Africa

Table Mountain: a Practical Guide

You know how some tourist attractions and Natural Wonders are completely overrated and just a little disappointing? This one is worth every minute and every penny. If you’re in Cape Town, near Cape Town, or have enough money in your savings account to go to Cape Town, Table Mountain really isn’t a question.

Pack some sun cream, a hat and a camera, and you can send me a thank-you postcard from the only slightly overpriced Shop at the Top. Go.
 Table Mountain (32)editedHow Do I Get Up?

There are two choices going up: you can walk, or you can ride the cable car.

The cable car is a little more expensive than the walk (i.e. less free), but for the most popular tourist destination in the country, it’s actually very reasonable. It’s also ridiculously easy to book, and I think they might source the Car Operators from the Cape Town Comedy Club, because the jokes are always flowing.

I’ve never walked up myself, but I was told by a colleague that it’s not as demanding as it looks. Unfortunately, I don’t trust his judgement in the slightest. The people arriving from the footpath at the top all look either exhausted or insane, and most of them choose the cable car for the trip back down.

Having said that, I’m sure the walk is incredibly beautiful.

What about the weather?

The Cableway will shut if the weather gets out of hand, usually because of high winds and rain. This can be slightly annoying if you’ve planned your day around a trip up the mountain, but is probably a lot less annoying than being knocked out of the sky and crashing onto the rocks below.

The website gives a live update on the weather conditions and will let you know whether the cableway is open or closed. If it’s shut, it’s probably also a bad time to try the walk up. Cape Town wind is no joke. Rather stay safe… having your sister blown into the gorge is going to ruin your day more thoroughly than a slight change of plan.

I’m at the top… Now what?

Explore the paths. Soak up the view. Have your picture taken by friendly American women.

There are three hikes that start at the Cableway station, guided tours, and even two free audio-tour apps. Abseil Africa operate from the top, if lowering yourself down a cliff from a piece of string is the sort of thing you’re into.

There’s a also restaurant, although I highly recommend that you give this a miss and pack a picnic. You didn’t go 1089 metres into the air to stand in a queue.

Nor did you go all the way up to use the wifi lounge, so let’s not even mention that.

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Is it possible to fall off?

Yes. But only if you’re an idiot.

In fact, people fall off fairly regularly. On my last visit, we overheard a tour guide telling his group that the amount of accidents and 911 calls from the top has increased dramatically since the birth of Facebook, Instagram and selfies. Looking around, it’s easy to believe.
Every rocky outcrop or dangerous looking precipice attracts people jostling to take their next cover pic. I imagine the photos look very cool up on a Facebook wall, but in person they look incredibly stupid. Not to mention the whole possibility of death thing.

Table Mountain is part of the Table Mountain National Park, and as a whole it’s incredibly well managed. The infrastructure up there is great, the staff are well trained, and the paths are very, very clear. It’s 100% safe for your kids (I went up as one, and had a fabulous time), and my 85 year old grandmother toddled very happily along the flatter paths. They don’t let you up if the weather is too dodgy. I’ve been tempted to push a few people over the edge (mainly the ones in the wifi lounge), but I’ve never felt unsafe.

So don’t let the story of your auntie’s best friend’s bridge partner’s son scare you. Go up the mountain. And when you’re there, remember to look down:

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