Table Mountain: The Guardian of Cape Town
The story of the Cape Town begins with the beauty of Table Mountain. Table Mountain is one of the official new seven wonders of Nature, voted by public, for its scenic beauty and the magnificent appearance on planet earth. The epic view and feeling you get on top of the mountain is truly spiritual and that it is the stairway to heaven! Astonishingly, the mountain, is five times older than Rockies and six times older than Himalayas.
Families, hikers, photographers and natural lovers get attracted to the beauty of the Table Mountain. The attraction it attains is mainly due to the Aerial cableway, which made the travel to the top effortless.
Location: Cape Town, South Africa.
Facts and Features of Table Mountain:
- The mountain is the only terrestrial feature to give its name to a constellation- Mensa, meaning The Table.
- The rocks that make up Table Mountain are around +/- 600 millions old.
- It is a sandstone mountain, lying 1,086m, above sea level and measures about 3km in width.
- The highest point of the mountain is Maclears Beacon at 1086m, 19m higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau.
- The Table Mountain is an amalgamation of rock types. The mountain’s base is composed of shale, while western side is composed of Cape Granite.
- The First woman to climb Table Mountain is Anne Barnard in 1790.
- It is home to more than 1,500 species of Fynbos.
- The first cable way to the top was opened, officially in 1929 and could carry 25 people at a time. Another new cable opened, in October, 1997 with a capacity of 65 persons.
- It is estimated that 800,000 visitors visit the mountain annually.
- The Aerial Cable cars are 1200m long, weighing 18 tonnes. They are checked annually, using electro-mechanical test.
- The Cableway hosts atleast one wedding per week on “cloud 9”. The perfect spot to experience the marriage!
- The chemical toilets on the mountain were originally designed for Boeing aircraft.
- The Table Mountain National Park, which includes the entire mountain chain from ht eSignal Hill in the north to the Cape Point was created in 1998.
Reasons for Table Mountain being a natural wonder:
- Popular Mountain: The only mountain to make its entry to the top seven wonders of the world, beating Jade mountain in Taiwan and Matterhorn / Cervino mountain in Europe.
- Witness to South Africa’s history: The 260 million years old Table Mountain, exclusively witnessed the South African history and acted as a symbol of hope for prisoners during apartheid.
- UNESCO world heritage site: UNESCO awarded world heritage site status to Table Mountain, as it is home to around 1500 different species of Fynbos (African word meaning fine bush).
- Mountain in the middle of the city: One of the spectacular feature of the mountain is that it is situated in the middle of the city.
- Perfect Picture: Any photographer would aspire to capture the beauty of Table Mountain and its amazing curves.
- Steep Challenge: Climbing the mountain is considered as an adventure and the Cableway makes the tourists’ life easier. The 360 degree view from the Cableway is a lifetime experience for tourists.
- Public Voice: Millions of people inspired from the heavenly beauty of the mountain and this fact is supported from the votes through online, SMS and via MXit from the voters and hence public voice made the mountain a truly natural wonder.
- Perfect View: The top of the mountain is the perfect view point to witness many beautiful places and structures surrounding the mountain like, Lion’s head, Signal Hill, Robben Island,Table bay and Devil’s peak.
- Best place to witness the effects of nature: Sunrise and sunset can be best viewed from the top of the mountain and experiencing such phenomena would be wonderful moments for tourists to cherish.
Myths and legends of Table Mountain:
The African legend:
According to the traditional beliefs of Xhosa people, Qamata, the son of the sun god Tixo and the earth goddess, Jobella, wished to create dry land, but was opposed by Nkanyamba, the dragon of seas. Hence battles were fought between them and Jobella, the earth goddess, created four giants to fight against the dragon of sea, but went in vain, despite of their size. And as the giants died, they pleaded Jobela, to turn them in to mountains to safeguard the land and hence in turn became, what we now call as Table Mountain.
The Dutch Legend:
According to the Dutch legend, a man called Jan Van Hunks, lived in a house at the foot of the mountain, (now known as devil’s peak). He was very much fond of smoking and thought he would beat anyone in smoking contest.
One very fine day, a stranger was up for a smoke contest against Hunks at the Devil’s peak. Both of them started puffing, placing a huge pile of tobacco in between them. Soon, they were surrounded by smoke all around and the cloud went bigger and bigger until it covered the entire mountain. The stranger got too sick to continue the contest, and when leaned forward, his hat fell of his head and then Hunks could find that he had just beat the Devil in the smoking contest.
The devil, not satisfied with losing to a human, clapped his hands and both of them disappeared from the mountain, with the smoke still around. The huge cloud of smoke on the top of the mountain exists still there and is known as the Table Cloth and the Devil’s peak was named after the stranger, who lost the smoking contest.
Many such stories and myths are told about the mountain and one such is the late Cape Town Gold Rush, where a merchant creates a gold rush by lying that he had found gold on the mountain and people racing to the mountain to create the gold rush.
History of Table Mountain cableway:
Before the construction of the cableway, the climbing of the mountain is considered to be adventurous and was not everyone’s cup of tea. To create access to the mountain, several attempts had been made, but went in vain. By the late 1870s, the prominent citizens of Cape Town, suggested the introduction of Railways to the top of the mountain and hence plans were proposed. But the first Anglo-Boer war prevented the implementation.
Later, in 1912, after investigating the possibilities of public transport accessibility to the top of the mountain, HM Peter (an engineer commissioned by the city council), proposed funicular railway project, with an estimation of around £100,000 (considered very large in those days).
This project was also halted by the First World War, which lasted from 1914 to 1918.
In 1926, a Norwegian Engineer, Trygve Stromsoe proposed to build a cable way.
The idea of the cable way, was welcomed by most eminent persons and Stromsoe, worked on the plan to receive support from a group of influential businessmen. Hence Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) was formed, with Stromsoe, as one of the board of directors.
The tedious task of the cable way was completed in two years with a cost of £ 60,000.
On 4 October, 1929 the Mayor of Cape Town, AJS Lewis, presided over the official ceremony of the cableway to provide public transport to one of the wonders of the world. Till date, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has a proud history of being accidental free.
Attractions of Table Mountain:
Table Mountain national park is a major attraction encompassing, Boulders beach and the Cape of Good Hope. In addition, Table Mountain café and the Cableway Cocktail bar add flavor to the beauty of the mountain.
The exhilarating ascent to the top of the Table Mountain is an experience, one would remember for the life time. There are 350 recognized paths to the mountain and is advisable to contact the Mountain Club of South Africa, before one would plan for any travel to the mountain. The cable way suits best for the travelers to enjoy every angle of the mountain from all corners of the nature around Table Mountain. Hiking, Rock climbing, Caving and Mountain biking are suitable for the tourists, preferring adventure in their tours.
Significantly, the mountain is well known for its floral biodiversity, consisting of Fynbos. Over 1500 species of plants can be found in and around the mountain.
The Table Mountain is a perfect spot for the nature lovers and every one rather, particularly to spend special occasions on the top of the mountain and to make the occasion memorable.
Table Mountain has been compared to a fortress, a sleeping goddess, guardian of Cape Town, the stairway to heaven, a warrior and watcher of the south. It fits to all the descriptions and hence acts as the central character for many myths and stories in Africa.