Day eight and there was really nothing to w(h)ine about. It promised to be a lovely day so we decided to visit the very famous Table Mountain, which is only THE best mountain in the world *grin* and a must see. The mountain was first named Hoerikwaggo by the indigenous people of the Cape, the Khoi, which means “mountain in the sea”. Centuries later a Portuguese explorer, Mr de Saldanha, the first European and foreigner to climb the mountain, called it the “Taboa do Cabo”, Table of the Cape. Another century later a Dutch explorer thought he was the first to discover this magnificent table-looking mountain and the expansive bay at its feet, so he named the bay “Tafel Baay” which is Dutch for Table Bay. The mountain has been called “Tafelberg” since the first Dutch people settled in the Cape in the middle 1600’s. Table Mountain is the english version. Did you know that it is older than the Himalayas (six times older), Alps, Rockies (five times older) and the Andes and also one of the new seven wonders of the world?? It is also the only mountain in the whole wide world with a star constellation (Mensa) named in honour of it. The mountain is flat-topped (but only from one side) and when the top bit is covered with clouds, it really looks like a fancy tablecloth covering a huge grey table. And when the table is covered, it is not really worth it to go all the way up because you will see absolutely nothing below. Even if there is no tablecloth, cross your fingers because the weather can change faster than you buying a ticket for the cable car. Today the table was clear, the queues very long and the heat sizzling. The nice part about waiting in line is that this wonderful view of the city below (see the next four photos) is like an appetizer for what is yet to come. Believe us, your mouth will be a permanent gape and you will not stop saying !WOW! Please click on all the photos for a detailed description of what/where it is…
To get to the top of the mountain you have three choices: bike, walk (climb, crawl, wheeze) or use the cable car. The cable car is quicker, only about five minutes, but if the queues are long you could be waiting for more than an hour to board. Jumping the queue is only possible if you’ve pre-booked your ticket online, which is cheaper too. So for spontaneous visitors like us, all that’s left to do is grin and bear it … and hope that the lovely weather keeps up, as the cableway might not operate if weather conditions are unsafe. As mentioned before, this can happen in a tick. We were very very lucky! We did not have to wait too long and we reached the top (in one nervous piece) without screaming. Silly for Madame “Acrophobic” dearest to be such a scaredy cat (meow) because the cableway has not had a single accident since it started operating in 1929. Maybe the jelly legs was the result of the rotating floors (round and round and…) or the feeling that there are just too many people on board 🙀. I wonder if the current Queen of England was scared when she took the ride up way back in 1947…hmm. No matter, all is forgotten once you breathe in the crispy fresh air and catch sight of one of the most beautiful cities in the world sprawled out below, Cape Town. !Sigh! A very good and happy !sigh! By the way, going down is just as easy, but for those needing an adrenalin rush or something similar, there’s abseiling. Yes, you can tie yourself up and scrambled down the mountain. Blrrrr!
There are many birds of prey and other species found on the mountain, and we managed to see two types, some red-winged starlings and an orange breasted sunbird. We also saw a few black lizards and other small creepy crawlies. What we did not see, or maybe did not look close enough, were porcupines, mongooses, tortoises and the very rare and endemic Table Mountain Ghost Frog. Oh, and we did not see any snakes either, thank goodness for that! OMG! We did not know that twenty two species of snakes lived on Table Mountain, and that at least five of them are the most poisonous in the world. Do the words Cobra or Puff Adder send shivers down your spine? I wore sandals for goodness sake *shudder*.
Table Mountain is part of the Cape Floral region, and has more than seven thousand plant species (more than in the Amazon jungle). Most of these are native (about 70%) and will not be found anywhere else in the world, like the Cape Fynbos (fine-leaved plants).
Views from the top
There are quite a few walking trails to choose from, but whichever one you take, it is not possible to see everything in the time that you are there. It can also be quite slippery and rocky in some areas, so be careful. It is also nippy up there. We walked mostly along the edges, then when we could go no further, we cut across to the other side. Then the table cloth started to come down, and we were all alone out there (we ventured a tad too far off the beaten track), so we made our way back. The “under the clouds” experience was a bit scary though, but we did not panic. They do check if anyone is in danger and they make sure that everyone has left the area before closing…
The Baboons and the Dassies
There used to be lions and leopards roaming on the mountain but they were shot, killed, or whatever, so do not exist anymore. The Baboon population started growing and so did the city of Cape Town. The more the city expanded up the mountain, the more the baboons moved down towards the suburbs. They were clever and quite cheeky, and found it easier to get food directly from the rubbish bins or houses in the area. One can argue about all this, but encroaching on their natural habitat was never going to be good. They have become a sort of menace to humans and animals, so much so that there are special squads armed with paint ball guns to keep them away from the suburbs. Baboons are apparently more brazen than criminals because they climb through any window, barred or not, and go on a food rampage in the kitchen! Hmmm…an empty stomach knows no bounds…
The cutest animal and the unofficial mascot of Table Mountain is the Dassie (rock hyrax). We saw quite a lot and they did not seem to be scared of humans. One very excited young man could not contain his excitement at seeing a “real live badger”. I think he even tried to make a selfie. Impossible and dangerous. We had a zoom-zoom lens so managed to take some amazing shots. Enjoy!