The sound of the wildly rattling halyards on the pin-rail by the mast should have been fair warning that today might not be the best day to venture over a thousand meters up a mountain. But neither that nor the fact that the top of this iconic rock was enshrouded in cloud was about to put me off.
We gathered at the lower cable car station at 8.30am and peered upwards. The cable car was very obviously not running due to the high wind and my fellow 'mountaineers' were equally dubious about my suggestion that we could walk back down as well as up, as they were about my protestations that the cloud would clear by the time we were half way up!
We agreed to search out a coffee and assess the situation after that, so found ourselves back down in Long Street peering through the window of a cafe trying to determine if it was open. The manager waved us in cheerily (we were fast discovering that the people in Cape Town were on the whole extremely warm and friendly), and as we ordered tall lattes and frothy cappuccinos, a couple of trays of freshly baked Vesuvius-like muffins were plonked on the counter and our order was adjusted accordingly as our eyes popped out on stalks and tummies somersaulted in delight!
Having climbed to the top of my muffin – not quite as high as Table Mountain but almost as much of a challenge - I went outside to assess the likelihood of our expedition. Even my most optimistic side was forced to admit that the wind and cloud were both unlikely to shift, so instead we opted to visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. I'd heard they were not to be missed and they would certainly be more sheltered – and after our huge muffins the gardens might also provide a nice place for a nap too!
A 20 minute white-knuckle, car drive later – with Kirsten behind the wheel cranking the gears while happily 'reassuring' us that she'd not been behind the wheel of a car for several years - we did arrive at the Gardens, nestled beautifully in crook of Table Mountain, in one piece. Although early it was already scorching now we were sheltered from the buffeting south easterlies and we wandered lazily around the Otter pond, the 'Useful' Garden and Arboretum until we decided that by now we must be off-watch and therefore it was indeed time for a nap! One minute I was propped up on elbows admiring the stunning views across the gardens and surrounding countryside and the next minute it was an hour later. I'm not sure how I had expected to be able to climb Table Mountain when sauntering up the gentle incline of shrubs and bushes had exhausted me to the point of sleep!
We were now all agreed that being horizontal and inanimate in this heat was by far the best idea so we set off again on a route around our respective homes (a hotel, the marina and a guest house) to grab bikinis and towels – which took far longer than we had realised – and eventually reached Clifton Beach (No.2 of 4) via the stunning views of Chapman Ridge Drive, at about 4pm! No.2 Beach ( for young Adults!) as opposed to No1 Beach (for families), No.3 Beach (frequented by nudists) and No.4 Beach (for the Gay scene) was (according to the guide book) completely sheltered from the strong south easterlies 99 % of the time. We were obviously there on the 1% day as even at the back of the beach, nestled against the base of the cliff, we were still sand-blasted smooth. Eating our picnic was challenging. Trying to get a mouthful of food without a gritty topping was a feat in itself! The best thing to do was to lie down, as flat as possible and not move. Which suited me just fine!
After a shortish toasting and a freezing paddle we headed back to trendy Camps Bay where there was a long line of bars and restaurants all bristling with the young and beautiful and the rich and er rich, all wanting to 'be seen' in the place to be seen! Cocktails and beers were slurped while we soaked up the atmosphere just across from the picturesque but not remotely sheltered, wind-whipped beach. We parted ways ( Kirsten and Lily were staying out of Cape Town)) and Lou and I headed off to the V&A where we had discovered what was almost certainly a Marks & Spencers (with a food hall) cunningly disguised under the name of Woolworths! A scrumptious assortment of goodies for supper were purchased – along with more Cadbury's Fruit and Nut(!) - and Lou headed off to her hotel while I returned to the familiarity of “Umber” to sit and enjoy my feast!