After returning to Durban end of November, I spent two and a half weeks in Cape Town during the manic holidays over December and January. I couldn’t resist hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. The day after New Year’s Day, we hiked up Table Mountain first thing at 6:00am. The following evening we hiked up Lion’s Head at sunset and then the next morning we whizzed up Table Mountain again. Resistance utterly futile!
Both expeditions up Table Mountain (1,086 meters) took place from Kirstenbosch Gardens. I had my camera with me during the first, stopping along the way to capture the ever-changing vistas – one minute the mist rolled in and the next it cleared. We enjoyed a few breaks to refuel with fruit, homemade oat crunchies and fudge, Lindt chilli chocolate and nuts. The second climb I’d left my camera behind – what a difference that made! – and with only a couple of breaks, we knocked off almost forty minutes from our original time of four hours.
Once through Kirstenbosch Gardens, the easy stroll led us to the steeper gorge. Surrounded by indigenous forest, lush green vegetation that kept the heat at bay, we hiked near a stream and mini waterfall, almost at the halfway point where we enjoyed a snack and gulp or two of water. Upon tackling the couple of wooden ladders, a rock fall begged to be scrambled over. Leaving the forest behind, the cobalt blue sky opened up with a panorama view over False Bay, Constantia Valley and Hottentot Holland Mountains. From the top of the gorge at Breakfast Rock, then up Nursery Buttress we reached the highest point, Maclear’s Beacon. Beyond the interesting rock formations and mountain fynbos, Table Bay, Robben Island and Devil’s Peak suddenly filled our vision. After another break, we almost ran across the Central Table, along the edge of the mountain, while admiring the city below with Lion’s Head and Signal Hill to the left.
Another sprint lasting a few kilometers or so down and then up to the cable car, our ticket to ride down the mountain.
Between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, Lion’s Head peaks at 669 metres above sea level. An hour and a half before sunset, we started the ascent. The mountain overlooks the city and Table Bay on one side and the jagged Atlantic Ocean coastline, gilded by the setting sun, on the other.
Apart from the thick band of cloud hugging the horizon, the early evening sky pulsated above, fading after each press of my camera’s shutter. An hour later we reached the top of Lion’s Head. The last thirty minutes of the hike turned steep, providing adventurous chains and ladders to assist with clambering up the rock face. Every step worth it!
With our feet dangling over large rocks, we admired the stunning views while watching the sun slip away. As soon as the sun disappeared the hundreds of people disappeared with it, back down the mountain before darkness completely enveloped us. We stayed for an extra twenty minutes absorbing the darkening night and serenity, the city’s lights flickering below. The only thing I regretted was leaving my tripod behind, and not being able to perfect the night shots. Forcing ourselves to leave, we decided to return again to do a full moon walk and possibly spend the night in a tent; same time next year!
Don’t forget a head torch and warm clothing.