Going up Table Mountain

“A man is the head of a house but a woman is the head of your money.”

“Love is a pain no doctor can explain. It strikes the heart and affects the brain.”

“If you are a passenger in this taxi, don’t be a problem.”

Such wisdom, and all from a bunch of bumper stickers pasted inside a rickety minibus driving through the streets of Cape Town. I need to remember this, I told myself and searched for my notebook and pen. The other passengers – a large black woman with a scarf knotted around her head, a surly young man in a jacket, a Cape Malay mother with her child, and a host of other characters- looked at me in a mixture of amusement and disbelief as I struggled to copy the words down.

The minibus swerved; my arm banged into the young lady beside me and my pen landed at her feet. I thanked her as she handed it back to me. I’d better stop being a problem, just like the sticker said.

I was in South Africa, and I was on my way to Table Mountain.

Every morning in Cape Town, I would stumble out of bed, head for the balcony and take a look at the mountain. And every morning, it would take my breath away. It is that beautiful.

Table Mountain, seen from the Victoria & Albert Waterfront

Table Mountain, seen from the Victoria & Albert Waterfront

This huge hunk of rock is Cape Town’s most prominent landmark. Measuring 1,085 metres at its highest point and three kilometres from end to end, Table Mountain was probably the first thing the early European sailors spotted as they approached the Cape hundreds of years ago. Visible from anywhere in the city, Table Mountain rises out of the ground at the northern end of a mountain range along the Cape Peninsula.

The colourful houses in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. More on this neighbourhood later.

Colourful houses in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. More on this neighbourhood later.

I had a reason for checking out Table Mountain every morning- I needed to know what the weather would be like. If the top of the mountain was clear and cloudles, chances are it would be a perfect day for going up. If all I saw were thick clouds above the plateau, I knew that I should reserve a visit up Table Mountain for another day, unless the weather improved.

On my last day in Cape Town, I woke up and went to look at the mountain. The day looked perfect- not a cloud in the blue, blue sky. Within 45 minutes, I was in the city centre and waiting for the minibus.

The easy way to go up Table Mountain

The easy way to go up Table Mountain

The view from Table Mountain was spectacular. Looking down at the city from above, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was actually up on the plateau when a little over an hour ago, I had been there-right there on the ground. For the past five days I had looked up at the mountain and prayed for good weather, and here I was finally.

Covered in clouds, almost

Covered in clouds, almost


The view from the top

The view from the top


Can you spot that colourful row of houses somewhere near the bottom right corner?

See that diagonal row of colourful houses on the right? That’s Bo-Kaap from above


That's Robben Island in the top left and round object is Cape Town Stadium

That’s Robben Island at the top left and the large round object is Cape Town Stadium

Table Mountain isn’t completely flat. Crevices, large rocks and outcrops on the plateau remind you that this is all natural. Some parts are uneven with loose rocks, but it’s all good. Perfect imperfections, I think someone said in a song. Flowers and shrubs grow in between rocks, while on the more rockier sections, dassies -little brown-coloured, rodent-like creatures- scurry about.

Hiking on Table Mountain


Flowers at the summit. Many of these species are indigenous to Table Mountain

Flowers at the summit. Many of these plants are indigenous to the mountain


Hey, you

This dassie, would you believe it, is the African elephant’s closest living relative

I must have lingered on Table Mountain for three hours. The mountain is beautiful at a distance, but nothing can beat being at the top. I had gone up for the view but also because I’ve always had a weakness for mountains and hills. There is something about being high up in the clouds that makes you think about life, existence and a greater power at work.

It occurred to me when I took the cable car down that I get out of bed to look at Table Mountain not just for the weather, but because I need to see something beautiful every day.


Getting there 

The adventurous can climb up Table Mountain- there are several foot trails ranging from easy to difficult-  but if you want a shortcut, take a cable car to the top like I did. All the information you need is at the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway website.

I would suggest buying the tickets online soon after you arrive in Cape Town. Tickets are valid for 14 days from the date of purchase, so keep an eye on the weather and go up on the first clear day during your stay. Whether you choose to go in the morning or late afternoon to catch the sunset, be prepared for the microclimate at the summit and bring a jacket even in the spring. In the autumn and winter months, the top of Table Mountain is several degrees lower than at sea level, while in the summer I would suggest you bring sunscreen and a hat. 


I stayed with Gawa and Sulaiman Bester, a lovely English-speaking Cape Malay couple who will provide delicious home-cooked meals and a comfortable room during your stay. Rates can be viewed here at the Bo-Kaap Cultural and Heritage Gateway website. My contact was Bilqees Baker, who will assign a suitable family for you. My stay was not sponsored by anyone.


© 2014, Anis. All rights reserved.

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