Completed in 1929 at a then astronomical cost of £60 000, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has long given Capetonians something to talk about.
Not everyone likes it: South African icon and super-keen hiker Jan Smuts declared it a disgrace and agreed to use it just once, to accompany the 1947 touring British Royal party down from the top so he could address Parliament in good time.
I’m afraid I once rather agreed with the “Oubaas” (Old boss). Hiking purists can be like that: mountains need to be climbed up and walked down. But it’s easy to be a Luddite in one’s springy-limbed youth, and I am now in possession of something I never thought I would have in my wallet – a Cable Card, entitling me to a free ride up and down on the cable car every day of the year.
“But you’re the Fynbos Guy!” I hear you gasp. “Have you sold out and gone all soft?” Well, Jan Smuts may not have approved, but there are three very good reasons why I now flourish my Cable Card with pride:
Apparently there are many good things about getting old. What they are I am still trying to find out, but one of the things that is definitely not good about it is the realisation that our knees were perhaps not given all the consideration they needed in the Big Design Department.
With my middle-aged, post-rugby knees now cracking like rifle shots on cold days and the steep descents, I now save myself the bother after a hike up Platteklip Gorge or India Venster and take the cable car down. Why not? After all, the healthy aerobic work has been done on the ascent; going down is just painful.
If you’re walking with children, this is the phrase most likely to fill your heart with terror – especially if it’s what you hear as you’re locking up the car and getting ready to start. Ever tried to encourage a child who really doesn’t want to walk up a mountain to walk up a mountain? It’s ugly and usually ends in tears. The point is to get to the top and explore up there (where it’s flat!). So get a family Cable Card and save yourself the trauma.
With weather like we’re having at the moment, it seems a shame to waste it. Mild, clear, windless days are something of a rarity in Cape Town and it pays to take advantage of these autumn gems. With my Cable Card I can decide to pop up to the top for those famous OMG views whenever I like – after work is a good time – and I don’t have to organise a pack, boots, water and all that jazz.
Here’s what I do: look out of the office window at the end of the day; say, “Wow, the mountain looks lovely”; get in my car and drive there; go up in the cable car. And before you know it, you’re gazing over the city three thousand feet below you with that Excel spreadsheet a distant memory.