Table Mountain stands watch over Cape Town. Aged, grey and patient; a protective bastion, a guiding light, and a soothing, soulful presence. It has a feel-good energy that is hard to define but equally hard to deny. It is the deeply-beating heart of everything that is quintessentially Cape Town. It is the mother of the Mother City.
Amazingly, “The Mountain” is teeming with unique biodiversity too, and is strewn with remote, wild and inaccessible places. For all its cultural and spiritual meaning to many of the four million people living in its shadow, Table Mountain is also the iconic gateway to a fully-fledged National Park.
My son and I enjoyed a couple of days on The Mountain last week. We spent hours on its precipitous fortress walls, searching for Peregrines and other cliff-nesting birds, and drinking in the changeable but always spectacular views from the summit. We worked in a strange soundscape – birdsong interwoven with wailing sirens, wind-rustled fynbos overlying the monotonous drone of heavy traffic – that accentuated the remarkably intimate juxtaposition of wilderness and city. From our position, sat amid a myriad of locally endemic plants and overlooking the thickly vegetated slopes of Newlands Forest far below, the busy southern suburbs of the city stretched away to the east. Claremont, Wynberg, Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha… all the way to deep-blue False Bay, rendered distantly beautiful by the winter skyscape of racing, bursting clouds.
We slept at the SANParks Overseer’s Cottage, nestled on the eastern edge of the Lower Table. The contrast between mountain and metropolis was perhaps even more striking at night, with the looming pitch-blackness of Fernwood Buttress offsetting the multi-coloured twinkling of thousands and thousands of electric lights. This golden, glowing haze of urban illumination was certainly unsettling from an environmental perspective, but it also had a magical beauty to it – a warmth and innocence that belied the reality of the streets but still managed, somehow, to sow a tiny, silent seed of wonder and hope…