A Table and a Tablecloth

Rotating Cable Car
Rotating Cable Car

Considering the number of years during which I lived in Cape Town plus numerous visits since, it is surprising that I have only ever been on top of Table Mountain on three previous occasions and then only once was a bright and beautiful day when you could see for miles. The thing you have to remember about this particular mountain is that it often gets covered in cloud (the ‘Tablecloth’) blown in from the Atlantic by a wind known to locals as the ‘Cape Doctor‘, especially in the summer months. And if it is windy then the cable car does not operate – so don’t rely on it to get you back down.

If  you intend to visit the Mother City and want to go up the iconic mountain then my advice is that you keep your eye on the weather forecasts and get up there as soon as you can. Don’t wait for tomorrow because tomorrow may be raining or windy and if you do get up then make sure you allow sufficient time to explore as there is a surprisingly large area up there.

On top of Table Mountain
On top of Table Mountain

Many things have changed on the top since the 1980s – but not the 360° views of Cape Town, the ocean and the neighbouring peaks. There is now a large self-serve restaurant and deli and an ice-cream shop and walled, paved courtyards and pathways which makes it a much safer pleasure to walk around taking in the views and there is even a route suitable for wheelchair users. You can of course still wander off on hiking trails and indeed there is the Hoerikwaggo Trail (Hoerikwaggo meaning ‘Mountains of the sea’ in the original Khoekhoe language), a five day trek for serious hikers linking Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope.

Lion's Head
Lion’s Head, Cape Town

As neither my husband nor I are in the flush of youth we took the cable car up and down. (I once attempted climbing to the top via Skeleton Gorge on my first visit to Cape Town back in 1973, but I was thwarted by the weather closing in suddenly and having to retreat below the clouds. I did come away with a rather splendid spider bite though, so have an everlasting reminder on my forearm.) The recommended route for the walk hike up is via Platteklip Gorge to the Upper Cable Station which, at 3 km, is not long but it is  fairly strenuous and can take between one and three hours to complete.

Signal Hill
Signal Hill

The weather was perfect, the bluest of African skies and not a breath of wind. It seemed as though everyone else had the same idea though and we ended up parking half way down the mountain slope so we were quite breathless before we’d even reached the lower cable station. When stepping out at the top I felt very emotional seeing the wonderful panorama spread beneath my feet. I was home.

View to Cape Point
View to Cape Point

There simply aren’t words apt enough to describe the stunning vistas. South to Hout Bay and Kommetjie along the spine of the Table range all the way down to Cape Point you can even see the curvature of the earth.

North you have the Lions Head and Signal Hill looking like a slumbering dragon on the shores of Table Bay, with the Cape Town Stadium, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and Robben Island in the distance. (header photo)

There are three signposted walks and several viewpoints from which you can view Clifton and Sea Point, the Cape Flats and the Cape Peninsula.

The Table Mountain National Park is also a World Heritage Site. There is a lot of Fynbos vegetation on the mountain, with over 1 460 different species of plants and populations of Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis), commonly known as Dassies, are plentiful on the mountain.

You may also see porcupines, mongooses, girdled lizards, agamas, snakes and butterflies. Several indigenous bird species can be seen, including Redwinged Starlings, Cape Verreaux’s Eagles, Rock Kestrels and Sunbirds.

Under Milkwood

Table Bay

A couple of hours later and armed with hundreds of photos we reluctantly went back down and I drove over to the R27, the west coast road, through the western suburbs of Milnerton (a former home) and north towards Tableview, Sunset Beach, Bloubergstrand (blue mountain) and Melkbosstrand (milkwood trees) to take that infamous photo of Table Mountain across Table Bay.

Table Mountain
Table Mountain

I was not surprised at how much this area has changed over the years with so many new housing developments, but so unattractive in my opinion, just dreary looking little boxes and some pretty ugly high-rises. But with exceptional views.

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This is a place where I spent a lot of time dune walking with my first-born in my arms and usually trying to get out of the wind which whips the sand across your legs with painful accuracy. Not today though. Scarcely a breeze.

