“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” – John Muir
My trip to Table Mountain did not go quite as expected. I wanted to hike up and assumed that it is something I would be able to do on my own, I would find a route, get climbing and hopefully make some friends along the way. But it turns out it is not as simple as that. Whilst I was looking for suggested routes and trails, I came across lots of comments and advice warning against climbing up the mountain alone. This is mainly because of crime but I guess there is also the danger of getting lost or injuring oneself and getting stranded. The advice is that you should hike in a group of at least three people and that you should not stray from the main trails. Unfortunately, by then it was too late to get on an organised hiking tour as they were all fully booked. So late this evening I went up by way of the City Sightseeing bus instead via the other must see places that were on my list.
My first stop was the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which is situated on the slopes of Table Mountain and is just 13km from the city centre. It has over 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula with a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, and a Protea garden.
I arrived midmorning and spent about an hour walking around admiring the plants, the streams and people watching. It is huge, I could have spent the whole day there but alas time was not on my side as I still had many places to see. I hopped back on the bus to my next attraction.
Hout Bay, Llandudno and Camps Bay Beaches
Lunch was at Hout Bay, a seaside town on the outskirts of Cape Town. It is surrounded by mountains and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. With a craft market, lots of restaurants, cafés and shops there is plenty to do. And if you fancy taking to the water, you can go fishing, diving or take a boat trip. I had calamari and chips at one of the fish shops then sat outside watching locals and tourists enjoy the water and sunshine.
Hout Bay is a very well to do area with massive gated houses on the slopes of the mountains. However, just a few minutes away from the beach is Imizamo Yethu, a township settlement where the black South Africans live. Many are Xhosa-speaking people from the Eastern Cape who were first allowed to settle into the area in 1989. Visitors with a City Sight Seeing bus ticket are offered a free walking tour of the township. I am not into slum tourism so I passed.
The ride back into town was via Llandudno another seaside town and Camps Bay. Both were very crowded as it is a bank holiday. Camps Bay especially with people setting up picnic in any space that they could find. It was too busy for me to settle so I hoped on another bus which crawled through the traffic back to town. From there I hopped on the bus heading to Table Mountain.
Table Mountain was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2011 and is the country’s most photographed attraction. It got its name for its resemblance to a table apparently (I don’t see a table when I look at it). The bus does not take you all the way to the top. To get to the summit you have to take a cable car and you can get a ticket at the cable car station or when you purchase your City Sightseeing ticket like I did. The cable car ride is less than five minutes, it rotates 360 degrees, thereby giving you a panoramic view of the city as you ascend, if you can bear to look. I have a fear of heights so for most of the ride up I had my eyes firmly closed. The view from the top which overlooks Cape Town and Table Bay and the surrounding areas is spectacular. I arrived just before sunset but it was still packed with people.
There are plenty if things to do if you are not content with sitting down and taking in the views. You can get something to eat or drink at the Table Mountain Café, which serves a variety of snacks, wines and desserts, or go shopping in one of the three Shops at the Top, where you will find a variety of gifts and souvenirs. There is also a guided walk and audio tour but unfortunately I arrived too late for both so I settled for the sunset which was not a bad substitute.