Sunday, October 28, 2007

Climbing the Table

That’s where I’m headed!

On a beautiful clear morning I decide to head up the famous Table Mountain for the first time.


The front desk try to persuade me to take a taxi to the cable car, as it’s 45 minutes walk, though perhaps they were also thinking of security! Fine for me, I stroll up the fairly busy road. I later read that a couple of days previous someone was beated with a stick and mugged, one of over twenty instances this year to date. Well given how many people are up here today, I don’t think those are bad odds.

The buses are round the corner

Just to clarify, my plan was to take the cable car up today to get a feel for the place, and have a walk around on top of the table, then perhaps tomorrow walk up. However, when I reach the cable car station and see the queue snaking down the road, I decide perhaps I should walk up today! The view is already good from here.


First some water though, which was essential on this hot day. The hostel guys had told me to take a hat and suncream, which I poo-pooed. I am now glad I slapped a bit of cream on my nose, and wish I’d brought a hat! Although my mop of hair does a pretty good job. The path is quite steep but not as bad as people make out.

The temperature’s just about okay in the nice breeze (the Cape Doctor). For the first bit of the trail, one has the cable cars flying straight overhead. I’m sure the looks I was receiving were more out of pity than admiration!

One could see why the queue was so big – the cable cars are quite slow in turning around and there are just two flipping back and forth.

Looking back towards the Lion’s Head and Signal Hill

Anyway, there are lots of pretty flowers lining the way up into Platteklip Gorge, one of over 300 ways up and down. In fact the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are on these same slopes just further round in the direction I’m walking.

The trail follows the hill round, with a merciful flat stretch, lulling one into a false sense of security!

Of course, there is a sharp ascent for the last part of the gorge.

The final climb

The top is 1073m high, and has marvellous views in all directions.

Robbin Island, where Mandela was imprisoned

The indigenous name of the mountain is Hoerikwaggo, which somewhat uninspiringly means “Mountain in the Sea”.

Camps Bay and Clifton down below

Given that the Table Top analogy works so well, I suspect this new (old) name won’t take root for a long time. I potter about a bit then take the cable car down for 65r.

Touristy cable station

Down at the bottom I walk down, enjoying an extremely messy Rollo ice-cream as a treat. In Long Street I go for lunch at Mama Africa, which Lewis has recommended, but it’s not open, so I try Zula instead.

The choice of food appears to be either meat or sausage. I go with sausage (worl). The friendly Italian waitress brings me a nice glass of merlot wine, and generally looks after me as I surf the wifi from across the road at Nandos. Whilst enjoying coffee back at the hostel, I read my Africa LP guide book, and start to feel really positive about trip.

All those lost calories walking.. and then some!

In the afternoon, I wander through downtown, visiting the SA National Gallery, supposedly South Africa’s premier art gallery, which turns out to be closed for renovation.

What a backdrop

Down past parliament:


SA Parliament

Slightly sinister buildings though

Next to the Botswanan Embassy, where I pick up the forms for applying for a visa (later work out I don’t need one!), and as it’s the same building as the British Embassy, I pop up to 15th to advise them to send anyone who wants a passport to Botswana as they only take 10 days to issue them (cf 10 weeks here in South Africa).

By now it’s time for a pint, so across to the Fireman’s Arms, supposedly a decent ale house.

It’s a nice place, so I sit outside on one of their benches and read.

Eventually I’m asked if I mind sharing the large table I’m occupying on my own, which of course I don’t, and so am lucky to meet a really nice bunch, Trevor, Michelle, Gerhard, Stef, Oliver and others. They’re here for the quiz night, and invite me to join their team (for what’s it’s worth!).

I’m drinking a nice ale, Mitchell’s Bosun’s Bitter. According to my itemised bill at the end, I had nine of them, plus some dodgy apple spirit the group ordered. Our team won the cash prize question, which just about paid for our entry fee! Walking back to my hostel, I come across an interesting bar full of Philippino and Chinese sailors and, well, how shall I put it? “Local” girls. I chat to the taxi drivers outside for a while, then head inside for a few more beers and some chatting! I try some negotiations out of interest, but leave alone!

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