My brother, Stilts,lived in Cape Town for a couple of years, and found it very difficult to leave. His love for the city emanated out from every word he spoke, and I quickly felt the pull to to see for myself just what he was on about. Craig had been there previously on an end of season rugby league celebration and loved it with equal fervor. After four months backpacking Africa, I finally had my chance to dive into Cape Town’s pulse and I have never been able to lose her beat ever since.
What is it about Cape Town that has myself and so many captivated by her spell? The beaches? Although the white sand and crystal clear waters are a draw, the temperature is not. The coldest water I’ve ever dived into, does not entice me to return. What makes the beaches stand out, however, is the impressive backdrop of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. The city’s blue sky would just be another sky without the mountain offsetting its brightness in the foreground. The lively waterfront, where seals play as you wander around window shopping, dining outdoors, or sipping South African wine would not be such a highlight if not for the looming plateau above with its white fluffy table cloth laid out on top in preparation for your impending arrival.
The mountains. In Cape Town, everything comes back to the mountains. No matter where you stand in the surrounding areas of the city, your eyes are always drawn back to the imposing grandeur of Table Mountain and her sister’s Lions Head and Signal Hill standing stately above guarding the wealth of the metropolis below. Take away the mountains and she’s just another city, hardly distinct from any other.
The mountains placed Cape Town under my spell. I would never look at another place the same way again. There could never be another city so majestically beautiful. There is so much you can do around the mountains to make you fall even deeper, from hiking to sunset views, strolling in the garden’s at her base to watching her from afar.
Table Mountain eluded me for so long. Intent on hiking up to the top and feeling her soul move my feet, I was stopped first by tick bite fever, and then by bad weather.
Eventually, Craig and I could wait no longer, and tired and frail we made the climb from Kirstenbosch Gardens along a strenuous rocky path to the summit. The clouds, however, were not my friend on this day, obstructing all views and making it feel like a pointless exercise. We caught the cable car down through the fog, disappointed for not having the experience we craved, but not loving her any less because of it.
Two years later, we returned for my brother’s wedding. Once again, we were unable to climb to the top of Table Mountain. We weren’t even able to catch the cable car. A intense fire broke out on her steep sides, so we instead sat from the balcony of our mansion on the hill, sipping wine and watching as helicopters relentlessly flew for days, dropping gallons of water to save her fires from spreading to the nearby houses. This time a cloud of smoke came over to obstruct our view of the city below.
Of course I will be back. It’s Cape Town. It’s Table Mountain. She can’t help but bring you back again and again. Next time I will climb her only when nothing more than her table cloth is laid out.
How to appreciate the mountains
- Hike up. There are many trails that lead to the top. Grab a map from any tourist center and choose the path that best suits your level of fitness or interests.
- Catch the cable car up (or down if you hike). It’s a fun ride to experience and you get great views of the city during it. $22USD/$24AUD return opening hours differ depending on season but roughly from 8am to sunset.
- Abseil down the mountain
- Watch the sunset from above with wine and cheese and spectacular views.
- Either hike to the top of Lion’s Head or drive/hike Signal Hill for some more gorgeous views.
- Explore Kirstenbosch Gardens which lies at the foot of the mountain.