What’s a trip to Cape Town without going to the top of Table Mountain? Obviously I wanted to do this from the get-go but it’s apparently also one of the around 15 things you just HAVE TO DO in Cape Town, which I found to be unnecessary pressure for people who only had five days there…
…because taking the cableway up was NOT that simple. First of all, Table Mountain is often under cloud cover, or what locals call its “table cloth,” meaning you can go up, but 1) you won’t see anything of the view 2) you may fall off because you won’t see the edge either. Also, when it’s windy, the cableway closes. Even if you’re already up there, and almost 6 months pregnant, and in no shape to hike down.
We discovered further obstacles when we stopped by after visiting the botanical gardens on Sunday afternoon: for a full week or so before we arrived (including that Sunday), the cableway had been closed for maintenance. It re-opened Monday August 8th. August 9th was a national holiday (National Women’s Day) and South Africans, like the French, do the “pont.” So, needless to say, when we stopped by around 3 pm on Monday (because all the guidebooks say there’s less of a line in the afternoon), it was swamped. Not only would we have waited two hours to get the car up, but we would also have waited two hours to come back down, and the final car down was at 6 pm (so… logistically impossible). We gave up and planned to go up on Wednesday morning before our evening flight home.
So, here’s how we eventually managed to go up the cableway with beautiful weather on our final morning in Cape Town.
- We lucked out and had beautiful weather. I had brought my coat because it can apparently be much colder up top than down below, but I didn’t need it.
- We bought our tickets online the night before to avoid the hour-long ticket line. We obviously couldn’t print them but I could download them onto my iPhone.
- We arrived at 8 am. The cableway opens at 8:30. We were on the first car up. People who arrived at 8:30 had an hour’s wait.
- We came back down at noon, when there was no line for the ride down.
Table Mountain was really beautiful and a great way to spend our last day in South Africa but given the number of potential obstacles I would say not to stress if you can’t make it during your trip. Of course if you’re in good physical shape and not afraid of a little light climbing, you can hike up for free in about 3 hours, which is what our friends did the day before. But if it’s cloudy you can still fall off.
So, here are some pictures.
The cable cars are pretty fancy, with both closed and open windows and a revolving floor. I was a little too afraid of heights to deal with the open windows so sat on the little bench in the middle of the car that didn’t turn. The car was much emptier on the way down (very few people leave at noon apparently) and J managed to get that last shot.
There is a restaurant that opens at 10:30 where we had second breakfast (after getting up at 6:30). There’s also a shop and a mail box where we sent off our post cards. There’s an open picnic-type area between the two and the dassies hang out nearby taking advantage of dropped crumbs. Otherwise there are a number of different hikes you can do on the plateau. We didn’t really do any of them but wandered around the shortest one, because I didn’t want us to get lost and waste time—we did have a flight out that evening, and also, my legs were pretty tired.