Wherever I went in Cape Town, even if Table Mountain was not immediately in sight, all I had to do was incline my head in a different direction or wait until the minibus or taxi I was in turned a corner, and there it was, filling the space where the sky should be, like some huge movie matte. With the mountain repeatedly ambushing me in this way, I was gripped by a determination to take the cable car up to the top.
I organised the Table Mountain trip after work one day during the second week, and managed to persuade all the non-South Africans to come along. As work didn't knock off until 5:00 it was a bit touch and go whether we'd manage to get up and down in time before the last car down.
After chilly temperatures and high winds the day before, which had forced the closure of the cable car, the weather was absolutely perfect. There was not a breath of wind and the evening sun was beautifully warm.
As one of those people who only feels at ease when their feet are securely planted on terra firma, I wasn't looking forward to the cable car trip very much. The excitingly high-tech revolving floor of the car wasn't a favourite feature, but providing I stayed away from the windows, and remembered not to look down, or at the cables, which for some reason gave me that horrible twirling-falling vertigo sensation, I wasn't too bad. The same couldn't be said of another member of our party. She stood on the central, non-rotating floor panel, holding on tight to a strut, with her eyes closed. When we stopped at the top she looked close to tears. When we got off I asked her if she was OK. Apparently, someone had told her the journey lasted 12 minutes, so when we stopped after about four, she'd thought we were stuck and had begun to panic.
The top of the mountain was breathtaking - it wasn't just the awesome views that made it special. It had an indescribable atmosphere all its own, like many of the high, wild places I've been to - the Yorkshire Moors, Rannoch Moor in Scotland; the Pyrenees. Even though there were probably a couple of hundred people up there, it felt deserted, and was almost impossibly quiet and peaceful. I'd expected the top of the mountain to be barren, but it was covered in gorse, aloe and a variety of other bushes I didn't recognise. There was plenty of wildlife up there too. We saw a lizard on a rock, and there were signs pointing to the best places to see some springbok-like animals the name of which I can't remember. There were silhouettes of them on the signs.
From the top of the mountain you get a pretty good view of Robben Island. I'd hoped to be able to take the boat over, as one of our friends from Wanganui had been and thoroughly recommended it, but the trip takes half a day, and I just didn't get the time. If you don't know, Robben Island is the penal colony where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Never mind, I'll have to go when I return, dragging Iain along.
I really must go now. It's gone my bedtime and I shall turn into a pumpkin if I'm not careful.
I'll post some more pics in the next couple of days.
There's an interesting history of the Table Mountain cableway here.
The Robben Island Museum's website is worth a visit.