September 16, 2005

South Africa FlagThis morning the sky was blue and the gulls were not screeching outside our window. At breakfast we met André and Diane again, and then we were joined by Peter and Irene, a couple from Switzerland. They were not taking a tour but just staying at the Drifters Inn.

Since the day was beautifully clear, Nicole (the Drifters Inn hostess) suggested that we climb Table Mountain today. Our tour is scheduled to do that on Sunday, but the weather is unpredictable and the mountain can be closed if it’s in cloud. Luckily for us, Peter and Irene had a rental car and kindly invited all four of us to go with them to Table Mountain.

We collected our gear and off we went, with the four of us squashed in the back of their car. The 15-minute drive to the base station of the cable-car went along the coast and offered spectacular views. We stopped and took pictures of the Twelve Apostles (mountain peaks) and of the beaches. Arriving at the cable-car base, André and Diane decided to ride up, and the rest of us walked up the road to the start of the Platteklip Gorge trail.

This trail climbed steeply up the lower slope of Table Mountain, then even more steeply up a gully which came out on the flat top. The elevation gain was about 600 metres and the well-made trail consisted mostly of steps. South Africa’s version of the Grouse Grind! The temperature was hot, maybe 25 C, and the views were spectacular. Rosemary’s lower back was having trouble with the height of the steps, so it took us about 1¾ hours to reach the top of the gully.

From there we had several options. There is an extensive trail system all over the top of Table Mountain. But both of us were thirsty, so we took the basically flat walk of about 800 metres over to the top of the cable-car, where there were restaurants and gift shops. At the restaurant we bought raspberry slushies (R11 each) to drink. We sat at a table, enjoying the view and watching the Red-winged Starlings and the dassies (rock hyrax) trying to poach people’s lunches when their backs were turned. The dassie looks like a very large guinea pig but it is actually not a rodent at all, being more closely related to the elephants.

After finishing our drinks we wandered around the trail system. The weather was perfect and we had a great time. Peter and Irene met us at 2 pm to go down the cable-car. The cost to go down was R57 but it was still better than walking back down Platteklip Gorge. The trip down took only a few minutes. We walked back to the car and headed back to the Inn for showers, agreeing to meet again at 4 pm to go down to the V & A waterfront.

Once back at the waterfront, we separated from Peter and Irene and went our own ways. We mailed our postcards, then went to check out restaurants. There were a lot of them, in many different styles, but in the end we decided we would go to one near the Inn instead. We went back to one of the craft shops, to check out the sculptures Rosemary was interested in, but they turned out to be significantly more expensive than we had thought. We also visited the Nelson Mandela museum, which was quite small but had thought-provoking displays about the apartheid era.

The walk back along the seawall was very beautiful, and we had timed it so we could watch the sun set over the ocean. Once back at the Inn, we decided (based on the Lonely Planet guide) to go to a steak house called the Wooden Shoe, which was only one block away. But it was closed, so we ended up going to the steak house across the street, one of the Spur Steak Ranch chain. We had been told that the steaks were very good, and they were. For dessert we decided to share a chocolate fudge slab with vanilla ice cream, and it was excellent too. The total cost including tip came to R161.75.

Back at the Inn we finished up our journals, read for a while, then went to bed.

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