||TANYA ENBERG, Chic Savvy Travels
I look up at Table Mountain and think, “No problem.” That it’s encased in thick fog certainly feeds this disillusionment, for the filmy hazy sheet — both haunting and beautiful — cleverly conceals the reality of the distant flat peak that lies vertically ahead.
It is a sneaky bit of trickery, for hikers often can’t visualize the peak end of this stunning mountain residing in Cape Town, South Africa, which famously offers an outdoorsy reprieve from the exceptionally stylish city, known for its extremely fashion-conscious crowds, high-end boutiques and trendy bars and restaurants.
Yay! Surrounded by dense fog, I made it to the top of Table Mountain in South Africa's Cape Town and my legs were still working.
It is a delightfully rare scene to be standing at the foot of a glorious mountain just minutes away from bustling shopping districts and packed roadways. This is just one of the many reasons Cape Town, with its energy and spectacular diversity, is magical.
For those who don’t care to hike, there is an easier way to reach the top of the 1,087-metre-high Table Mountain. You can still soak up gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding city and across Table Bay and the Atlantic by riding the cable car up, which completes a 360-degree rotation for a full, breathtaking experience.
But for heart-pounding adventure seekers, hiking is the only way to go.
Table Mountain is an unbeatable visual force, made up of severe cliffs and gorges, standing at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula. The moment you step into your hiking boots and head out on this exhilarating journey, you will feel miles away from the constant chatter of urban life.
This snapshot of wilderness in the downtown core is heightened by the 1, 400 species of flora and fauna. Among the critters calling the area home are baboons, porcupines and dassies, whose sharp, fiercely intense features defy their cute-ish, hand-held size.
Expect long, steady durations of stark cold rock formations, with sudden dots of brush along the way. You will almost certainly cross paths with other hikers, as this massif is believed to be the most climbed in the world.
For the naive or brazenly cocky, be warned — reaching the top is no walk in the park.
Certain I was nearing the final haul, a set of passing hikers making their descent gave me a wake-up call when I asked them what point I was at.
“You’re not even halfway,” they laughed. And such is the humorous side of a mountain so enshrouded with mist, one cannot mentally plot the duration or gauge the steps along the way.
Already lactic acid was building and my muscles were lagging, but I was confident I had enough energy to make it, even as my legs grew heavier with each upward step and my body battled a sometimes uncomfortable combination of sweaty heat and chills as colder snaps of air reached my damp skin.
But, forge forward and it is an exercise in patience, leg muscle and heart rate well worth the undertaking.
That said, respect and understand that there are always potential dangers in this type of excursion.
While Table Mountain is a renowned, well-traveled attraction drawing an estimated 4.2 million visitors annually and regarded as Cape Town’s No. 1 must-see destination, injuries do happen, and for some the trek has proved deadly, due to falls or people becoming trapped and disoriented when the heavy mist rolls in. At some points, it’s impossible to see the tip of your own stretched-out hand, to give you an idea.
Be warned that even if the day begins clear-skied and sunny, this can change abruptly and unapologetically, and frequently does.
It is important not to underestimate the possibility of danger on this amazing natural wonder, particularly so for inexperienced hikers. The park offers safety tips at the visitor centres, and information on the gradient of hikes is also available to help plan your outing.
Also, be aware that the temperature can drop significantly as you ascend, therefore bringing extra layers is advisable.
For those who prefer, guided full-day hikes geared toward individual fitness levels are available. Some routes take two to three hours, depending upon your fitness level, whereas you will need to allot a better part of the day for others.
Heavy fog crawls over Table Mountain, making navigation tricky at points on this fun and challenging hike.
Quick facts & helpful tips:
• The first recorded ascent of Table Mountain was completed by a Portuguese captain named Antonio de Saldanha in 1503. He took the Platteklip Gorge route, which is said to be the most accessible.
* Cable cars leave daily every 10 to 15 minutes from the lower cableway station on Tafelberg Road. Opening and closing times change throughout the year, so check ahead before planning a day trip. A ticket for the cable car is R145 for adults.
• Weather conditions can shift quickly, sometimes disrupting operation of the cable car. Best to check on conditions and closures for Table Mountain before setting out.
• Plan a hike with a registered guide.
Copyright @ 2011 Chic Savvy Travels
Date Added: May 9, 2011 | Comments (0)
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