I spent two weeks in South Africa in the beginning of September. My friends Colin, Dan and Andrew were with us for the first half of the trip, and my cousin Sydney was with me the whole time. We arrived in Cape Town on a Sunday afternoon after two long flights and very little sleep.
As soon as we got settled in our Airbnb house in Cape Town, we huddled about what to do that afternoon. A lot of our activities planned for the week were outdoors, which meant they were weather-dependent. We checked the forecast for the rest of the week and it looked like it might rain mid-week. Since it was beautiful that day, and supposed to also be nice Monday, we decided to do our two hikes first. Lion’s Head today, since it was a nice sunset hike and on the shorter side, and Table Mountain tomorrow.
We set out for the hike around 3 pm. Sydney and I hadn’t eaten anything since the airport this morning, but with the sun setting at 6:30, we knew we had to wait to eat until after so we could finish the hike before dark. The start of the hike was fairly easy, with a gentle incline. The hike eventually split into two paths: climbing up a vertical section with chains, or a longer, less challenging way. We decided to take the longer way up.
The hike spirals around the mountain a couple times, until you reach the very steep, scrambly part at the top. If boulder climbing isn’t your thing, you may want to stop at this point and admire the great view of the ocean. But if you’re feeling adventurous, continue up to the top and enjoy the 360-degree view of Table Mountain and the rest of the city. We stayed on top and watched the sunset for 30 minutes.
After the break at the top, we needed to head down and at least get the steepest part out of the way before the sun set. We took a wrong turn and chose the chain path down. I enjoyed it going down, definitely more than I would’ve climbing up. A few of us brought headlamps, and we needed them on our way down. Luckily we didn’t have to get them out until the gentle slope at the end.
I loved this hike, and it was the perfect way to defeat jet lag on our first day in Cape Town! It took us about 3 hours total, with a few breaks and lots of time at the top. What a great way to start the trip!
The 12 Apostles / Table Mountain
We woke up the next morning and after making breakfast and doing some early morning yoga to stretch out our sore muscles, we set out to hike up to the top of Table Mountain through the 12 Apostles. The 12 Apostles are the stretch of mountains right next to Table Mountain, with 12 peaks. We planned to hike up through the Apostles, over to Table Mountain, and take the Table Mountain Cable Car down. According to the guide I found online, the hike should’ve taken about 3 hours.
Starting the Hike
We parked our cars on either end of the hike, one at the base of the cable car, and the other at the start of the Kasteelspoort hiking trail. The beginning of the hike was a little confusing, with several trails breaking off in different directions. We weren’t clear which path to take up, so we continued along the path we were on. Turns out we should’ve taken the second turn to cut up through the Apostles and turn back to Table Mountain. Instead, we continued walking the opposite direction of Table Mountain, along the ridge of the Apostles. This trail is called the Pipe Track, and it was so gorgeous, with a gradual incline and stunning views the entire way.
We never passed the sites that were mentioned in the trail guide, so after awhile we pulled up Google Maps to see exactly where we were. We had gone way out of the way. There wouldn’t be enough time for us to go back to the original trail, and the trail we were on did eventually end up at the cable car, so we decided to continue on and get there later than we expected. There was a nice lookout spot on our path called Tranquility Cracks that we figured we could hike to.
A Long Way Up
As I rounded the corner leading to the top of the mountain, I looked up and my stomach dropped. The trail led straight up, with loose rocks that were difficult to balance on. I would highly recommend hiking boots for this hike. I only brought sneakers and ended up rolling both ankles more than once, not to mention the number of times I fell! It was a difficult hike up, and I mentally prepared myself by saying that Table Mountain is flat at the top, so the work would be over when we finished this incline.
Once we left the safety of the cliff side, the wind picked up a lot, making it that much harder. We reached the top (FINALLY!) after about an hour of climbing. I took some pictures and found it difficult to stand without being blown over. We later found out that there were wind gusts at the top of 70 mph!
At the Top
As we took the hard-to-find, grown-over path to Tranquility Cracks, we came across two locals (out of the maybe five people we saw on the trail the entire day) who told us that the cable car was closed for the day due to high winds. Not what you want to hear when you just killed yourself hiking, with only a little bit of water left! We could see the cable car from where we were, and the top of the mountain was definitely not flat. We would’ve had to climb up a lot more, and then climb down a very steep trail to the bottom of the cable car. Ultimately, we decided to get to Tranquility Cracks and then hike back the way we came, since we knew the path and what we’d be getting ourselves into.
Since we had some time to relax at the top, knowing that it wouldn’t take as long to go down, we attempted to take pictures without the wind gusts blowing us off the mountain. I’m thankful we had packed lunches because I was starving. We sat in a little cove, avoiding the wind for a bit before hiking down.
Making Our Way Down
With two hurting ankles and sore knees, the hike down wasn’t much easier. I took it slow and avoided completely busting it, while still slipping about a dozen times. After we got back to the Pipe Track, the wind died down and I noticed it was actually quite hot out. It felt amazing to wash my face in a little stream we passed on the way.
Now that I wasn’t thinking about dying, I was able to once again enjoy the beautiful scenery and notice all the interesting vegetation I had never seen before. We noticed the path that we should’ve taken and felt like idiots. Nonetheless, it was a great hike looking back at it. I’d do it again (with hiking boots)!
Check out my video on our Cape Town adventures!