Table Mountain: going up is easy!

It's our first day in Cape Town so we were up bright and early to grab some breakfast downstairs at the Derwent House, this morning it was french toast and bacon with really good maple syrup, yum.

View of Table Mountain from our balcony at Derwent House

After breakfast we headed down to Kloof street to pick up some bandaids for Kelly from a chemist, it was such a beautiful day, sunny, warm and blue skies, that we wandered around Kloop street for a while finally ending up in an amazing Wellness store that was huge and full of some good stuff, including Wasabi chips, that we ended up with a bagful of goodies necessary for our survival on the adventure. After that it was back to Derwent House to pick up our packs, grab a taxi and head for Table Mountain. Table Mountain dominates the Cape Town landscape and our hotel is very close to it in fact our room and balcony looks out onto it.

When we arrived at the Cable Station there was a huge line for tickets,fortunately we had already booked our tickets online and we could jump straight into the line for the cable cars. Definately book online to skip the line. 

The line for tickets

The view from the base station of the cable car was pretty amazing and it didn't take long until we had worked our way up to the loading point where we boarded the cable car and started our ascent to the top.  

Cable Car ascending to the Peak

 It was a full gondola but as you ascend the floor of the cable car turns, like a rotating restaurant so everyone can get a view of the city below, and what a view it is.

Taking in the view from the summit

Reaching the top the view is incredible and just around from the cable car station there was an great view of Camps Bay.

A view of Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain

However there are large crowds of people so Kelly and I headed into the store but the only map we could get was one that showed the walks around the main area and nothing of the main mountain hikes.  We decided to hike out on one of the trails to places less crowded and headed out on the path to Platteklip Gorge and Maclears Beacon.

Tony planning the hike with the soon to be useless map

Our hike took us down into Echo Valley and it was the most beautiful day with clear blue skies and a light breeze. On our walk there were beautiful flowers and the whole valley was green and lush. 

Echo valley looking toward the ridge we just had hiked from

After a couple of hours hike we missed the turnoff for Maclears Beacon and the path back to the cable car, fortunately we bumped into a helpful hiker who suggested we continue in same direction we were on and take it was only a short distance to a place called the Skeleton Gorge where we could climb down to Kirstenbosch. He said there was a bit of climbing through water and a ladder or two so we thought what the hell can't be too bad. Pity we didn't have Google Maps before we started.

 

Rather than turn around and climb up again we figured that going down was the best option. So after about another half hour we arrived at the top of the gorge and the way down off the mountain. Oh my god, how far down is that!!!

Looking down Skeleton Gorge to Kirstenbosch

Faced with no other option than to go down we started on our way. I thought to myself at least we can see where our destination lay. 

Kelly taking those first steps down

Oh my God! 3 hours later we finished the hike down, and let me tell you this was no day trip, at the end Kelly and I could hardly walk our legs ached so much from the effort. At stages we were clambering down rocks in the middle of the waterfall and gorge, scrambling down wooden ladders and slipping and sliding on moss covered rocks.

Here are some statistics on the gorge. First off, most commentators say it is a strenuous route. Starting out on the northwest corner of the mountain and meandering across to the southeast slopes, it covers a distance of about 6.2 km (3.8 miles) and you travel around 930 meters (3,100 feet) in elevation.

Kelly descending via a ladder

A nice Scandinavian couple we had passed earlier in the day, they climbed up the mountain via Platteklip Gorge, joined us on our climb down but soon left us far behind. They seemed much more aclimatised to this mad scrambling up and down than we were.

Scandinavian visitors

It was beautiful in the gorge, despite the pain, and at one stage I came across this lily all by itself in a clearing lit by the afternoon sun.

A solitary lily in the gorge

Finally we reached the bottom of the gorge and we were in a pretty bad way and could barely walk. I thought we would come out near buildings but there was nothing only 4 dirt roads all leading in different directions. I didn't have a clue as to which one to take and the only signpost was one telling us where we had been!

Signposts, but none in the right direction

I picked a road at random and off we went barely able to walk, I went ahead to see if I could see anything but the road seemed to go on for ages through the bush. The gods were smiling on us or taking pity it seemed for after about another 45 minutes we emerged from the bush, to the sound of bagpipes no less (a Scottish themed wedding), and staggered into the meticulously manicured gardens of the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens.

We must have looked a sight, barely able to walk, and cut and bruised! We managed to get to the a building that had some toilets and water but we found out that it was about another kilometre to the front entrance and the taxis! Looking back up the mountain it was hard to believe that we had actually climbed all that way down. 

Looking up to the Skeleton Gorge from the gardens

After a final struggle to the main gate we were so incredibly happy to see a taxi and wasted no time in climbing in and giving the driver directions back to the hotel. But I have to say that, despite the pain and agony, it's something that I am really glad we did and in a strange way feel proud to say that we climbed down off Table Mountain.

So after a long hot shower, a couple of ciders and a bit of a rest we headed out to dinner at Tonis, Portugese and Mozambique food, in Kloof Street. We are both exhausted but happy we accomplished the descent and are looking forward to a bit of a sleep in and a tour of Robben Island in the morning.

Tony Redhead

93 Maud Street, Unley, SA, 5061, Australia