The View From the Top

Our last day in Cape Town we spent most of the morning getting organized for our onward journey. We had to repack for more safari and temporary bag storage, and we needed to organize our purchases so that we could request a VAT refund at the airport before flying to Botswana. I looked up the requirements for VAT refunds online and found we needed to present the items along with the receipts for inspection. This meant that we had to have all our purchases separated from our packed luggage, and then after the inspections we would need to pack them away to check our bags for the flight. Because we were headed off on safari with very limited baggage allowances, we couldn’t simply carry them on the plane. One thing I would recommend when traveling abroad to countries that charge a VAT on purchases is to look up the rules and procedures for getting your refund before you get to the last minute. In the case of South Africa, you have to have an official tax receipt and not all vendors automatically provide this. Knowing that ahead of time would have been helpful. Lesson learned. We were debating whether to do our requesting in Cape Town on the way to Botswana, or to wait until our layover in Johannesburg on the way home. We decided on Cape Town which turned out to be much the best idea.

After getting ourselves sorted, we felt free to go off and spend the day at leisure. We found that what little cloud cover there had been in the morning had disappeared. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and perfect weather for a trip up to the top of Table Mountain! We drove ourselves up the hill to the parking area for the Aerial Cableway that provides a scenic and effortless way to the top. The wait was not long and soon we were gliding up the mountain in a gondola with a revolving floor, providing all passengers with a good view.

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You can just see the gondola in the very center of the picture.

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On the way up we saw there were rock climbers scaling the cliffs and hikers looking like tiny dots on the trails. At the top, the temperature was cooler but still nice, and the wind was not too strong. Sometimes they have to close the Cableway because of bad weather or high winds, so we lucked out with the perfect day. Needless to say, the view was stunning.

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Camps Bay

P1020882 P1020886 P1020888 There are a number of trails that wander across the top of Table Mountain giving you a chance to stretch your legs and take in the views from different vantage points. We made the circuit and enjoyed looking into the distance at some of the places we had been the day before. Michael even spotted a whale in the water way down below. Sharp eyes! We also saw people arriving at the top by the more traditional method of hiking up a switchbacked trail. Judging by the sweat on their brows, I’d say they earned their Wheaties!

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Notice the people on the trail along the top of Table Mountain

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This is where the trail from the bottom comes up

This is where the trail from the bottom comes up

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You can see some of the trails zig zagging along the side of the mountain.

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The City Bowl laid out below

The City Bowl laid out below

After spending some time soaking it all in and enjoying the magnificent view, we had some refreshment at the mountaintop café and then boarded the Cableway for the ride down. If you like a good view, then going to the top of Table Mountain is definitely an activity I would recommend in Cape Town, assuming the weather cooperates. If you have issues with heights, you can stand near the center of the gondola and be surrounded by people without having to see any real drop-offs. At the top there are areas to take in the view that have walls between you and the cliff’s edge, though there are other areas without this protection. I don’t think I would enjoy it very much if it were extremely windy or the weather was bad, but on the day we went, it was perfect and you could see for miles.

Signal hill with City Bowl and Robben Island in the distance where Nelson Mandela was held in prison.

Lions Head and Signal Hill with City Bowl and Robben Island in the distance where Nelson Mandela was held in prison.

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Back at our hotel, we relaxed a little before heading down to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront for sunset and some dinner. We decided to take a taxi so that we wouldn’t have to deal with driving in the city at night or finding parking on our return. It was fun to see yet another side of Cape Town. The V & A Waterfront is a developed area right on the harbor that bears some similarity to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, although it is newer, more modern, and more attractive than its American counterpart. Sorry San Francisco! There are shops, restaurants, hotels and marinas with outdoor areas to stroll and view the activity. It is a working harbor as well, so there are commercial buildings and wharfs and vessels of all sorts in the water.

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On the way there our cabbie had told us about the Volvo Ocean Race which had just arrived to spend a few weeks in Cape Town as one of its ports of call. It brought a lot of people, business, and jobs to the waterfront. When we arrived there were big signs pointing the way to a special area to view the boats etc. We looked around a bit and then decided to wander in that direction. On the way we saw a couple of bands busking.

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As it turns out, our timing was impeccable. The Volvo Ocean Race is an around the world sailing race and this year, the first leg was from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa, over 6,000 miles! We actually saw the first two boats arrive in port after more than 25 days at sea! The Abu Dhabi Ocean Team finished first, followed by the Dongfeng Race Team. We saw these two boats being fêted with music and cheering as they backed into their spots on the wharf. They were very high tech looking while also looking quite bare the way true racing boats do. I’m sure the crews must have been very tired after such a long journey, but also relieved.

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We watched the festivities for a bit and then found an Indian restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the waterfront for our dinner. We were joined by lots of other people also enjoying the beautiful evening. After a pleasant dinner we wandered the shops and stopped to see one of the same bands again. Eventually we made our way back to the taxi stand and had some more interesting conversation with a cabbie on the way home. The waterfront was a lively place and it was a fun spot to spend a few hours.

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Table Mountain in the late light

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