In the twilight of this challenge I seem to be turning more towards to the telling of tales rather than sharing photos, so I thought I’d share some memories of Table Mountain.
Majestic Table Mountain forms the backdrop for Cape Town in South Africa. I had the good fortune of growing up in the area and seeing that mountain and its different shades and moods every day. Some days it was clear. When the south easterly blew in (also known as the Cape doctor because it blew away smoke and fog), a blanket of cloud would fold itself over the top of the mountain. Winter storms came in from the north west, enshrouded the mountain with clouds and dropped lots of rain at Newlands on the other side. It was omnipresent and forms the backdrop to my childhood as well. If my childhood memories were to be printed in a series of pictures, Table Mountain would be in most of them.
Once as a teenager in the mid-eighties we had a school excursion planned, going up Table Mountain via the cable car. The only trouble was, I’d dislocated my knee cap and torn the ligaments and was in a full leg cast and walking with crutches. There was a bit of umming and aahing about whether I should go along but I wasn’t about to miss out. I hobbled along and squeezed into the (what felt quite rickety) cable car together with my class mates on an overcast and cool Cape Town day. (The beautiful rotating cable cars that carry 65 passengers that are in operation today were only installed in 1997.)
In those days the only shelter on top of the mountain was a small limestone building that served as visitor centre, café and gift shop. This building houses the gift shop today. Because of the weather on that day I waited in the café while the others were outside. Hobbling around with crutches on top of a mountain in overcast weather was too much for my teacher’s nerves. I was content – at least I was there.
After a while the others joined me and we had steaming cups of hot chocolate whilst sitting in a bay window, looking at the rain outside. This picture has been cemented in my memory and whenever I visit the mountain and the gift shop I can still picture us huddled together on that bay seat, crutches lying to one side and the weather closing in.
I’ve climbed up Table Mountain a few times via different paths – Platteklip Gorge (flat rock gorge) right at the front, Nursery Ravine starting at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and once from Constantia Neck. This last one was the day we realised Table Mountain isn’t flat at the back at all. We’d climb up a ridge thinking it was the summit, only to find a valley in front of us and beyond that another ridge. We trudged down through the valley and up the next rise hoping this would be it but no, another valley unfolded in front of our eyes. This happened about four times! It was hot, mid-summer and the middle of the morning and the fact that the rest of our hiking party had partied a bit too hard the night before and were slowing us down considerably wasn’t helping. The sun was beating down but we got there in the end and thankfully took the cable car down (as we did on the other occasions). We’d parked one car at the bottom cable station and the other at the start of the hike. It would have been a bad day if we then had to discover that our car keys were in the car that was parked at the start of the 3 hour hike (as happened to a friend of my husband’s one day).
One day we did something different and went up Table Mountain (with the cable car) late in the afternoon to watch the sunset from up there, which was magical. Standing up there and watching the shadow of the mountain with its well known shape being cast across the peninsula as the sun was setting is something I’ll always remember. Just before the sun dipped below the horizon the shadow of the mountain stretched all the way to the Boland mountains across the peninsula. Table Mountain is synonymous with Cape Town, and vice versa. It’s part of the character and charisma of the city and very much a part of my growing up.