If you have heard of Cape Town you probably would have heard of its most famous tourist attraction, the imposing Table Mountain that looms high over this coastal city.
When I first visited Cape Town back in 2009 we spent a week trying to get up this famous mountain but where thwarted at every turn. Cape Town is known as a windy city for at least part of the year, and unfortunately the cable car that connects the road to the top of the mountain doesn’t run when it is too windy. We never did get to the top on that trip.
This time we made it our mission to make it up, so on our first available day we headed there.
Unfortunately the first day we had available happened to be Boxing Day. This meant that there were thousands of other people also making it their mission to get on top Table Mountain. The line was massive.
Trav and I had already decided that we wanted to hike to the top, while Trav’s parents and brother would take the cable car and meet us up there. We were told that the wait in line was about two hours which would give us enough time to hike up without them having to wait around for us at the top.
There are numerous hiking routes up Table Mountain but we decided on the popular Platteklip Gorge track, which began about 1km from the cable car and involved 3km of switchbacks to reach the top, followed by a short walk across to the cable car station.
I was excited about getting active after our lazy Christmas day where we stuffed our faces with rich food and drinks while watching the Beatles Anthology as it poured with rain outside.
The sun was beating down and I was feeling good as we walked along the flat section of road to begin the hike. Already half way up the mountain, and as far as you can reach by car, there were beautiful views down to Camps Bay and the CBD below.
As we started our brutal ascent we were unaware how steep the hike actually is. There were no flat or downhill sections, it was all upwards. And it was hot.
The path was rocky and uneven so I had to concentrate on where I was walking. Some steps I had to pull myself up onto, essentially crawling, as the step rise was so high.
My lungs burned and my thighs screamed. I was tempted to stop every couple of minutes but I pushed myself to keep walking as long as possible. When I did stop to catch my breath, I marvelled at the surrounding landscape. It was greener than I expected it to be with a lot of dense scrub.
We saw beautiful green sunbirds with long dipped beaks and I caught sight of a striped mouse, similar to a chipmunk or ground squirrel. There were thin streams of water running off the surrounding cliffs as we rose higher.
I kept thinking we were nearly at the top but after walking for another twenty minutes and pushing through the pain, I would look up and somehow we seemed to be further away.
Mist flowed over the ‘table top’ as we were hiking the last stretch. The air was cooler which made it easier to hike. I was exhausted but ecstatic when we finally reached the top. It took us one hour and twenty minutes which I didn’t think was too bad. It took us one hour and forty minutes to hike the Grouse Grind in Vancouver back in 2009 and that was a shorter distance. We are definitely fitter than we were back then.
The ten minute walk along the top of the mountain to reach the top cable car station was ridiculously easy compared to what we had just endured. The path was shrouded in mist but we would occasionally get a peek at the stunning views when it momentarily cleared. There were no trees at the top, just windswept bushes that grew close to the ground, and smooth grey rocks.
The area around the cable car station was packed full of camera toting tourists (I was one of them). Trav’s family were still waiting to get on the cable car at the bottom so we headed to the buffet style restaurant to sate our out of control appetites. I am not usually a fan of buffets but we were so hungry that everything tasted so good. I didn’t care that it was overpriced; it was worth every bite.
It was freezing at the top and the wind cut straight through us. We ended up waiting for an hour for the others to join us and I felt numb with cold. After walking around in the wind for a while I found a picnic table that was in a sunny spot that was sheltered from the wind. We sat and thawed out there. A feeling of deep satisfaction washed over me. There’s nothing like relaxing in the sun after a strenuous hike with a full belly.
Once Trav’s family reached the top we walked around a loop path where we had dramatic views over the surrounding mountains and coastline. Near the cable car station there were a family of dassies, including cute little babies, jumping between the rocks and scurrying around bushes.
The dassie, also known as a rock hyrax, is a small rodent similar in size to a rabbit. They are strangely enough the closest living relative to the African Elephant, despite the difference in size and appearance, and are the only animal I have ever seen that appear to be smiling or frowning. They are goofy looking things and I could watch them for hours.
I must be the only person in the world who is more interested in seeing smaller animals like dassies and chipmunks rather than lions and bears. I just love cute animals.
We weren’t too keen to hike back down again so we caught the cable car back with Trav’s parents and brother. It was actually pretty cool as the inside platform rotated slowly on the way down, giving us a 360 degree view. I’m a little bit scared of heights but although it was a very steep descent, it went so slowly and steadily that it wasn’t scary at all.
If you have a reasonable level of fitness I would definitely recommend hiking up Table Mountain then taking the cable car down. It gives you a sense of satisfaction that you conquered it and the trail is beautiful.
It was hard going but completely worth it.
Have you visited Table Mountain? Would you hike up it?