Table Mountain is hard to miss. Standing proudly in the middle of Cape Town, Table Mountain was the first glimpse that I caught of South Africa as my ship sailed into the port. It looms over the city creating a dramatic backdrop to the area.
Climbing Table Mountain isn’t for the weak of heart or in my case those unknowingly on the verge of full blown strep throat, fun times. Although this is one of the most climbed mountains in the world, hikers have taken a toll on the paths. Some of the areas have eroded causing areas to become very dangerous and sudden changes in the weather as well as fog have taken many lives. The climb takes on average 2-3 hours and offers several paths up. A few of my friends took the path from the Kiestenbosch National Botanical Gardens and several times faced nothing but rocks where they had to climb ladders. I believe the name of the path is called the Skeleton Gorge. My taxi driver was much kinder and dropped my group off at the entrance that faces the waterfront, near the cable cars. The route is known as the Pipe Track and is one of the easiest ways up. It is about 7km up and the path starts at Kloof Nek just off of Tafelberg Road.
The trip started off as most do; everyone gung-ho about making it to the top, but within the first hour we were dropping like flies (give me some credit I was sick and battling food poisoning). For the most part there is a well laid out path that leads up the mountain. Brush filled paths give way to large boulders that offer a place to sit, shade, and hide from the vultures that were looking to snack on my meaty legs. Although the people in my group claimed that they only saw sparrows and other small garden-variety birds I know that I saw a vulture eyeing me up for a mid-day meal.
An hour and a half into the climb I started to regret being a tight wad and not shelling out the R56.00 for a student ticket to ride the cable cars, but the views that I was getting couldn’t compete with the cable cars. Salvation came when I saw a V-rock formation that signaled that we were only minutes from the top,
Surprisingly the hardest part of the climb isn’t the climb. Once on top of the mountain the real danger begins as I dragged my lifeless body off of the path and to the cable car booth to beg for a ticket down. The top of the mountain offered encouraging signs like “Dangerous path” which needed to be taken to get to the cable cars. Four-foot high stone steps were between me and civilization with nothing but a chain to use to pull my body up from step to step, but there was yet another promising sign “Do not use chain to climb.” I did anyway.
Once we made the perilous trip to the cable car station we stopped at a small shop that was decorated with Coke signs and umbrellas (there is truly no place on this Earth to escape the grasp of Coke and Pepsi even on the top of a mountain). Outside of the shop is a pay phone where one of my friends decided to call home. At this point I should warn everyone that at the bottom of this mountain it was 90 degrees and where we were it was in the 40’s. Suddenly we heard sirens going off. Being tourists we ignored the alarms and went on our merry way. We looked around, took pictures, and then leisurely walked over to the cable cars only to find that they were shutting down and were all leaving. They graciously let us pay, but only in exact change so that we could go with them.
The cable car was a wonderful trip down the mountain. It rotates 360 degrees so that everyone has a view of the city and is able to see and laugh at other people climbing the mountain why you are gliding down it in luxury. We also got a wonderful view of Devil’s Peak, which we couldn’t see from where we were climbing.
The lower cable-car station is located on Tafelberg Road. Operation times change throughout the year. For more information call 021 424 5248 or check out there website at www.tablemountain.net
Although Table Mountain isn’t exactly