They say that the only predictable thing about the weather in Cape Town is that it's unpredictable, and that if you wake up and the sky is clear, get your butt up Table Mountain before it changes. So that's what we did.
Took the hop-on hop-off bus through downtown to the cableway station at the base of the mountain.
Passed some really nice real estate on the way, some of the most desirable properties in the city. There are two factors that dictate property values in Cape Town, views and wind. If you are in a wind-free zone with mountain views you're on the money.
We lined up for fifty minutes to ride the cable car up the mountain, but let me tell you there are far worse places you could stand in line. From our vantage point here we had a birds-eye view of the city below us, Lion's Head and Signal Hill to the west, Devil's Peak to the east, in the distance one way there's the Atlantic Ocean and in the other direction seemingly endless mountain ranges, and to top it off towering 700m above us, Table Mountain herself. And if all that wasn't enough, we also spotted a couple of endemic Cape Sugarbirds feeding on the proteas. Nice.
Now the bottom cableway station is at an altitude of 363m and the top one is at 1067m, and that ol' cable goes pretty much straight up. Standing at the bottom gazing up, it is more than a little daunting, but once you're standing inside the cable car (with about sixty other people) and she starts up the mountain, it feels surreal rather than scary. It's hard to really grasp where exactly you are. The floor of the car rotates on the way up which means everyone get a look at every angle on the way.
At the top we disembarked and what can I say about the view? Well I guess it kind of feels like you are on top of Africa. From the waterfront, when you look up you see Signal Hill which looks huge, but from Table Mountain, you look down on Lion's Head, which is twice the height of Signal Hill, so yeah, Table Mountain is high.
We wandered around on the summit for a couple of hours, enjoying breathtaking views in every direction, looking at the interesting vegetation (of the six floristic kingdoms which cover the globe, the Cape fynbos covers the smallest area and has the highest diversity, about 8500 species, 6000 of which are found nowhere else on Earth). We also spotted a couple more new birds, Orange-breasted Sunbird (a Cape endemic) and some soaring White-necked Ravens, one of my most wanted birds for Africa.
When we turned south the view was completely different again, with the Southern Ocean in the distance and the craggy peaks of the Twelve Apostles stretching off down the peninsula. It is impossible to get a photo that anywhere near does the place justice because of the sheer scale of it all.
Now, further along the track I spotted our second African mammal species. A critter I first read about as a six-year-old in one of many animal fact books and the fact that they are the nearest living relative of the elephant absolutely fascinated me. Of course I am talking about the adorable Rock Hyrax! For those who are unaware I guess the best way to describe their appearance is like an overgrown guinea pig, though taxonomically they are nothing alike. Guinea pigs are rodents, hyraxes belong to an order of their own. Anyway, what it all amounts to is that they have poor thermoregulation which means they need to sun themselves to get warm, they have stumpy little toes with nails rather than claws, and they have two tusk-like fangs at the front of their mouth.
One man did get a little close and I definitely saw a lip curl happen before the hyrax ran off, and I have to say those fangs are intimidating. All up we spotted about a dozen of them, some feeding and some sunning themselves, and yeah, it was pretty awesome.
We grabbed a late lunch at the café and then it was time to head back down the mountain. Once again I was a little nervous but as soon as the car started to move it wasn't scary anymore.
Down at the base station we jumped back on the bus and as we were leaving I spotted a couple of Pied Crows from the upper deck, another African bird I was keen to see.
The tour now took us south to Camp's Bay, a trendy seaside suburb, and then back up along the coast past white sand beaches and kelp forests.
They say that Cape Town is the perfect place to live. According to its Feng shui it is a safe and protected city, because it is located on the seat of an arm chair. Table Mountain is the back, Lion's Head and Devil's Peak are the arms. Good chi flows in from the water and is retained by these mountains. Robben Island slows the chi down for a calming effect and all in all you have a pretty comfy place to live. And a pretty nice place to visit too.