The VOC fortress and the climbing of Table Mountain

Table Mountain Travel Blog

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The VOC fortress from the inside, with the ever present Table Mountain in the back.

We get up at 7.15 am. Trudy wants to have breakfast outside the hotel, but I am hungry and don’t feel like wandering around searching for food, so we eat in. Nothing special, and way too expensive (75 Rand per person).

At 8.45 am we are at the VOC fortress again, but it doesn’t open until nine. The fortress was build by the Dutch to protect the city against threats from the sea (the English) and from the land (locals). We start with the military museum, which displays uniforms, weapons and such from the 17th, 18th and 19th century (some are originals others are replicas).

When you need to go to the toilet, you must go through an ancient corridor into the vault.

The Key Ceremony.
By doing so you pass a small pane of glass which provides a view of the old powder room, that still has the original brick floor. Rock could not be used here, because the sparks caused by metal (nails in shoes for instance) could ignite the gunpowder and turn the fortress into a pile of rubble in an instant.

At ten we are witness of the Key Ceremony, the sounding of the bell and the firing of the cannon (the firing happens twice every day, it’s done at noon also). It looks funny: a man walks up with a tiny cannon under his arm and lights the fuse with a lot of protocol. The size of the cannon fools me, and when it finally fires (in spite of the warning up front) the tremendous blast scares the living daylights out of me.

We walk around a bit more through the fort, which isn’t as imposing from the inside as it looks from the outside (and in our imagination), before deciding to go to Table Mountain.

Lunch half way up Table Mountain.

Because it is still very windy, we fear that the cable cars up Table Mountain might have stopped. We buy some raisin rolls and some drinks, just in case we have to walk up the mountain. The cab driver who takes us to the ground station of the cable cars makes it very clear that it is very dangerous to walk up the mountain, people have been robbed up there and the gales should also not be trivialized. On arrival at the base station we see that the cable cars háve stopped and nobody knows whether they will start again today or not, nevertheless we get off the taxi. We ask a guard about the robbery story and he says that it has happened once a while ago, but the perpetrators have been caught ánd there are a lot of people on the mountain trails today, so it’s quite safe. It’s a fifteen minute walk over the paved road to the start of the trail to the top. Here we ask another guard and he tells us exactly the same as the last guard.

They were better at climbing than we were.
He does give us the emergency telephone number, in case we break an ankle, he says. Cheerfully we start our ascent. The path isn’t really a path, it’s more like long strain of rocks and boulders of various sizes we have to step on and over. The sky is blue as ice with here and there a white whiff of cloud. The wind remains strong, it cools our perspiring bodies and makes sure we carry our hats on our belts in stead of on our heads.

We look for a place that gives some shelter from the wind and there we have lunch. The raisin rolls are dry as dust, so I am very thankful for my can of Coke. Suddenly we hear a loud bang, it’s twelve o’clock. The gunshot from the fortress can clearly be heard half way up Table Mountain. A little later we catch up with Annette and Barbara, who started the climb an hour before we did. They didn’t bring any food, and we just ate ours, so we can’t help out either.

Near the top we see some mountain goats jumping about and we take a few minutes to watch them.

The path we had to go wasn't the best piece of pavement I have ever seen.
It’s a little after one thirty when we reach the first view point over Cape town. Now we can really see why the cable cars aren’t running today. Up here, with nothing to stop it, the wind is very strong, not much short of a storm. Trudy puts on a raincoat to protect her from the wind. The view however, is flabbergasting. When we walk to the next view point, all of a sudden, Annette and Barbara have disappeared. Then when it’s just Trudy and me, with a fantastic view over Cape Town, I propose to her. She’s tired, she’s cold and she doesn’t know how to react. Fortunately, when she realizes what I just did, she comes up with the right answer. We stay up there for a little while longer, enjoying the view and each others presence. Barbara and Annette shine by their absence (on purpose, they will tell us later on), is this what female intuition is all about? We check out the upper terminal of the cable cars, but it is completely abandoned, even the toilets (that can be reached without going inside) are securely locked.

We start the walk to the summit of the mountain, but after some fifteen minutes we decide to go back, because the trail goes out of sight in the distance and it is almost three already.

Barbara and Annette showing how windy it is (the hair).

At three we start our descent (we have to go down the same way we came up), so first we go through Platteklip Gorge. Fog is coming in slowly. It’s still just the two of us, the ladies must have gone down already. And indeed some time later we see them on the trail in front of us. When we catch up with the girls they say that Trudy floats down the mountain and, of course, they want to know why. When Trudy tells the story their responses are heartwarming.

When we look up we can see the clouds curling down through Platteklip Gorge. This means we mustn’t linger and make our way down to the city.

We see some Dutch boys going up with nothing but a couple of bottles of whine with them and no warm clothes.

The view we had when I proposed to Trudy.
Our warnings are of no avail and we can do nothing but hope they will be o.k. It’s 5 pm when we are back in our hotel room. Tonight we will be dining together.

We walk to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront and on our way there we see a car that won’t start. It’s a black family, the daughter and wife are pushing the car, the man of the house sits behind the wheel. Trudy and I come to the rescue and the four of us can push the car back to life again.

Before going to diner we have a look in the beautiful shopping mall. Trudy sees a little plush hedgehog holding a heart with the word LOVE on it. Since it is so appropriate we buy it.

We choose an Italian restaurant this time and order the spare ribs.

On the way to the summit.
Strangely we don’t get two separate plates, but one big one (with the meat on it) and two small ones on the side. Maybe it’s more romantic this way...

We take a taxi home and the driver comes from Zimbabwe. Trudy tells him what happened today and spontaneously he gives us a puzzle he made himself from iron wire. We have to separate the heart from the I and the U without braking it. While we try to crack the puzzle he plays some music for us on the traditional musical instrument he keeps under his driver’s seat. When we say goodbye at the hotel we get to keep the puzzle and he wishes us all the best. He doesn’t shake hands with Trudy, because in his culture it is not done to shake hands with a married woman (and he considers Trudy married, so he says).

We take another shower and sleep like two very happy logs.

Down again through Platteklip Gorge.

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The VOC fortress from the inside, …
The VOC fortress from the inside,…
The Key Ceremony.
The Key Ceremony.
Lunch half way up Table Mountain.
Lunch half way up Table Mountain.
They were better at climbing than …
They were better at climbing than…
The path we had to go wasnt the b…
The path we had to go wasn't the …
Barbara and Annette showing how wi…
Barbara and Annette showing how w…
The view we had when I proposed to…
The view we had when I proposed t…
On the way to the summit.
On the way to the summit.
Down again through Platteklip Gorg…
Down again through Platteklip Gor…
The happy couple.
The happy couple.
The sounding of the bell.
The sounding of the bell.
The firing of the (tiny) cannon.
The firing of the (tiny) cannon.
The Lions Head seen from Table Mo…
The Lion's Head seen from Table M…
The firing of the gun...
Table Mountain
photo by: greg1976