A Flat Mountain and a Harbor

26 Nov

Cape Town must be one of the coolest cities in the world. It has all of the staples of a hip, cosmopolitan city: its Long Street is a looooong street of trendy-looking bars and al fresco restaurants serving food of all sorts of ethnicities, with a scattering of lounges and clubs livening up the evenings; its downtown buildings are modern and house many preeminent international businesses; its shopping is superb; its sidewalks are clean.

The beautiful city of Cape Town with a backdrop of Table Mountain

It also has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in a city. The city center, called the “City Bowl,” is rimmed by a semi-circle of hills and mountains – including the enormous flat-topped Table Mountain, the adjoining Devil’s Peak, and the adjacent lion-shaped peak of Lion’s Head mountain – forming a metropolitan “bowl” in the midst of the hills and mountains. The outskirts of the city sprawl around a peninsula that boasts of spectacular beaches, stellar national parks, and steep rocky capes (the renowned Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point).

View of Table Mountain through our loft window

During our exploration of eastern to southern Africa, we had seen a range of poverty, underdevelopment, and dilapidation. I was surprised at what a first-rate city Cape Town is – it almost felt like we were no longer even in Africa.

After bidding goodbye to our overland tour group, Adam and I deposited our luggage in a loft room at our hostel, a delightfully clean and big room with a skylight window view of Table Mountain.

We had a quick dinner then called it an early night so we would be well-rested for the next day, Adam’s last day in Africa.

The cable car station at the bottom of the mountain

The main thing Adam wanted to do in Cape Town was traverse to the top of Table Mountain. The mountain is accessible via 2 hour hike or 5 minute cable car ride. Since Adam’s time in Cape Town was limited, we decided to cable car our way up to the top.

From our loft room window, we could see the fog “tablecloth” covering the top of the mountain, which meant the mountaintop views of the cityscape, landscape, and seascape might be obscured by the misty clouds. We decided it would be worth it to be on the top even if we couldn’t see anything beyond the cloud layer. We were lucky that on this day the winds stayed just calm enough to keep the cable car open.

View of Lion's Head, beaches, coastline, and city from Table Mountain

The cable car is a revolving cable car, so if you stay in one spot while the car rises 2,500 feet to the top of the mountain, you will get a 360 degree view out the cable car window. And what a view it is. Fortunately, the foggy tablecloth didn’t completely shroud our cable car view of the crisscrossing streets of the City Bowl, the lion’s head of the adjacent mountain, the bustling harbor, the white-bordered coastline with stretching beaches, and the sandstone layers of the mountainside.

The tablecloth looks misleadingly calm from the base of the mountain. Immediately upon disembarking the cable car, we were attacked with a freezing cold wind that bombarded us with raindrops from all sides.

We attempted to walk around this path on the top of the mountain, but it was just too cold and windy.

We were getting soaked and frozen, but we decided to brave the extreme weather to meander around the walking path that winds across the “table” of the mountain. The walk didn’t last long. The wind gusts were so strong that I had to brace myself from getting knocked over. Each time I stopped to try to take a picture, my camera was almost wrenched from my hands. So, after one particularly brutal rain-filled gust, we made a run for the Table Mountain Cafe.

Mmmmm, hot chocolate

Inside the cafe and armed with steaming hot chocolates, our hands slowly and painfully regaining feeling, we were able to be positive. At least we made it to the top of the mountain!

The crazy weather hadn’t subsided when we exited the cafe, so we cable car’ed back down the mountain and headed back to our hostel. Adam’s last night was a chill night packing and sipping on wine we’d bought at the campsite winery the day before.

Bye bro :(

I was really sad that Adam was leaving. I had had more fun in Africa with my bro than I ever could have imagined.

Waving goodbye to his cab early the next morning, I was officially back on my own.

My last day in Cape Town was spent exploring the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a floating neighborhood of shopping and eating establishments and luxury hotels and highrises zigzagging around the docks of the Port of Cape Town.

V&A Waterfront with a cloud tablecloth covering Table Mountain in the background

That day, the V&A Waterfront appeared to be the weekend hangout of choice for all the tourists and many of the locals: families, teenagers, older couples; it seemed everyone in Cape Town flocked to the outdoor restaurants, the imitation pirate ship, the ferris wheel, the aquarium, the shopping center, and the marina-front benches overlooking the yachts and ships and ferries coming and going.

The Waterfront

Despite the crowds, it was a pleasant, cheerful area. The weather was perfect: the sky was cloudless, the sun was warm, and there was just a slight wind. It was the sort of day that puts me in a good mood.

I strolled along the water for awhile, chowed down a huge omelette and fruit salad lunch at an outdoor cafe, perused South African literature at a bookstore, and wandered through the shopping center longingly gazing at the clothes worn by the fashionable mannequins in the windows of the numerous chic boutiques.

When I passed a movie theater that was playing Breaking Dawn Part I in just an hour, I couldn’t resist. My afternoon was spent sipping a coke and watching a vampire love story on the big screen.

My evening was spent packing and preparing to leave the continent. After almost two months, my time in Africa is over. Tomorrow I fly over the Atlantic to Buenos Aires to begin my journey across South America.

2 Responses to “A Flat Mountain and a Harbor”

  1. Crystal Connor December 31, 2011 at 2:08 am #

    Carly,
    I’m so happy you got to see Vic Falls and my favorite city in SA, Cape Town. Next time you go should go down the garden route and do the bungee off the tallest suspension bridge in the world or go shark cage diving. Also, the winelands are amazing!
    Happy Travels pretty girl!
    Crystal Connor

    • Carly Larson December 31, 2011 at 11:57 am #

      Hi Crystal! I will definitely have to go back to Cape Town because there is so much to do that I didn’t get to do! Going to the winelands being one of the major ones. And if I can get up the nerve to shark dive and do such a high bungee jump. Hope all is well with you!

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