We never woke up intending to hike to the top of Table Mountain; it couldn’t have been further from our minds. Yesterday the mist and fog had blanketed the mountain, and because of the inclement weather, the cable car was not running. Today, however, the sun was back, and Table Mountain stood resplendent in its rays. We jumped in the car and eagerly made our way to the cable car station in anticipation of our ride to the top of Cape Town’s most famous landmark.
Plans soon backfired as we arrived to see an almost endless queue waiting in line to board the cable car. I am talking about hundreds of visitors all standing in the direct glare of the sun’s rays without any shade.
Now I’m not too fond of queues, and even though this was our only chance to venture onto the mountain top, there was no way I was ready to add myself and my family onto the end of what looked like a never-ending line. We knew we were moving on from Cape Town the following day, but sometimes you have to choose the correct judgement for your own family, and mine was not to join that queue!
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A Hike to a Waterfall
As a consolation, we decided to continue past the cable car queue and drive further along the road so that we could at least take some photographs to prove we had come this far. And that’s when it happened.
Jamie, my older son, spotted a waterfall a little way up from the roadside, and before we knew it, he had convinced the rest of us to go up and take a closer look. Puffing and panting to get to the waterfall, I foolishly thought that this would be our Table Mountain experience, and we would soon be heading back to the car for refreshments and some air conditioning. Wrong!
Jamie had convinced his 14-year-old brother and my husband that it would be the best experience ever if we hiked to the top of Table Mountain. So between the four of us, we have Jamie, who loves adventure and climbing, Dominic, who goes with the flow, my husband, who hates walking (oh unless it involves a coffee stop at the end) and me, who is happy to try anything once!
Starting our Table Mountain hike
We started up the steps, or should I say boulders at Plattekip Gorge, which led the way to the top of the world and collided with runners coming back down.
It transpires that there is a Table Mountain running club. It encourages its members to run up and then back down daily, and as they passed us by, it looked as if they had walked to the corner shop rather than defeat a mountain. One guy even overtook us as we were going up and then returned by us on his way down. Oh, to be that fit!
Let me reiterate that this hike had not been pre-planned, and therefore, we didn’t have the right footwear on or enough water, think sandals and flip-flops, which made the climb even harder, and we were always stopping to rest.
The camaraderie with other hikers along the way kept us going. We overtook them, then they passed us always with that knowing nod to one another that we were all suffering, but the reward would be worth it.
Each time Dominic stopped for a rest, I made him carry on moving quite quickly, fearful that once he sat down for too long, there would be no way of continuing. The views from the mountain as we got higher were awe-inspiring, and we even bumped into some furry creatures along the way called Cape Rock Hydrax that reminded us of large guinea pigs.
Reaching the Peak
Finally, after what seemed a lifetime but was, in reality, nearly 4 hours, we heard the sound of pan pipes. Were we delusional? Had we succumbed to heatstroke? No, all was well apart from sweat in places that I didn’t know existed. Turning the corner, we saw a lone man sitting against a rock playing pan pipes and selling water. Hooray, we wouldn’t die on the mountain of dehydration, and if he had carried water to this spot, then we couldn’t be too far from the top. Right?
It turns out it was another 30 minutes climb with legs like jelly and mouths like the bottom of a birdcage until we eventually reached the plateau at the height of 1,085m. We hugged it out as if we were finalists in some warped endurance race and found an inner pride in accomplishing this feat as a family.
The View from the Top
We wandered around the top of Table Mountain, admiring the views out over Cape Town and out to Robben Island, Nelson Mandela’s home for so many years. We took photographs and, of course, visited the cafe where Dominic and Jamie devoured their ice-cream rewards, and my husband got the coffee he had been yearning for on the way up the mountain; well, a promise is a promise.
And as for me, I got to experience something in my lifetime that I still talk about to this day. In fact, without Jamie suggesting we attempt our Table Mountain hike, I wouldn’t be sharing my story with you today, so I am thankful that he did, and we all shared this unique experience.
Oh and if you are wondering whether we hiked back down the mountain the answer is no, we queued for the cable car which in 5 minutes had us back at the bottom!!
Advice for your Hike up Table Mountain
Check the weather 24 hours in advance.
Have plenty of water and a snack.
Use factor 50 sunscreen.
Wear a hat.
Wear sturdy walking shoes; this is a tough hike.
Be aware of the time you start your Table Mountain hike to allow enough time to reach the top and then return before the cable car closes or it starts to get dark.
If you would prefer to hike with a professional guide then you may like one of these options:
Table Mountain Cable Car Information is here.
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