Scenery east of the town of Trai Mat near Da Lat, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Da Lat, Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Not sure yet!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On top of Table Mountain

The city of Cape Town is dominated by the famous geological structure of Table Mountain. You don't really understand it until you see it, and it's almost always visible from some angle no matter where you are in the city.

And you can't help but look at it. Stuck in traffic? Stare at Table Mountain. Sitting on an outdoor patio? Odds are good that it faces Table Mountain. Very often, you will be able to watch the clouds falling over the edge of the mountain. They call that "the tablecloth".

But really, what you want to do is to be on top of the mountain. Fortunately, there are two ways to accomplish this!

The most popular way is to take the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. We'll tell you more about that later in today's post. But our regular readers know that we love hiking, and Table Mountain is a hiker's paradise!

So yesterday morning, we met our friends Syed and Shahida and took a route up the mountain called "Skeleton Gorge". This would take us up the east side of the mountain range, then across to Maclear's Beacon, the highest point in the range at 1,088 meters (3,570 ft). Then from there to the Cableway station for a fun ride back to the bottom!

We planned on meeting at the Kirstenbosch parking lot at 8:00am, but traffic held us both up. By the time we actually got together at the base of the trail it was closer to 9:00am! No worries, it was a beautiful day, and most of the gorge itself is well shaded by the trees.

But Skeleton Gorge is uphill. Every step of the way...

And eventually, the steps turn to ladders! Here's Ruth and Shahida, making their way up!

Because of the trees, you don't actually get a view until you're about two hours into it.

But then you still have a ways to go!

Rest break, enjoying the view.

Us, but no...we're not at the top yet!

Syed and Shahida. They're always laughing and joking around!

Some interesting rock formations along the way.

But every time you make it to another ridge, there is something higher up! It seemed like the uphill climb never stopped. The gorge itself was pretty tough, but then you mistakenly believe that you must be near the top. Nope. you're only about half way!

The "top" of the mountain is called Maclear's Beacon. We made it there at 12:45pm, which is actually pretty good time.

But the top of the mountain isn't exactly where the best views are. You actually have to continue another 3 kms along the top ridge of Table Mountain towards the Cableway station.  This is a fairly flat section because you're actually going across the "table" part of the mountain.

But the views are spectacular. (You can click on the photo to make it full screen!)

Bird's eye view of Cape Town.

You can see Robben Island in the distance. This is where Nelson Mandela had been housed for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned.

Oh. There's our ride down!

Us, high above Cape Town!

This part of the path is not difficult, but it's very close to the edge!

The opposite side of the path shows typical mountaintop vegetation.

Lots of these fellows enjoying the sunshine.

And even a few flowers out, however this would be much better in the September time frame during Cape Town's spring.

As we got closer to the Cableway, we also found all of the tourists! Of course the easiest way to get to the top of the mountain is the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. And on a day like today, (a rare cloud free day!) there were a lot of people enjoying the view...

It was so busy that we got into the lineup for the ride down. We probably waited about a half hour, but not bad. At least they have portions of the waiting area that have a view so you're not bored while you're waiting!

Almost our turn!

As we boarded, it was explained to everyone that the floor of the car actually full rotation as you're going up or down! This was very cool and ensures that everyone onboard gets a circular view of the surroundings.

Ready to head down!

And as we slowly spun around, we passed the other cablecar going up!

Online tickets for the Cableway are currently R205 ($21.95) for the return trip or R105 ($11.25) for a one way trip.

We were so lucky to have a clear blue sky yesterday. Very often, even on a sunny day, the top of Table Mountain has a thick layer of cloud rolling over the edge of it. This is known locally as "the tablecloth". Here's a good example of the tablecloth only one day prior to our hike...

Clouds rolling over the edge of Table Mountain.


  1. Completely new geography lesson today. Awesome hike. I'd be "clenching" along the edge of that pathway, that's for sure.

    1. It was a fantastic hike! For those not wanting to actually hike up you can take the Cableway to the top and then spend the day at the top hiking around and enjoying all the views.

      Yes, there were a couple of times that I felt like I was just a little too close to the edge.

  2. What an uphill or up-mountain that hike was! I'm pretty sure I'd have taken the cable car up, but I'm SO glad you invited us along for the cyber version. ;-)

    1. Don't worry Dianne the majority of people take the Cableway to the top but once you are up there you could easily spend hours wandering around on the top.

  3. Breathtaking for sure - oh my - goosebumps - you make geography so fun!

    1. It was beautiful up there for sure and we were so lucky to have had such a fantastic day to do it!

  4. You would think that if you climbed all the way up that there would be no charge to take the cable car down.

    1. That would sure be a nice reward, maybe it is something they should think about. We sure did enjoy that ride down though!

  5. Great travel log, Kevin. Looks like you all had a great time - and probably burned about 5,000 Calories on that climb! The reminder of Mandela's imprisonment in such a gorgeous place reminded me of living in Marin County, California and catching views of San Quentin prison and Alcatraz every single day on my way to work!

    1. It must have been so sad to have looked at those wonderful views and then not have been able to enjoy them freely. Have you watched the movie about Nelson Mandela? If not then we highly recommend it.

  6. Oh, we'd love to do this hike. How beautiful and rewarding it was!

    1. We hope that someday you will get the chance to do, it was spectacular!

  7. Nice post and more gorgeous views. As mentioned on my post, there are so many trails up (someone mentioned 130 to me) that you can hike the mountain over and over again with a different experience. We went to Kirstenbosch so we saw the forest rising along the side of Table Mountain on that side...but on the other side, where we did the India Venster hike, it was basically straight climbing without any cover (that's why you have to do it really early - once the sun turns the corner around Devil's Peak it gets very hot).
    Nice post,
    Frank (bbqboy)


There are more comments on our facebook page at

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.