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South Africa: Table Mountain

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Table Mountain | South Africa | Africa

[Visited: January 2010]

Table Mountain rises almost directly from the Atlantic Ocean, which has several implications. First and foremost, it gives it its dramatic appearance, and makes it stand out in its environment. Secondly, it means that the mountain is often surrounded by clouds, and the climate around and on top of the mountain is extremely unpredictable. The mountain can be hidden from view for days on end, wrapped up in a thick cloud. The first morning I wanted to climb the mountain in plain summer, the mountain was also hiding behind a layer of clouds, and I had to postpone my plan to climb to its summit. Instead, I went for a run on Signal Hill, a lower hill overlooking the City Bowl, the central part of Cape Town. But in the back of my head was my wish to climb Table Mountain or, as it was originally known to the Khoi, the authentic inhabitants of the region, the Hoerikwaggo or Sea Mountain.

Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Fynbos on the flat surface on top of Table Mountain

The next morning, the skies were blue - but when I looked towards Table Mountain, the table cloth, a cloud covering the top of the flat mountain, was still there. Still, we decided to go for it, took a taxi to a little past the cable way station, and started hiking up. While the sun was burning on our backs, we could now see the cloud moving quickly around the edge of the Table Mountain. The climb proved easier than expected, and before we knew it, we were in the Platteklip Gorge, a narrow chasm allowing access to the top of the mountain. It was filled by a dense cloud, but the circumstances were changing rapidly. Sometimes, we could see a blue sky above us, but the next moment, the skies would close completely. At the same time, the temperature would drop considerably, and it was now easy to understand how treacherous circumstances are on this mountain that looks so lovely from below. Actually, it has claimed more lives than Mount Everest - of course, also because many more people have attempted to climb it.

Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Late afternoon light over Table Mountain

When we reached the top of the Platteklip Gorge, the cloud suddenly dissolved around us, allowing us a fantastic view in all directions. We walked towards the western side of the mountain, from where we saw Camps Bay, the ocean road leading south, the mountain to the south of Table Mountain, supported by the buttresses collectively known as the Twelve Apostles. When we reached the northern side of the mountain, taking a path through the fynbos, the vegetation on top of Table Mountain, we had the best view over the city below us. It seemed hard to believe that we were at an altitude of 1086 metres. From this vantage point, it became clear how Cape Town is lying in a natural amphitheatre, and how the city centre is aptly named City Bowl. We also enjoyed the great view over the surroundings: Lions Head, Signal Hill, Robben Island, the beaches to the north, the mountains further inland, the clouds around the top of Table Mountain. The strong wind around Table Mountain implied that the cable way was not running and we hiked down the mountain again - actually taking more time than on our way up. When we were on the beach at Camps Bay a little later, we proudly looked back at Table Mountain which now again looked like a giant majestically towering over the splendid shores of Cape Town.

Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Looking up cloudy Platteklip Gorge
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Trail leading up Table Mountain through Platteklip Gorge
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): View through Platteklip Gorge
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Cloud in Platteklip Gorge
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Coastal road and Atlantic Coast seen from Table Mountain
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Top of Table Mountain with cloud
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): View from Platteklip Gorge
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Cloudy top of Table Mountain
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Rocky edge of Table Mountain
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Signal Hill, Robben Island, part of the City Bowl seen from Table Mountain
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): View from Table Mountain: Camps Bay
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Flowers and rock formation on top of Table Mountain
Picture of Table Mountain (South Africa): Dassies are the most common animals on Table Mountain

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Table Mountain (South Africa). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Table Mountain.
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