P1110009

Sitting, hugging my knees on that powder-soft white sand I stared at Cape Town, snuggled at the head of Table Bay, with its incredible back-drop, and remembered the happy days I had spent there.

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Eventually we returned to Constantia and spent another couple of hours in Kirstenbosch before driving down to Hout Bay to dine at the Mariners Wharf – this time more Kingklip, chips and tartare sauce followed by Cape Brandy tart and ice cream for him and a Fruit Pavlova with berries, raspberry coulis and granadilla sauce for me.  A bottle of sparkling Nederburg Cuvee Brut accompanied to celebrate our last night in Cape Town. Total cost £34

Mariners Wharf
Mariners Wharf – Hout Bay

Have you been on top of Table Mountain? Or another mountain which stirs the soul?

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Heyjude

I now live in the UK, but spent several years travelling and then living in South Africa. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

40 thoughts on “A Table and a Tablecloth”

  1. Reblogged this on TRAVEL WORDS and commented:

    When in Cape Town one thing dominates the horizon, and that is Table Mountain – not Table Top as I have heard it called, but simply Table. There are several such named mountains in the world, but only one with views like this one.

    (please visit the original to post comments – I’d love to hear from you 🙂 )

  2. yes, i went to the top on one holiday to the cape, and it did not disappoint! lovely post, brought back good memories which are still only on 35m slides!

      1. If it were just getting them out that would be the easy bit. It’s the task of transferring them ( and the many thousands more) to a digital format which is daunting .

    1. There are indeed, but any flat-topped ones where people like me can take a stroll? I have been up Grouse Mountain outside Vancouver and that was lovely to walk around on top, but any others you know of?

      1. Jude if you are wanting to take a gondola up then Sulphur Mountain in Banff comes to mind http://www.explorerockies.com/banff-gondola/
        Or a shuttle from the Sunshine ski are to Sunshine meadows http://www.skibanff.com/sunshine-village/getting-here/
        Or the gondola at Lake Louise http://www.lakelouisegondola.com/
        Gondol at Kicking Horse Golden http://kickinghorseresort.com/summer-main/the-resort/things-to-do/

        I think you need to book another trip now. 🙂

    1. I’ve just returned from another beautiful view Dina – not up a mountain, but a bl**dy big hill! You have fantastic views from the top of mountains in Norway, though I don’t recall any flat topped ones 🙂

  3. Good memories for you Jude, and lovely scenery for those of us who have never visited. You always sound so nostalgic for the place, I half expect to hear that you have decided to move back there one day.
    Great stuff indeed.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. You’re dead right Pete, I had some good times there. If I was still on my own I might have returned, but fact is there is no-one there any more who I know, and the crime-rate does put me off. But the landscapes are unbeatable.

  4. Oh Jude, what a beautiful post, not only in the photographs but in your narrative which really brings home your happy memories of the many years you lived in Cape Town. I’ve never heard of Table Mountain and would love to go there for those magnificent views. Just spectacular. The cost of the meal…wow! So cheap! And with the Cuvee Brut too! You can see where my priorities lie, haha 😉 Lovely post, thank you 🙂 xx

    1. Haha, thanks Sherri 🙂 The food and wine were splendid – when I lived there I didn’t eat out often in restaurants, so it is nice to be able to afford to do that now.

  5. The Waterberg plateau in Namibia was quite an experience especially in the December heat, but nothing quite beats Table Mountain, even on an iffy day. Although the hike to Elephant’s Eye in Tokai is stunning too.

        1. It is thanks. Just waiting for the swelling to go down so my shoes will fit. If they don’t I have a problem 🙂 The Canon 550D is almost 2 already but I’ve had loads of fun with it.

  6. Table Mountain is on my list. (There’s a lot on my list!) Ben Lomond, in Scotland sticks in my mind. We started walking/climbing at midnight on midsummer eve and were sitting on the top when the sun rose – it was magical.

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