Hiking up Table Mountains, Cape Town, South Africa

It was day 1 of our holiday in Cape Town, South Africa. We planned to do a short activity on this day as the family was jet lagged. We had arrived the evening before, and barely settled in to our rented apartment. With the kids unpacking I had spent time sitting on the balcony enjoying a stunning sunset on a perfectly clear day.

We had gotten up quite early today and were done with breakfast at 5 am, much before the sun had risen. Kids had missed the dinner last night and were quite famished. With the kids done with breakfast and busy watching TV, I sat on the balcony with my Husband and our warm cups of tea. It was a Long 14 hour flight here and we were tired. We talked slowly discussing what would be the best activity to do today.

The morning was cloudy and the balcony was west facing. We saw the sky lighten as dawn came. It felt calm, the city was still sleeping. After a quick change, we had a round of snacks, packed our bags and were ready to go exploring. We got a taxi to take us up to the cableway at the Table Mountain.

The Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain range forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is first thing you see when you approach the city; be it from land, air or sea. It is even featured in the Flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia. It is a major tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top.

We planned to take the cableway up, walk around, have an early lunch, head back home for an early dinner and early to bed.

It was a winter day – the sky had cleared up, it was sunny with strong winds. The cableway was closed as the strong winds made them accident prone. We waited for the cableway to open. The children were restless.

To keep them entertained I suggested we hike around. We got on one of the hiking trails. There were many hikers around being a sunny Sunday morning. The kids were excited to see people going up. We continued following the trail slowly and steadily gaining height on the mountain. In the beginning the trail was easy and path was wide.

The sun stayed on our back keeping us warm. The temperature was 7C with wind speed at 32km/h. The wind came in bursts; blowing hard and then dying down for sometime.

The kids and Sohail (my husband) climbed up with much ease and at a fast pace. The kids ran ahead on a mission to find the waterfall. We could hear the water flowing but nothing was in sight. They paused every now and then, waiting for me to catch up, as they ate snacks.

I on other hand found it quite a challenge especially as trail gained height it become tough. At many places the rocks were high (like climbing 3-4 steps at a time) and this required me to leap up.

Needless to say I wasn’t dressed for this. My trousers would not stretch making it difficult for me to pull up my leg and get on the rock. My new leather shoes (thoroughly spoiled by now) were not meant for this hike. I often slipped, twisted my foot, and fell as my shoe grip was poor. Anyways I kept at it like the slow tortoise in the ‘Hare and a tortoise Race’.

The climbers coming down the trail would say to me ‘o you must be the mama, your kids are getting worried about you’. While my kids waited for me, they spoke quite loudly and with some concern about me being lost on the trail.

One couple told me to make sure I had the car keys so my family couldn’t leave without me.

Many kindhearted climbers offered me a hand up the steep rocks when they saw me struggling.

Towards the end of trail I was drained, tired and frigid. The trail had come in the shadow of mountain and the weather was wintry and blusterous. The wind was chilling to bone.

Many times I paused to wait for the wind to die down. My eyes were dry, red and I had a runny nose. My hands were frozen, red and swollen. My whole body was in pain. I almost gave up. My youngest one was crying from the cold and wanted to go back. The kids felt very cold as we had no caps or gloves. We hadn’t planned on hiking our way up.

I’m so grateful to the climbers coming down who told us ‘you are almost there’ ‘you have done so well’ ‘the view up there is really worth it’ ‘you can do it’. Many smiled and gave us thumbs up. They told Yahya, my 4 year old that he was the bravest boy in world and perhaps the only small child they had seen today climb all the way up by himself. The boys received many compliments, pats on the back, thumbs up and motivating statements that they decided to keep going.

I was envious of the climbers who would cross me and go effortlessly; they were gone within seconds. There were some that ran all the way up and even ran down; in leaps and bounds. Aha I wish I was in better shape. They were nimble on their feet and this reminded me of mountain goats.

When we finally reached the top the feeling was exhilarating. The view was stunning. The crystal blue water, the city below and the stony mountain with sparse vegetation. I could not grip my phone well enough to take many good photos but I did manage some. My fingers felt numb (no gloves and no pockets to keep my hands warm in). Temperature was 7C when we had started the walk at the lower station and winds were 32km/h. Though I didn’t check the temperature on the summit but it was clearly close to 0C or maybe a bit minus.

We walked around the place to get a 360 degree view of the city and the mountain. With shaking hands I took some photos. I almost dropped my phone at one of the places.

Going down was easier is some aspects but in parts where the climb had felt vertical I had to sit and climb down using my hands. My legs now felt like jelly and they shivered if I paused too long. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I kept telling myself I have to keep going. Boys had slipped on the way down and had minor scratches. Sakina (my Daughter) was also complaining of pain in her legs. Sohail had pulled a leg muscle as he lost balance trying to save Yahya from falling off a high rock. It was some adventure.

All in all we had done 9 km. The route we took was to The Platteklip Gorge, a prominent gorge up the centre of the main table, with medium level difficulty. The top is 1,067 metres (3,501 ft) above sea level. It is around 4 km climb up and gets challenging towards the end when trail becomes steep.

Average time to do hike is about 2.5 hours but can be done between 3-5 hours depending on one’s fitness level. We took 6 hours to do it.

Maybe I’ll take up climbing and go for another hike on this trip. Kids have said NO WAY!

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