Table Mountain: Abseil Off South Africa's Ubiquitous Landmark - Page 3
Table Mountain sits just south of central Cape Town. To get there by car, take Kloof Nek Road and turn left (it's well marked). Taxis will also take you to the Lower Cable Station. The Aerial Cableway (tel: 021.424.0015; www.tablemountain.net) runs daily, but extreme weather conditions (including strong winds) can cause it to close, even if you're at the top. It's advisable to plan enough time to walk down if necessary.
Hiking is the best way to avoid the huge queue at the cable car, especially during the summer. If you do set out to hike, know that the average ascent for someone in good shape takes three hours, and it can be tough-goingÂ—the less confident should consider the hike down (one-way tickets on the cable car going both up and down are available). One direct hiking route known as Indian Windows starts at the Lower Cable Station and skirts up the mountain directly below the cable cars. You can also hike up from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (http://www.nbi.co.za/) on the eastern slope through Skeleton Gorge. Consult Shirley Brossy's Walking Guide to Table Mountain for further information.
Conditions change frequently and rain is common, especially during the winter months, so dress accordingly and pack lots of water. And if a thick layer of clouds, commonly referred to as the Tablecloth, covers Table Mountain, your view from the top will most likely be obscured. If your schedule is flexible, head to any of the spots in and around Cape Town for photos of this cloud-covered landmark and save the ascent for a day when the Tablecloth has dissipated.
South African Airways (27.11.978.5313; http://www.flysaa.com/) now offers direct flights from New York City's JFK Airport to Johannesburg. The flight is longÂ—a full 13 hoursÂ—but you are crossing an ocean and traveling into the Southern Hemisphere. They also offer domestic service from Johannesburg to Cape Town and all points domestic as well as throughout the continent.
Abseil Africa works in partnership with Cape Town-based Adventure Village (021.424.1580; 229 Long Street; www.adventure-village.co.za/), a group of gregarious adrenaline freaks who are more than happy to show you the best adventures the Western Cape has to offer. The abseil drop-off point is adjacent to the Upper Cable Station and runs 250 rand per person. Two people abseil down at once, and it is entirely safe and wonderfully exhilarating.
Adventure Village can also arrange for guided mountain-bike trips from the Lower Cable Station down to the base of Table Mountain and back into Cape Town, but if you crave singletrack and technical riding, you may be better off heading to Tokai Forest Reserve or Silvermine Nature Reserve. The route we took down Table Mountain went mainly on gravel-covered fire access roads, which makes for a shaky, break-riding descent. Downhill Adventures (021.422.0388; Orange Street Gardens; cybercapetown.com/tours/Downhill/index.php) partners with Adventure Village for all mountain bike excursions, whether down Table Mountain or further afield. They can also arrange road-cycling tours of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, the Cape Winelands, and other Western Cape regions.
Though not allowed on Table Mountain, there is a good amount of climbing to be had within the Western Cape. The guys who run Abseil Africa can point you toward the best routes to match your skill-level, or just hook up with Adventure Village.
In addition to the usual guidebooks, I heartily recommend you snag a copy of Coast to Coast: How to Survive Backpacking in Africa, a humorous and comprehensive guide to the hostel and backpacker scene in South Africa, Lesotho, and Namibia. Best of all, it's FREE. (P.O. box 564; Simon's Town 7995; tel: 021.786.1742; fax: 021.786.2081; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.coastingafrica.com
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