Cape Town – Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Last Day in South Africa

With hopes of hiking to the top of Table Mountain, at the first rays of morning light I darted to the window to check the prognosis. The previous night’s weather forecast had predicted fog. Wrong! A clear morning over the mountain with just a few passing high clouds.

We lay in bed a few minutes contemplating the slog up the mountain. Breakfast service didn’t start until 6:30, but by the time we were ready to head down to breakfast the table cloth had started to creep over the top from the back side of the mountain – much more pronounced on the Devil’s Peak end, but definitely starting to cover the eastern end of the table. We stood with our heads out the window a while watching the cloth sweep back and forth over the table wondering if it would completely blanket it.

Breakfast at the Victoria & Albert Hotel was your typical high profile breakfast buffet – looks good with a wide assortment of fruits, cereals, breads, cheeses, meats, salmon and even oysters, but with individual items lacking – fruit not quit ripe, salmon sitting out too long, and bread older than it should be. Don, however, loved his kippers and eggs.

From the breakfast terrace we could track the status of the cloth’s progression over the table. Remaining relatively stable since earlier this morning, we decided to make a go of it and head up to the cable car (too foggy to hike) arriving just after 8AM when it opened. At that hour there was not much traffic yet at the cable car center.

Table Mountain

We boarded the cable car with a small Japanese tour group already taking most of the spots around the windows. An inventive design, the car actually rotates as it zips up the side of the mountain offering all both fantastic views of the city below and the mountain peak above.

The table was partially cloaked in fog producing a dramatic view of the city clearly visible below and the fog rolling in and out like waves in slow motion over the mountain top.

A well built path rounds the table with many vantage points. In this fog the western edge was completely concealed with eastern vistas coming in and out of view. By the time we left the fog was threatening the visibility of the entire table top, causing great uncertainty for the platform of hopeful tourists below us who, having already paid, were waiting for their turn up the mountain.

Back at the hotel, happy that we had made the right choice, we asked for and got a late checkout. Don went for a run and I worked on eliminating some of thousands of pictures we’ve accumulated over the weeks. Every so often I checked the status of the cloth and by about lunch time visibility was looking better than it had all day with a clear blue sky over Cape Town.

Lunch at one of the local harbor places. With Guinness on tap how could you pass up a last splurge of fish and chips to accompany a frothy glass.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

One last stop before the airport and our long flight home. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, a world heritage site and supposedly top notch, is just off the M3 on the other side of the mountains from the harbor. The fog was still hanging over the mountains on the garden side, perfect for viewing the spectacular gardens without too much harsh sunlight. Amazing plants – giant euphorbias and aloe trees and more kinds of flower species really than anywhere in the world.

Gorgeous and fascinating on a day like this, the gardens creep up the fogged in hills blurring the edges between formal garden and natural landscape. Swaths of grass surrounded by large beds of textures, colors shapes and sizes.

In early October the proteas were in full bloom.

Ducks and guinea fowl squawk and run around the lawn. Although it was a Tuesday afternoon, locals hang out in the grass overlooking the city, but mostly it’s strolling tourists snapping pictures. A lovely way to end our time in South Africa.

The drive to the airport is well signed and easy, just like all of the driving in Cape Town. Johannesburg, with its poorly signed chaos where we began our adventure nearly a month ago seems like an eternity from here.

October 11, 2011

For links to all the posts in this series see the South Africa page.

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