Table Mountain – A Legendary Beacon of Hope

Table Mountain is considered to be one of the oldest mountains in the world. At over 260 million years, it’s older than Himalayas, the Rocky Mountains, the Andes or the Alps—now that’s really old! In 2012, Table Mountain was also inaugurated as one of the world’s ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature,’ which is pretty cool.

table mountainThe mountain (and the rest of the Cape Peninsula – about 50 kilometers as the crow flies!) is covered in a very unique indigenous flora, called “Fynbos” (or “Fine Bush”) which in turn forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom – one of 6 floral kingdoms in the world, as recognised by UNESCO. Not only is the Cape Floral Kingdom the smallest, but it’s also the most bio-diverse, with over 9,500 species of mostly indigenous vegetation. The area, stretching from Table Mountain to the Cape of Good Hope, consists of approximately 2,200 species, of which roughly 70% are endemic. That’s more plant species than the entire UK or New Zealand for that matter! We might not always beat these guys at Rugby, but at least we beat them with our abundance of floral array!

table mountainTable Mountain is the only terrestrial structure in the world to have a constellation named after it. In 1754, French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lecaille named the southern constellation Mensa after the iconic landmark.  He originally called it Mons Mensae, which is Latin for “the table mountain.”

Table Mountain is often covered by a layer of windswept cloud, which is called the “tablecloth.” Folklore or legend has it that this “smoke” is the result of a smoking contest, in which the devil and a pirate named Van Hunks competed for top honours. The devil revealed himself to Van Hunks after becoming light-headed and falling to his death. “Devil’s Peak” (the prominent peak on the left-hand side) is named after this incident. Today, the “smoke” still lingers.

Okay, okay… On a boring note, this “tablecloth” is called an orographic cloud and forms when the prevailing southeasterly wind forces air up the side, which cools rapidly, thereby forming the cloud. There, my secret is out, but I still love the Van Hunks story more!

cTable Mountain is also regarded as a very special place to tie the knot, and they reckon that at least one couple gets hitched every month at the top. Understandably, the view is truly spectacular, so that makes sense. Incidentally, my first date with my girlfriend (now my beloved wife of nearly 20 years!) was climbing this beautiful natural wonder. Obviously, it must have been a great date because we are still together! We didn’t, however, tie the knot at the top, but we still visit it quite often to reminisce (hand in hand, I might add).

Robben Island prison

Many famous people, including my wife and I, have visited this beauty that rises into the sky. Several of these world-famous figures include King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, Oprah Winfrey, Sting, Steffi Graf, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Andrew, Michael Schumacher, Brooke Shields, Michael Bublé, Tina Turner and Jackie Chan. In fact, the mountain is so famous that there is even a fully edible chocolate version of it available for purchase at the local souvenir shop. Just saying…

Whatever your reasons for wanting to visit Cape Town (and naturally ascend its beautiful and rather ancient ol’ mountain), you will not be disappointed. Cape Town, or the “Mother City” as she is affectionately called, offers the traveller an array of awesome things to do. Whether it’s the incredible history or the diverse culture, the majestic scenery or the endless white sandy beaches, the award-winning Cape wines or the sublime cuisine, I can guarantee that a treasure trove awaits everyone!

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

    • Yip… It’s old, really old! Let me know when you visit Cape Town and I’ll take you to the top!

  • A well written and interesting read I have to say- I knew some of the history but now much better informed. I have to say Table Mountain is wondrous, the Cape very special and the world needs to know this. Well done Neil!!! AND: The pic is fantastic!!! Bob

  • Such a beautiful place and I never have been but would love to discover. It’s on my list and thanks Greg for the wonderful article.

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