Spectacular Views of Cape Town
http://www.sanparks.org. The most popular ascent of the mountain directly above the City Bowl is described below.
Cape Town is defined, first and foremost, by Table Mountain. Rising a sheer 1073 m from the coastal plain, it dominates almost every view of the city, its sharp slopes and level top making it one of the world’s best-known city backdrops. For centuries, it was the first sight of Cape Town afforded to seafarers, its looming presence visible for hundreds of kilometres. Certainly, its size continues to astonish visitors today, but it is the mountain’s wilderness, bang in the middle of a bustling conurbation, that makes the biggest impression. Table Mountain sustains over 1400 species of flora, as well as baboons, dassies (large rodents) and countless birds. The Table Mountain National Park encompasses the entire peninsula stretching from here to Cape Point. Between September and March you have the additional pleasure of seeing the mountain covered in wild flowers. The most common vegetation is fynbos, of which there is an extraordinary variety, but you’ll also see proteas plus the rare silver tree, Leucadendron argenteum.
The dizzying trip to the top in the Aerial Cableway is one of CapeTown’s highlights. The first cableway was built in 1929, and since then has had three upgrades, the latest being in 1997. It’s estimated to have carried up some 18 million people to date. There are two cars, each carrying up to 65 passengers, and as you ride up the floor rotates, allowing a full 360° view. Journey time is just under five minutes. In the base of each car is a water tank that can carry up to 4000 litres of freshwater to the top. There is theTable Mountain Café at the top station, which also has a deli for takeaway sandwiches, cheese and sushi platters and other light meals. To conserve water, they’ve recently introduced compostable plates and containers. An extensive network of paths has been laid out from the top station, allowing walks of various lengths, leading to different lookout points with stunning views of the City Bowl, Cape Flats, Robben Island and back along the peninsula. There are also free guided walks daily at 1000 and 1200.
The entire area is a nature reserve, and the mountain is protected as a national monument. There are numerous paths climbing to the top. The most popular route starts 1.5km beyond the Lower Cableway Station and follows a course up Platteklip Gorge; there’s another path from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Both take about two to three hours to the top, although they are both fairly tough and should not be taken lightly. Given Table Mountain’s size and location, conditions can change alarmingly quickly. The weather may seem clear and calm when you set out, but fog (the famous ‘TableCloth’ which flows from the top) and rain can descend without warning. Numerous people have been caught out and the mountain has claimed its fair share of lives. There have also been recent muggings in Platteklip Gorge, though authorities are presently doing their best to address the problem. Before venturing out, make sure you have suitable clothing, food and water. Take warm clothes, a windbreaker, a waterproof jacket, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, plenty of water (2 litres per person) and energy foods. Never climb alone and inform someone of which route you’re taking and what time you should be back. Also be aware that if the weather is too unfavourable for the cableway to be open, don’t rely on it being open to take you back down, so allow enough daylight hours to make the descent on foot. A detailed map is essential –these can be purchased at the tourist office. For those wanting to spend more time on the mountain, an100km overnight trail –the oerikwagga Trail (meaning ‘sea mountain’ in Khoi)–was introduced in 2005. The name means ‘mountains in the sea’ in an indigenous language. The six-day trek involves sleeping in tented camps and renovated forester houses dotted along the top of the mountain, and food and overnight gear is carried by porters. It starts in central Cape Town and ascends Platteklip Gorge and then follows the spine of the peninsula down to Cape Point. For full details, contact the tourist office or SANParks. If you’re interested in learning about the mountain’s flora and fauna, take a guide or a tour).