Welcome to Cape Town

The day after our safari in Chobe National Park, we left our hotel early to board a plane back to South Africa. Before we left I sent out emails to a couple of camera shops in Cape Town hoping I would be able to pick up a rental once we arrived.  When we landed in Cape Town I had a response from one of the shops, and I began to set up a rental with them as we went through customs and baggage claim.  Jordi had run ahead of the group to meet up with a guide that was going to take him on a trad climb to the top of Table Mountain.  The rest of the group was planning to take the cable car to the top, so Jordi left his camera with me so I could take pictures.

Jared had scheduled a large tour bus to drive us to the base of Table Mountain, so once we got through customs the Percussive group piled onto the bus and we were on our way.  As we drove through Cape Town for the first time I tried to keep a good balance of checking my emails and looking at the sights that we were passing.  The camera shop had become increasingly less responsive as our conversation went on, and I was starting to fear that I would be out of luck.  Caleb’s company has a sister site in Cape Town, and he would be meeting with some of his international coworkers for dinner that evening.  He offered to send a text asking if any of them had a camera I could borrow, just in case the rental fell through.

By now the bus was slowing down as we neared the cable car that would take us to the top of the mountain.  We got out of the bus and took a picture of nearly the whole group (minus Jordi and Jared), which was quite the accomplishment since we were rarely all in the same place at the same time.

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The group eager to board the cable car

Even from the bottom of the mountain, the view of Cape Town and the surrounding hills was spectacular.  We gazed at the scenery as Jared purchased our tickets for the cable car.  Once everyone was accounted for, we were on our way up the mountain in the large, rotating, glass enclosure.  The ride was smoother and faster than the last tram I rode in the Tetons, and we were stepping onto the summit of Table Mountain within a matter of minutes.

There were a lot of other tourists milling about near the cable car.  Almost immediately we began to see rock hyraxes.  The rock hyrax, or dassie, looks like the rodent version of your typical grumpy neighbor that would yell things like, “Get off my lawn!” or, “Hey you kids!  Cut that out!” while angrily shaking his fist at you.  But dassies aren’t just people whose garages are more meticulously maintained than any room in your entire house.  They are also thought to be closely related to much larger animals like elephants and manatees, which I find fascinating.  That’s why while everyone else was stopping to buy ice cream and the worst jerky ever made (at least that was the general consensus, I personally abstained), I was following hyraxes around with the camera.

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A Dassie looking out to make sure I don’t get any ideas about trampling his petunias.

Once everyone who wanted a snack had made their purchases we started to hike the loop around the top of the mountain.  We only had an hour or so left before the cable car closed for the evening so we started out at a brisk pace, but it wasn’t long before we got sidetracked as we are wont to do.  Who could even blame us when there were views like this in every direction?

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The hike around the top of Table Mountain was very easy and would be suitable for people who are used to most activity levels. The top of the mountain is very flat, and the trail is well-maintained so it’s more like a stroll than a hike.  There are other trails that connect, and we ended up partially descending into a gorge then scrambling up to a small peak for a little extra adventure. Caleb kept mentioning how tourists take pictures on Table Mountain, and angle the camera so it looks like they are hanging off of a cliff when they are not.  Naturally, we had to partake in this ritual and we found the perfect rock.

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Caleb hanging precariously off the side of a cliff

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We spent a little too much time getting the perfect shots of the rock, and we knew we had to hustle if we were going to make it back to the cable car on time.  We managed to complete the loop by jogging between viewpoints, and made it back just as the sun was beginning to set.  We hopped on the tram and soon everyone was back on the bus which took us to our hotel, the Signal Hill Lodge.  The lodge was a small hotel (our group filled almost all of the rooms) with a breathtaking view of Cape Town.  We settled into our rooms which were clean, modern, and comfortable.  While I was unpacking, I got a text from Caleb asking if Vince and I would want to join him and his coworkers for dinner.  We met up on the hotel’s main floor balcony where we could hear the evening call to prayer echoing from the nearby Bo-Kaap district while the city lights twinkled like a mirage, reaching out toward the sea.

Caleb and his coworker, Brandon were already waiting for us and after introductions, we piled into Brandon’s car and drove into the city.  He brought us to a large mall near the waterfront where we selected an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating.  We were still waiting on another one of their colleagues, Hilton, so we ordered a bottle of wine for the table and chatted until he arrived, sharing American sayings and picking Brandon’s brain about Cape Town.

After dinner, Brandon and Hilton showed us around the waterfront for a bit.  It was a peaceful night and the weather was perfect for a stroll.  We eventually made it back to the cars where we said goodbye to Hilton, and Brandon drove us back to our hotel.  When we arrived he opened his trunk and produced a Canon 750D.  He had received Caleb’s text earlier that day and had brought me his wife’s camera to borrow for the week!  I was floored by their generosity, and relieved to have a camera to use for the rest of the trip.  That evening I acquainted myself with the slightly different camera before going to bed relatively early.  We’d be waking up well before sunrise the next morning to hike up a nearby peak called Lions Head.

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