Continuing from where I left off in the first installment of my Platteklip Gorge Hike (to read Part 1, please see my site), I was unexpectedly refreshed and content once I finally reached the top of the Table. As soon as I emerged into the open (if you’ve hiked the Gorge or Indian Venster trails), I found visitors zigzagging along the mountain’s vast expanses, enjoying some of the more immediate of Table Mountain National Park’s (TMNP) many walks. These include: Agama-, Klipspringer- and Dassie-Walk, which apparently take between 15-45 minutes to cover.
(Speaking of Indian Venster, I found out where the latter comes out ‘Table top-side’ – it’s just past the start of Platties – but closer inspection of the sign warned me against trying the route as a return trip as the recommended route for going back down Table Mountain remains Platteklip.)
(Note: Some people catch the cable car down but be certain of the weather, as the cableway is closed during strong winds and bad weather some 60-90 days per year and you don’t want to get stranded atop Table Mountain if the weather changes.)
There are charming wooden walkways through the beautiful fynbos (there are some 1,460 different species) and indigenous plants and flowers and informative plaques, maps and memorials, though my favourite discovery remains the ’round table’, which offers mini versions of the Cape Peninsula and Mother City’s surrounds, set amidst a sea of aqua green water and encircled by indigenous plants and flowers, with its outer ring depicting the distances from here to the world’s other major cities.
It takes about 10-15 minutes to get from the outer expanse to the Shop at the Top (where you can purchase return tickets for the cable car) and the other excellent facilities such as the Table Mountain Cafe (“open for breakfast, lunch & refreshments”), clean toilets, Terrace/Bar and the odd pop-up stall selling snacks and drinks.
There is ample seating, both indoors and outdoors, but you’re also not short on beautiful stone walls, numerous, huge mottled boulders and wooden benches, which most visitors park down on, especially as you get to admire the all-round breathtaking views of the city spread out all those thousands of metres below you on one side and on the other, you have the most amazing views of the seemingly endless coastline that stretches off into the wispy pale blue horizon – in fact, Table Mountain National Park stretches as far as Cape Point.
I really loved taking my time strolling over to the main section near the facilities and upper cable car station itself (it’s pretty cool to see the sturdy-looking cables that make the whole experience possible up close) and kept stopping at various look-out spots to take photos. There are also telescopes (R5 per viewing) that aid your vision. Keep an eye out for natural and man-made landmarks alike such as the Cape Town Stadium and harbour, Robben Island and of course, the proud Signal Hill.
On my way towards to Upper Station, I overheard a family eagerly discussing were the unusual little rock formations that appear to be stacked there in places. I’m not sure if it’s part of some intiation ritual or if it’s merely something hikers have taken to doing, as it looks quite interesting, but I told them that I’d seen a similar sight at Lion’s Head.
After that, I sighted my first dassies. I only saw about three, which was a bit disappointing but I do imagine it’s dependent on the time of day. Usually they like to come out in the early morning or late afternoon when the rocks are warm but not too hot… I guess the rocks were hotting up and getting a bit too roasty for these cool, little dudes when I visited.
Table Mountain is famous for them and you can often get quite close to them – they’re a big hit with everyone who visits as proved to be the case that day too, as people eagerly pointed them out to each other or stood smilingly watching them frolic about on the rocks for unnaturally long periods of time.
Personally, I feel like I was more awestruck by the fact that I was back on top of Table Mountain some fourteen years after I first visited it as a child with my parents and older brothers. It was strange to be walking around there on my own, recalling the times we had spent up there. I grew quite nostaglic for my childhood… everything just seemed so much easier when I was seven years old.
At the same time, it was rather special and felt like quite an amazing and rewarding personal accomplishment. My tired legs and fleeting nausea were quickly banished from memory as I, like many of the other hikers, felt miraculously rejuvenated once I safely and victoriously reached the top.
I did see many of my fellow hiking friends from the day up there too – my Aussie companions had made it up in one collective piece and sat a few tables away from me inside the Cafe and on my way back from Dassie Walk, I passed the lady who had been struggling up Platteklip in my wake. She happily exclaimed, “You made it!” and we both laughed with relief. I was also able to help by taking a few photos of her (many people use selfie sticks these days but don’t feel shy to ask someone to take a proper photo for you, whether you are in a group or on your own like I was. Later, another group of young Germans asked me to take several snaps for them and I was happy to oblige). She asked me where I was from (“Natal originally… it’s another province of South Africa,”) and I learnt she was from Munich. She told me I should visit someday and I promised her it’s definitely one of the places on my travel bucket list. 🙂
Though I love the general goodwill and politeness that visiting such a stunning place reveals to one – and it’s always so interesting for me to interact with foreigners and locals alike, there was also an impromptu choir group exploring the mountain – I got a bit desperate after a while and I looked like I wasn’t the only one who wished they might stop singing eventually… It’s not that they weren’t good, it’s just, you kind of want to experience the beauty and sounds of the mountaintop without that human kind of distraction.
After exploring the areas just past the Upper Station and pausing to read a few of the signs and memorials (some are dedicated to hikers who have tragically perished on the various routes) and visiting the bathroom (which you can expect to be pretty full but I didn’t have to wait long and although it wasn’t as spick and span as the Lower Station one, it was still decidedly clean for a busy public toilet), I disappeared into the cool depths of the Shop at the Top.
