Monday, December 2, 2013

“This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.” - Sir Francis Drake


Cape Town is the second-most populated city in South Africa after Johannesburg, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. The city is famous for its harbour as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, as well as for such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa. Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. As of 2011 the metropolitan region had an estimated population of 3.74 million. The city was named the World Design Capital for 2014 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

1. Table Mountain

Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa, and is featured in the Flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cable-way or hiking to the top. The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. The view from the top of Table Mountain has been described as one of the most epic views in Africa.

The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 3 kilometres from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil's Peak to the east and by Lion's Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town. This broad sweep of mountainous heights, together with Signal Hill, forms the natural amphitheatre of the City Bowl and Table Bay harbour. The highest point on Table Mountain is towards the eastern end of the plateau and is marked by Maclear's Beacon, a stone cairn built in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrical survey. It is 1,086 metres above sea level, about 19 metres higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau.

The cliffs of the main plateau are split by Platteklip Gorge ("Flat Stone Gorge"), which provides an easy and direct ascent to the summit and was the route taken by António de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1503. The flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain's slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called "table cloth" of cloud. Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks. When the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest. Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the spine of the Cape Peninsula. To the south of the main plateau is a lower part of the range called the Back Table. On the Atlantic coast of the peninsula, the range is known as the Twelve Apostles. The range continues southwards to Cape Point.
The upper part of the mountain mesa consists of Ordovician quartzitic sandstone, commonly referred to as Table Mountain Sandstone (TMS), which is highly resistant to erosion and forms characteristic steep grey crags. Below the sandstone is a layer of micaceous basal shale, which weathers quite readily and is therefore not well exposed. The basement consists of heavily folded and altered phyllites and hornfelses known informally as the Malmesbury shale. This has been intruded by the Cape Granite. Both rocks are of late Precambrian age.
The basement rocks are not nearly as resistant to weathering as the TMS, but significant outcrops of the Cape Granite are visible on the western side of Lion's Head.
Table Mountain has an unusually rich biodiversity. Its vegetation consists predominantly of several different types of the unique and rich Cape Fynbos. The main vegetation type is endangered Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos, but critically endangered Peninsula Granite Fynbos, Peninsula Shale Renosterveld and Afromontane forest occur in smaller portions on the mountain. The mountain's vegetation types form part of the Cape Floral Region protected areas. These protected areas are a World Heritage Site, and an estimated 2,200 species of plants are confined to Table Mountain - more than exist in the whole of the United Kingdom. Many of these species, including a great many types of proteas, are endemic to the mountain and can be found nowhere else. In addition, the Table Mountain range has the highest concentration of threatened species of any continental area of equivalent size in the world.
First what you need to do when you're visiting Table Mountain is, checking out the wind condition. Cape Town is very windy city, and when winds are strong, cable cars don't operate. Then your only option is to climb up to the top of the mountain that takes more than couple of hours. I know some like hiking and climbing the mountain with their two feet, but some like me, are not physically strong or not as interested in doing it that way. Windy day makes it difficult to do the hiking anyway, so it's essential what the condition is like. It could get cloudy also, which then will prevent people from going up to the top. I ended up visiting it three times in order to ride the cable car and be on top, so if you're running on a short schedule, try to plan your day around the weather condition of Table Mountain so you don't waste time visiting it more than once. It is beautiful place. It's been said so many times so I won't say it again myself, but it is.

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