I remember the day clearly. I was scanning medical documents at the office. One by one, each document passed through the feeder, while I was deeply focused on a quiz that I recently took. The quiz was a Buzzfeed article on What City Should You Actually Live In. For me, it said Cape Town. I don’t know if it was through impulse or natural inspiration, but I texted my friend Now I wanna go to Cape Town. I waited for his text. Finally, he texted back lets goo! I think he thought I was joking, but three days later we booked our tickets to South Africa.
Perhaps — it was inspiration — that led me to Cape Town, especially Table Mountain. The flat-topped mountain and the fog that ascends from it illustrates a surreal piece of landscape that is full of raw emotion. Devil’s Peak and Lion’s head bow down to the grand mountain. It is the highlight of the façade of mountains that stretch behind it. The vitality and rawness of the mountain is captured as it watches over the City Bowl. It is a part of Africa! The unique flora illustrate this fact. Yes! it was Table Mountain that brought me to South Africa.
What I was to behold in Table Mountain was — as a fellow South African described it — Magic! Below is my best description of what I think he was leading me to…
After four months of planning and a two hour flight, including a layover in London, we finally arrived at Cape Town International Airport. We took the N2 highway going to our Hostel. The road was wide and surprisingly empty. Meanwhile, we passed through the winelands and the township. It was further down where I got my first glimpse of Table Mountain. Just like I thought, it stood up tall and strong. There were storm clouds that churned above it, but still, I managed to feel small in front of it. I could sense the anger of the mountain. There was a huge storm that passed by and it looked like there was a forecast of rain still to come.
We woke up early the next morning as the sun rose above the horizon. The sun painted the city in orange and our day began with bright optimism. We walked passed the Soccer stadium as we headed towards the V&A Waterfront. It was on the ferry to Robben Island that I noticed that Table Mountain was shrouded in a thick fog, which caused my heart to drop because that meant the Aerial Cableway would be closed due to poor visibility. Meanwhile, the boat is rocking back and forth through three meters swells. I was still hopeful! I still believed we would go up Table Mountain.
Fortunately, on our way back the fog began to clear. After lunch, we took a cab up the winding roads to Table Mountain, which was a 200 ZAR fare from the V&A Waterfront. We took the Aerial Cableway (205 ZAR Round Trip) to the top of the Mountain where we were greeted with amazing views of the city surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. It was towards the west where we looked down upon the city. I saw Lion’s head held high and confidently above the city. Further west, was a succession of three peaks that were covered in fog. The scene was magic! Finally, to the North, we saw Devil’s Peak, which was also covered in Fog.
Legend has it that a Dutch Man named Jan Van Hunks, a prodigious pipe smoker who lived at the foot of the mountain circa 1700. he was forced by his wife to leave the house whenever he smoked his pipe. One day, while smoking on the slopes of the peak, he met a mysterious stranger who also smoked. They each bragged of how much they smoked and so they fell into a pipe-smoking contest. The stranger turned out to be the Devil and Van Hunks eventually won the contest, but not before the smoke that they had made had covered the mountain, forming the table cloths cloud.
Story by the 19th Century Poet Dante Cabriel Rossetti in his poem Jan Van Hunks (The Dutchman’s Wager)
At the top, there is a wide diversity of plants and floral life that illustrates South Africa. Much of the floral landscape makes up the Cape Floral Kingdom (Capensis Kingdom). One of my biggest regret was not hiking up Table Mountain, a four hour hike one way. I believe that hiking would have provided the best experience of Table Mountain. It would have been the best way to explore the rich flora of Table Mountain. Alas, we were racing against time and had only two hours to explore the mountain.
The two hours we had to explore were well worth it. If I had one advice, it would be to use any opportunity to explore Table Mountain, especially during South Africa’s winter month. The weather is variable. We had only one day to explore Table Mountain, which was closed for most of the week due to fog or rain. There were so many travelers who didn’t get the chance to go up and explore the top…
In hindsight, the experience was amazing and something I would recommend to any traveller. It was very easy to get lost in deep thoughts when looking down on the city bowl, the two oceans, and the series of mountains that stretch along the coast. There is so many legends, stories, and poems that are inspired by the mountain. It is a beacon of hope to lost sailors, it is place to explore for avid adventurers, and it is a muse for lovers and storytellers. It is an experiences that can inspire. After all, it was my inspiration to travel to South Africa.