Sunday, 31 May 2015

May 8: Table Mountain

Now that I am back at home and connected properly, the posts regarding Africa will recommence at the rate of about 2-3 per day. So in a month, you'll be caught up!

We had reserved a whole day to explore Table Mountain, but one lady we ran into on a tour told us you could only spend an hour or so up top before getting bored. Hah, I said.

We headed out via Cape Town’s very good bus system to the cable car base, which was pretty easy (though the bus timetable wasn’t anywhere near correct). Because we bought cable car tickets on line a few weeks ago, we bypassed the long lines and walked straight onto it (Note: when you buy a ticket on-line, it’s valid for 14 days from the date you specify when you buy it. We specified a validity date as the first day we got to Cape Town, meaning we could pick any day we wanted to go up).
Visa... it's where you want to be
The inside of the car rotates 450° on your way up, so you get lots of cool views.
Vertical walls
Imagine ziplining that
It’s a shame the ride is so quick (about 6 min to climb 600 m, almost 10 m/s), because it’s really fun.

At the top station, there are rock hyraxes EVERYWHERE. You have to leave the station area to get rid of them.
Living life on the edge 
Nice teeth
Well, the views from 1,000 m above the ocean just a couple of kilometers away are stunning.
Looking south towards Cape Point 
A nice if high 'falutin area 
The 12 Apostles
We learned, however, that the top has hazards (other than falling 1,000 m to your death, which actually happens with some regularity); for instance, there are poisonous plants such as the blister bush, which makes poison ivy seem benign.
There are also snakes, which I will get to later.

We opted to walk to the “high point” of the mountain, MacLear’s Beacon, about 3 km from the top cable car station. Much of the hike hugs the cliff edge, some right on the cliff edge. Around here, I should mention I don’t like heights.
Downtown. Robben Island
Looking northwest
The city bowl. Our balcony is visible, if you know where to look

Wide panorama north up the coast
Most of the hike, however, is dead flat, and interestingly, crosses marshes and springs full of frogs.

Bogs? On the top of a mountain?
There are critters up here, most notably cool lizards.
Cute sparkles
Surveying the domain.
And snakes. Did I mention the snakes? Say hello to a baby version of the deadliest snake in Africa, the puff adder. According to Wikipedia:
This species is responsible for more snakebite fatalities than any other African snake. This is due to a combination of factors, including its wide distribution, common occurrence, large size, potent venom that is produced in large amounts, long fangs, their habit of basking by footpaths and sitting quietly when approached

This dude wasn’t big, meaning he was just a baby, but they can kill you just fine staring from birth. Up here, “watch you step” takes on special meaning.
Evil nasty & small
According to the guides up there, someone has to walk the popular paths every 30 minutes to make sure none of the 6 venomous snakes found up there (including the puff adder, spitting cobra, Asiatic cobra, boomslang and others) are on the paths to bite the tourists.

We walked the complete length of Table Mountain (watching for snakes the whole way), and this is the view at the other end.

Cape Flats
People have been walking up here since…1892?
Old monument
And before they invented the cable car…

Dramatic artsy shot

…you walked up. Many people still do. Many of them. Like these guys…
Just one of the dozen routes up
…aiming for this gap.

A slot in the rocks
In fact, there are trails and rock staircases all over the mountain, climbing it, traversing it, and circumnavigating it. Riding in the cable car just gave me the willies about some of the “hikes” that I could see, including one set of +2,000 steps climbing the mountain almost right underneath the cable car. There are numerous technical rock climbing walls, plus you can rappel (they call it “absailing”) off the mountain, too.
We enjoyed our hike and the 5 hours we spent up there. Our friend turned out to be wrong.

Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Security Guards, Part 2

So in my last post, I mentioned that security guards were everywhere.

Our apartment (and it’s a regular apartment building) sits on Greenmarket Square, home to a daily crafts market and a whole lot of beggars. We have a 24/7 security guard, and sliding locked exterior doors. Both of which are a joke.

One guard has been a guard 58 years. He’s been in this building almost 30 years. Guess his age. Another? A university student who was so asleep one night when we came home that we couldn’t wake him up. On our first arrival to our building, we walked past them, said hello, and got on the elevator. They didn’t care, nor want us to check in, nor even ask us where we were going. One day, we found our guard a block away from the building buying a coffee. When we got home, the sliding security door was wide open. It’s often open with no one around.

The CCID Public Safety guys don’t seem to do anything at all, other than walk around a lot. I watch one of them help the market guys tear down every day.

If “perception is reality”, then all the security guards are for is to give you the perception that you’re safe. Thus, you are safe. Thus, people walk around the downtown core day and night because they perceive that they are safe because the guards are there.

A whacked system, but it works. I suspect that if you’re in an area with no visible security guards, you will feel less than safe. Perception is reality.

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