It’s fun to walk browse, they have: caps, t-shirts, artwork and all kinds of imaginable keepsakes and goodies (including animal ‘droppings’, like the dassie ones, which are really chocolate treats… :P). It’s not necessarily cheap but they mainly cater for tourists and I would still have glad bought something if I had had cash to spare.
There weren’t too many people in the shop when I visited but outside, this area was teeming with people. I gave up standing trying to take photos after a while because I had to keep moving out of people’s shots.
There are more VISA umbrellas scattered about to provide some much needed shade. As mentioned in my last post, the temperature is often about 5 degrees cooler on top of the Table Mountain so it’s advisable to pack in a light top/ jacket but honestly, I was immensely grateful for the slightly cool breeze on the top. It was deliciously refreshing and kept me from getting too hot. I actually had to re-apply my sunscreen – something else (along with a sun hat of some sort) you will need up top.
The Table Mountain Cafe was my next port of call… It is smart and efficiently run by its staff and has more than enough tables and seating, both inside and out, and I plan to go back sometime to review it separately as I really enjoyed my time in there and can’t wait to try the reasonably priced buffet and other large self-service food (their plates are biodegradable) and drink options available.
It was admittedly very full but I managed to check out everything available on offer and pay for my purchase quite timeously without bumping into anyone. The food and drinks are great and you have quite a selection to choose from but I was a bit wary about eating too much so I compromised by buying a wonderfully chilled and tasty Sinnful watermelon ice lolly (R16.50), which I enjoyed as a sit down (though there are take-away options too) at my own table… Yes, I did indeed get pretty lucky.
I really loved the Cafe inside and will definitely be going back to enjoy it more fully in the not-too-distant future.
Something else I’d love to check out next time are the free guided tours that apparently take place on the hour, from 9h00-15h00.
I must make special mention of the fact that I absolutely adore how everything has been kept as natural and eco-friendly as possible. In fact, in the bathroom stalls, you can read about the various measures taken to ensure that Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is kept as sustainable and green as possible.
For instance, according to http://skinnylaminx.com , “1.5 litres of fresh water per visitor are used at the Upper Station. This includes all cleaning and all use of water in the cafe and toilets. Grey water is pumped by the night-shift team into a separate tank and is then attached to the bottom of the cable car and taken down at night. The loos at the Upper Station recycle water from the hand basins for flushing and they boast beautiful fynbos-inspired wall murals by local designer, Heather Moore.”
Futhermore, all supplies, fresh water and materials travel up in the cablecars, as does all sewage, rubbish and recycables that need to come down. In 2013, 38 tons of waste was recyled and 43 tons in 2012!
What’s more, all the buildings, railings and walkways on top of Table Mountain have been built out of stone or wood and nestle amidst the natural stone pavings, boulders and fynbos as if they have always co-existed there together, even the tiles blend in quite naturally. My personal favourite has to be the fairtytale-esque old stone building, which is really too adorable and quaint for words (this is where the Shop @ the Top is found.
I arrived on Table Mountain at 12:30 p.m. and stayed there until around 14:15. After I refilled my water bottle (there are free water foundations on top of the Mountain) and gave the dassies (also keep an eye out for the tame glossy starlings, who frequent the rocks and stone walls near the toilets but please do not feed the dassies or birds) one parting wistful glance, I hurried back down Platteklip as I had to be home in time for the Springboks’s semi-final World Cup match at 16:00 p.m.
The descent goes far quicker coming down and I felt like a klipspringer myself as I hurried down (encouraging hikers this time) through the far shadier gorge’s clutches (it was definitely a cooler, much quieter time to hike).
I’m sorry to say my faithful makeshift hiking shoes had to be chucked when I got home but this wasn’t the route’s fault, it was still a bit hard on the ankles so after a while, even though I gave up jumping from step to step, I still managed to reach the bottom by about 15:30 p.m.
Many people branched off at the river and took another route down by I decided to stick with the one I knew and headed back the same way as I had come – after that, I only passed one man but I honestly didn’t mind the solitude and quietness, with only the occasional birdcall for company. However, I am used to being outdoors on my own and perhaps for others, this would be more disquieting than soothing.
After that, I quickly hurried back to my flat on foot, having missed the MyCiti bus (you can catch the shuttle bus from Lower Tafelberg Road’s Kloof Nek bus stop to the Lower Station free of charge, either way and you don’t need to worry about not having a MyCiti card as Table Mountain Cableway kindly sponsors this) I had wanted to catch so I really didn’t have much choice to head back through Tamboerskloof, Kloof and then Gardens before I was back in the Bowl just in time for the rugby, feeling faintly tired and more than a little sunburnt on my legs (whoops) but throughly pleased with my wonderful day out!
I had a really tremendous day on top of the Table and really recommend it that everyone finds a way to visit Table Mountain – whether you catch the cableway or hike up one of its great hiking trails.
It’s a truly unforgettable and amazing experience and Table Mountain thoroughly deserves to be an official new 7th wonder of nature, for it is most certainly that! 🙂
Many thanks to Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, and Cafe and skinny laminx for the additional information used in this post and to everyone responsible for ensuring that visitors have a wonderful and enjoyable experience visiting our city’s most spectacular Table Mountain.
All in all, my Platteklip Gorge hike and Table Mountain experience both get a serious 10/10 rating.
For more info., please contact Table Mountain Aerial Cableway on: +27 (021) 4875721 or +27 (021) 424 8181, email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org, visit their website: http://www.tablemountain.net or find them on social media.
(Note: Cableway tickets can be purchased online).
Additionally, for more information on the Table Mountain National Park, please see: http://tmnp.co.za.