Table Mountain: a walk in the park

Table Mountain: a walk in the park

Today is International Mountain Day, observed every 11 December to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development. Mountain clubs and avid climbers are celebrating the day by hiking. Get the best of both experiences on Table Mountain by hiking up and taking the cable car back down – the last car leaves the summit at 21h00 at this time of year.

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The only way is up. All photos by Stuart Buchanan

Just recently, I stood at the base of Platteklip Gorge, a cleft in the rocky face of Table Mountain. My head was filled with a mix of trepidation for the path ahead and a slightly dull ache from the previous evening’s revelries, reminding me of bad decisions and giving hope that this next one would be a vast improvement.

Getting out into “the nature” was the goal, and my first hike up the mountain certainly offered plenty of that. It really is a rather odd situation to have a mountain in the middle of a city, and the absurdity becomes clearer the higher you go.

Table Mountain is wild, especially at this time of year. Trees and plants are growing with ferocity, all intertwined and bursting with colour at every twist of branch and stem. Agama lizards bask in the sun, while the birds and insects are constantly at work, mimicking the humans below, who rush around offices to meet deadlines. You can see Cape Town below you, but surrounded by the sounds of bird calls, crickets and the trickling of a nearby mountain stream, your mind couldn’t be further away. The biodiversity is staggering – Mother Nature certainly sipped on a number of fynbos mojitos when she worked on this corner of the world.

Trickles of fresh mountain water flank Platteklip Gorge

The abundance of life on the mountain is not restricted to the wildlife – as a beginner, I was told to take Platteklip Gorge because it is one of the easier paths, and popular with other tourists. A few other groups started at roughly the same time as us, and we passed them on several occasions as we all stopped and started our way up. The going does get tough – the pathway is rocky and steep, and there were moments when I wondered if this what Tolkien had in mind for that final leg of the journey to Mordor. As the path got harder, my world started getting smaller, and soon I was forsaking the scenery and the peacefulness of the surroundings to focus on nothing but my next step. Head down, heart pumping, sweat streaming down my face, my only thoughts were where to put my foot, which rock to use and to check if I was still breathing.

After a few hours we reached the summit, and over a bite to eat at the Table Mountain Café, we decided that taking the cable car down would be our reward. I encourage everyone to metaphorically conquer as many mountains as they like in life, but conquering a physical one every now and again is also not a bad idea. And especially one that has a cable car. Doing it that way really is the best of both worlds, and damn it, you certainly feel like you deserve the ride down a lot more than folk who came up in the cable car, all elegantly dressed and having put in virtually no effort to get there!

But, since the cable car is open to all, it felt great to descend with the other visitors, everyone in admiration of this mountain, whether exhausted from a hike or not. It was also a much quicker descent than on foot, allowing us to stroll back to the car, and for me to take some more snaps. It was an unforgettable experience, and one I’d highly recommended to Capetonians and visitors alike.

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Everything in bloom

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Yeah, not sure I needed to know that

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An agama lizard takes it easy on a rock

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A clash of colours

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The obligatory dassie

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Nature in action

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Passing cable cars

Remember that you can buy your tickets online (whether you are going up and down in the cable car or just one way), from the Lower Cableway Station, or if you’ve hiked up and want to come back down, from the Shop At The Top. If you are a regular hiker wanting to take advantage of the cable car, take a look at our Cable Card.

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