I got up very early at Moonglow Guesthouse to visit Table Mountain and the drive was gorgeous.
On World Environment day in 1998 President Nelson Mandela declared Table Mountain ‘a gift to the Earth.’
The upper cableway portal towers 3563 feet (1086 m) above Cape Town slipped in and out of view. The clouds flowing over the mountain, known as the ‘Tablecloth’, form when moisture laden air is blown in from the sea and condenses over the mountain. The precipitation clings to plants and rocks filtering down through cracks and fissures resulting in springs and streams that replenish the water-table. Cape Town’s Khoi name, Camissa or ‘Place of Sweet Waters’ suggests the mountains vital role in providing pure fresh water along an arid coastline.
A power outage shut down all the computers and tickets couldn’t be sold when I first arrived. So I wandered through some sales stalls hoping for a change.
Then someone fired up the generator but the cableways couldn’t carry their normal capacity of 65 and moved real slow.
Officially opened to the public on October 4, 1929, the first cable car had a tin roof and wooden sides that carried 20 passengers.
The new revolving cars came into use 68 years later and usually carry 65 passengers at 800 people per hour. The car can carry a weight of 11464 lbs (5200 kg) and it usually travels a maximum of 32 feet (10 m) per second.
Not so this day, so I waited 2 hours in the Queue enjoying the view.
Maybe I should have hiked. In fact I later talked to a couple my age who hiked up in 2 hrs.
Finally got to board the cableway and go up where the clouds mostly blocked the, what should have been, spectacular distant views.
I was totally amazed at the apparatus to move these cable ways. The length of the cables is 3937 feet (1200 m) each and they weigh a total of 18 tons. The cables are attached to counter weights each weighing 134 tons.
The cableway is round for two reasons; for excellent aerodynamics in high winds and so the floor can rotate giving 360 degree panoramic views. When the wind does blow there’s a water tank below the floor of the cabin that keeps things steady. When there’s no wind, the tank is emptied at the upper station.
This great relief map shows how far away it is to major cities around the world, Chicago, where I reenter the US, 8490 miles (13663 km). Table Mountain National Park stretches from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south encompassing the seas and coastline of the peninsula. This narrow portion of land with its many beautiful valleys, bays and beaches is circled by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the warmer waters of False Bay in the east.
My views may not have been superb, but I’ll bet on a clear day you can see forever.
Named in 1503 by Admiral Antonio de Saldana when he anchored his fleet in the bay and climbed the mountain naming it Taboa do Cabo – Table of the Cape. Yet long before the Europeans, the local Khoi people called the mountain ‘Hoerikwaggo’, The Mountain of the Sea.
I settled with observing the wildlife. These Rock Hyrax, or dassie, look like overgrown guinea pigs. Believe it or not, the dassie’s closest relative is the African elephant.
I too soon ran out of time trying to wait out the clouds and caught the cableway back down…
…through the Tablecloth. And thankfully not having to wait for two hours.
After all, I still had to return to the Cape of Good Hope and see penguins on my last day in South Africa.
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