Exploring Table Mountain

Table Mountain. A landmark that embodies everything about Cape Town. In last weeks post I spent my time hanging off the side of the mountain, but my abseiling adventures represented only a small fraction of the time I spent in Table Mountain National Park. In reality, there were numerous hikes and one lucky cloudless day where the views of the sprawling urban landscape below were truly unparallelled.

There are several different hiking trails winding up through the mountain and each caters for a different type of hiker.

The Platteklip Gorge route is the easiest hike and follows a well formed path. It is easily the most popular route, so for solo travellers nervous about making the hike alone, this is the best bet.

Skeleton Gorge is a bit tougher, but definitely more gorgeous. Hike this one in a small group and watch your step if you are planning to hike back down. The step-like formations on this one look sturdy, but you want to be careful, hikers slipping and falling isn’t unheard of, and on this route, a slip could very easily lead to a broken bone.

India Venster was my favourite trail. Definitely one of the most scenic, and can be quite tough for those of us that aren’t huge fans of the gym (ahem). This one requires scrambling and climbing up rock formations, so unless you are experienced with the route, do not hike this one alone. Also remember to pack a lot of sunscreen and water for this particular route.

Lion’s Head is a mountain not quite as high as Table Mountain, but no less gorgeous. The hiking route to this peak is especially popular at night and on full moons. Full moon Lions Head hikes are common in Cape Town, and it’s best to get in early in the evening, as the slopes can get rather packed as the night goes on.

I didn’t always take my camera when exploring the mountain, as the stories of robberies on tourists occurring on descent are prevalent. So unfortunately I don’t have as many photos of the area as I would have liked. However, there was one amazingly clear day that I just couldn’t resist packing my camera.

I should note that the weather in Cape Town is moderately bipolar and that this effects the views from the top of the mountain significantly. If you have a bit of time, try to climb and explore the mountain on a day with little cloud cover and minimal wind. You can also check the Aerial Cableway website for up to date weather and visibility information.

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The mountain itself is teeming with native flora and fauna. My personal favourite were the many Rock Hyrax’s, or ‘Dassies’ as they are known by locals. Dassies are mammalian, and despite resembling a large guinea pig, genetically, their closest living relative is the enormous African Elephant!

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Climbing a mountain with such unpredictable weather means that sometimes, on even the clearest day, periods of total cloud cover occur. Its amazing how the clouds seem to appear out of nowhere and pass as quickly as they came.

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Though the hiking can at times be very intense, the absolutely stunning views from the summit are worth each and every aching muscle.

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There are plenty of ‘must-see’ parts of Cape Town, but the view of the Mother City from the highest peaks has got to be up there with the absolute best.

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Hostel: Green Elephant Backpackers
Camera: iPhone 5 and GoPro Hero
Budget: R150 ($15) per night for an eight bed dorm
Remember: Sunscreen, at least 2L of water, hiking shoes and a hat
Get There: Catch the number 110 MyCiti Bus to the base of table mountain, or catch a cab or minibus cab to Kirstenbosch gardens depending on which route you choose to take

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

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