Lucky me! I returned to Africa for 2 weeks recently with my good friend Tasha, including 6 days in beautiful Cape Town!
Having never been to Cape Town before (technically I have been to Cape Town before–so my mom says, when I was an infant…but that’s a story for another time) I wanted to make sure we hit all the well known spots…and Table Mountain towered above all the options–literally!
My research on Trip Advisor lead us to Hike Table Mountain and Riaan. His hikes are currently ranked as the Number One activity to do in Cape Town. After completing Riaan’s survey and some email back-and-forth, a route was selected: Porcupine Ravine to Maclear’s Beacon, and across the top of Table Mountain where hopefully we would ride the Funicular (cable car) down to the parking lot.
Riaan picked us up at 6am and we were joined by a Canadian couple. Within a few minutes we were ready to begin.
It is daunting to look up…waaaaaay up…to the top of Table Mountain and realize that we were going there!
I suspected that I might have been a little
deluded over enthusiastic about my fitness level on Riaan’s survey when I was sweating like a pig winded on the approach to the trail head! Riaan however, chatted easily as we walked along the path–pointing out beautiful and rare orchids, as well as many other plants. He provided a thorough and riveting history of Table Mountain (it’s older than the Himalayas and it was 3 miles higher than its current elevation at its creation).
Riaan immediately assessed the strengths and weaknesses of our group and offered the perfect combination of challenge and support for us all. The Canadian couple were experienced hikers (the Rockies are their backyard) and I was at the other end of the spectrum–a “bag of hammers” struggling with a nagging shoulder injury and weak quads!
Despite my fitness deficit, Riaan patiently and expertly got us all up the Porcupine Ravine where we enjoyed an early lunch and a breathtaking view.
While we basked in the warm sun, gentle breeze and a 360 degree panorama, Riaan explained that we were very lucky to have the perfect day to climb Table Mountain. It’s not uncommon for visitors to climb into full cloud, heavy wind–miserable conditions with no view! And to add insult to injury: the cable car shuts down in high winds, so the poor souls who have struggled to the top now have to hike down as well! Fortunately for us, this was not the case!
Riaan lead us across the top of the Table to the highest point on the mountain–it’s a remarkable mesa (hence the “Table” moniker). Beautiful spring flowers, lush green vegetation set against the ancient rock formations were stunning. We didn’t encounter another soul on our trek–it felt like our own private mountain. It was worth all the effort of climbing to experience this natural wonder.
A peaceful lakelet suddenly appeared and I took advantage of a small puddle to rest my weary feet on the “Table”.
Hiking towards the cable car structure we noted a couple of phenomena:
1. The Table Cloth descending. Table Mountain is known for changeable weather patterns. One of these is a thick blanket of cloud that sweeps up the backside of the mountain and spills over the top and front. It looks like a lovely white table cloth from a distance…not so lovely if you’re climbing in it!
2. Crowds of tourists swarming the cable car/gift shop area. After the quiet solitude of the 7 hour hike, the onslaught of people was jarring.
Our group braved the mob and took the quick and easy trip down to the parking lot where we met a taxi to return us to the car, and home.
Hike Table Mountain is, without a doubt, the only way I would recommend to experience this icon. Riaan is the perfect guide and host–he knows these mountains like the back of his hand.
Next up: The Tip of Africa and The Cape Of Good Hope