The day after we arrived in Cape Town, a spectacularly beautiful day, with few clouds, our guide, Ian, insisted that we visit Table Mountain. We had other ideas but eventually decided to follow his advice.
The following day, the day we wanted to go, puffy, white clouds blanketed the mountain. Ian said it was its Tablecloth.
This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!
Table Mountain was not on our itinerary, not for that gorgeous day. After an emotionally charged visit to Robben Island, all we wanted to do was have a meal and take a nap.
But Ian, our guide, insisted. The weather was perfect, he said. There was no guarantee we’d have another one, best to take advantage. If the clouds came in, visibility on Table Mountain would be reduced. I know this mountain, he said. You only have five days, why wait for tomorrow when you could see something else? We’re so close.
We insisted. We huddled among ourselves. We were adamant. We didn’t want a tour guide to commandeer our vacation. After all, for more than a week, we’d had people telling us what to do and when do it. And after Cape Town, we’d have another tour guide shepherding us around. Independent people, we wanted our freedom or a least a little latitude.
I can’t remember now what Ian said that clinched it. But I’m glad he didn’t give up. It was the best decision we made that day. As it turned out, it rained all day the next day and for several days after that, Table mountain looked as if a crisp white tablecloth had been spread over it.
From that moment, we never objected to anything Ian recommended.
Originally, we had set aside the second day for Table Mountain but our guide, Ian Reinders, insisted we go that first day following our visit to Robben Island. His reasoning was simple: the weather was good and if we waited, it might change and we wouldn’t get to see the mountain. Since we had only 5 days in Cape Town, we didn’t want to take any chances so we agreed.
When we woke that morning, we were both happy and relieved that we had been flexible and listened to Ian. Clouds covered the city and a light rain fell intermittently.
Even on a cloudy day, it’s hard to escape the almost sterile beauty of Cape Town. Some places look so new, so clean, they feel as if they were just built.
After a late breakfast, we decided to head out and explore the city on our own. Tony, a friend in Cape Town, had sent us a list of places to see and eat and our friend, Lorraine Klaasen had recommended Mzoli’s Place, so food was covered.
We wanted to visit the Slave Lodge, a museum, and go to the Green Market Square, a shopping area we had heard good things about. Everything, it seemed was on or near Long Street – the heart of the city – so we asked directions and headed out on foot.
The streets around the V&A were almost empty, as if everyone had left town. I wondered where they could be, where the residential areas were and how far away the townships – and the action — would be.
Don’t get me wrong: we saw people – at the V&A Waterfront, at Table Mountain and Robben Island, and on the streets. But even during the week, I never saw anything that rivaled the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg.
Nevertheless, Ian kept reminding us to be careful and we’d remind him that we live in New York and also get the same warnings each time we visit Jamaica so we knew how to keep our guards up. The evening before, Judith and I wanted to use an ATM that was inside the mall at the V&A. Ian insisted on accompanying us and warned that we stand guard behind whoever was using the machine. I felt he was being overly protective but I figured it’s his city, he’d know it better.
But apart from a woman with a child who approached us in the mall asking for money — unfortunately, living in a large city like New York, we’ve become inured to people like her and spotted her a mile away — no one bothered us and we felt completely safe.
Along the way, we noticed a cab driver and asked him to take us to Long Street. He told us we were only 10 minutes’ away so if we wanted to, we could walk. He even gave us directions to get there! Okay, we’re definitely not in New York!
Sure enough, after a leisurely walk, we noticed the sign for Long Street. Right away, the energy felt different – still not as bustling as Johannesburg or New York but definitely livelier than before. People were hustling about and there were lots more cars, buses and noise.
It was hard not to miss the first shop we stumbled on. Life sized African figures, wooden carvings and furniture marked the entrance to the small store that was chock full of stuff: jewelry, fabric, sandals, carvings and more decorated the walls and sprouted from either side of the narrow walkway. We had to be careful not to knock anything over but despite that, we ended up spending nearly 2 hours browsing, haggling, and socializing with the Nigerian owner, who told us he was a prince back home (aren’t all Nigerians princes back home, a friend asked me when I related the story) before hunger pushed us to look for lunch.
Ian was right. Under a dazzling sunshine and with hardly a cloud in the sky when we arrived, Table Mountain was spectacularly alluring.
It seemed to rise straight up out of the ground, then stop abruptly as if something, or someone, had blunted its ascent.
We got our tickets and boarded the funicular that would take us the nearly 3,600 feet to the top of the mountain. Watching the buildings and cars below as they got smaller and smaller, I felt my ears pop in reaction to the change in altitude.
I spoke with my Aunt Connie, before I left for South Africa. It had been her dream, she told me, to visit Table Mountain. She was so thrilled I was going, she asked that I kiss it for her. After I laid this stone, I remembered the promise I made Aunt Connie. I’m glad I was able to “kiss the mountain” for her. It was a great way to end our first day in Cape Town.
When I told my 80 year-old aunt that I was going to Cape Town, she replied excitedly, “I’ve always wanted to see Table Mountain but never made it. Please kiss the mountain for me!”
After hearing that, if Table Mountain had not been on my list, it soon would be.
We arrived in Cape Town on a Thursday night, after three amazing days watching game in Hwange National Park and making friends with the team at Makalolo Plains in Zimbabwe.
Now we were about to begin the third leg of our trip in beautiful Cape Town. Ian, our guide, met us at the airport and took us to our accommodation at the Victoria & Alfred waterfront.
As we entered the apartment, we were greeted by the most spectacular view of Cape Town harbor. But since we were holding tickets for the 11 o’clock ferry to Robben Island the next morning, we knew we had to get to bed early.