and its fairly flat top, the summit plateau is about 3km wide. The mountain base is partly granite with the majority of the mountain being sandstone. The summit of the mountain is sometimes covered by cloud and this is, occasionally quite flat and is then referred to as the "tablecloth", this particular cloud formation is referred to as orographic cloud. The highest point of the mountain is towards then eastern end and it is 1085m above sea level. The cableway ascends the western end that is 1067m above sea level.The majority of people ascend the mountain by using the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway which has its base station on Tafelberg Road. There is no car park but parking is available all the way down the road and there is also a drop-off point and the entrance to the base station. The price for a return ticket is R160 for adults and R80 for children (current 2009). Queues do build up during the school holidays and waiting times can be up to about an hour, out of school holidays there is rarely a need to queue. After purchasing your ticket you are led to the cable cars. Each pod carries up to 65 passengers on the 10 minute ride up the mountain. The floor of the carriage rotates slowly through 360 degrees as you make your ascent. This allows everybody a chance to have a good view across the city. A couple of the top panels are open so it can be a bit unnerving to find that it turns and it suddenly feels much windier if you haven’t noticed this. There are a couple of seats in the middle but the majority of passengers choose to stand to enjoy the panoramas unfolding.The cableway was originally opened nearly 80 years ago but it has been upgraded three times since with the latest upgrade giving much larger carriages (the previous ones only took 25 passengers.). The service is weather dependent so it is wise to check on the internet to see if it is running before you make your journey. Approximately 800000 passengers use the service annually. The round carriages help the cableway to be safe to operate in windier weather but the station is not opened if there is felt to be a risk.If you are feeling fit it is possible to hike up the mountain. The easiest route is Platterklip Gorge but due to security issues in the area it is suggested that you should form groups of at least 4 people and preferably have a guide too. If you are hoping to descend via the cableway it is sensible to check that it is running before you set off.Once at the summit of the mountain it becomes apparent that it is not quite as perfectly flat as it looks from the ground. There are 2km of pathways plotted across the top and there are also relief maps to help you identify what you are seeing. The panoramic views of both Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula are stunning and many people just stand and gaze. You are bound to spot Dassies (rock Hyrax) whilst at the summit; they literally sit right on the edge of rocks overhanging enormous drops and look like they haven’t a care in the world. The flora on most of the mountain is fynbos which is the native plants. The status of World Heritage Site has encouraged the Table Mountain National Park in its attempt to rid the area of alien plants that use too much water.There is a self-service restaurant on the summit or you can take your own picnic. You will need to take warm clothing with you. The temperature at the top and the windy conditions mean that you will become chilled very quickly even when Cape Town itself is basking in hot weather.Both the sight of Table Mountain from the city and the sight of the city from the mountain will stay in your memory for a long time and the journey is well worth it.
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