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Facing my Fears in South Africa: Ascending Table Mountain

I mentioned in my last blog post how excited I’d been to see the iconic peaks and plateaus of Table Mountain looming over the beautiful city of Cape Town.

Going up that mountain was another story though.

Of all my fears, my fear of heights is number one. The thought of ascending a mountain in that tiny little cable car freaked me out more than anything that I anticipated on this trip.

My fear of heights is a weird one, I have absolutely no fear of flying… I actually find kicking back in a (business class) seat and drinking champagne at high altitude a very relaxing experience. I have no problems with high buildings, or indeed lofty mountains. As long as my feet are firmly on solid ground I’m fine…but it’s light aircraft, roller coasters and dangly cable cars that terrify me. Also I’d obviously never bungee jump, paraglide or go in a hot air balloon.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…let me start from the beginning.

I’d been put in touch with Jarat Tours, a company offering a number of different private and tailor-made tours of South Africa’s beautiful cities. My contact at Jarat suggested that we begin our time in the Mother City with an orientation of the main streets accompanied by one of their guides, Gary.

At 11am, Gary arrived at our hotel and whisked us off in a comfortable Mercedes, providing water, mints and refreshing spray if needed. I tried to put the thoughts of my impending doom to the back of my mind and instead listen as Gary told us some of the history of Cape Town.

As our guide drove us through the main roads of the city he told us the origins of Cape Town. The town was first developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India and the Far East but in 1652 it was established as the first permanent settlement for Europeans in South Africa. As the town swiftly grew it became central to the economy and culture of the Cape Colony.

Gary pointed out the Houses of Parliament to us and explained that Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa and contains many of the government departments. However, Cape Town is considered the legislative capital as it is the seat of parliament and is the second biggest city after Johannesburg. Thirdly, Bloemfontein contains the supreme court of Justice and is the judicial capital.

Near to the Parliament building is the Company’s Garden, a park and heritage site created in the 1650s by the first European settlers. Unfortunately, we could only peer into garden from afar as there was a big event going on in there.

As we drove past the Mount Nelson Hotel, Gary asked if we’d like to see in…

My regular readers will know I love having a nose around other posh hotels, and I eagerly agreed for a quick pitstop. Now, a pink hotel is always going to win me over, one of my favourite hotels of all time is the Beverley Hills Hotel, which is basically a massive celebrity filled version of Barbie’s dream house. But the stunningly luxurious hotel with its perfectly manicured gardens also has an interesting history.

Affectionately known as The Pink Lady, the hotel opened in 1899 with the intention of catering to first class passengers of an exclusive British shipping liner. It was the first hotel in South Africa to offer hot and cold running water and became a home away from home for the rich and famous as well as powerful political leaders.

During the Boer War, the British used the hotel as headquarters to plan their military campaigns and a young Winston Churchill, than a war correspondent, described it as ‘a most excellent and well-appointed establishment.’

Other famous residents have included Arthur Conan Doyle, Lenny Kravitz, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods and even the Dalai Lama! For us regular folk it’s also famed for afternoon tea, an ideal place to sit back and revel in luxurious pink perfection!

Back in the car Gary drove us around pointing out key museums, theatres, the synagogue and galleries which we could return to. He told us lots of interesting facts about South Africa, one being there are eleven official languages spoken in the country which is more than any other country in the world. Gary told us that Afrikaans and English are the only languages used for education as the other nine don’t have all the modern terminology required for teaching certain subjects.

Gary also drove us around the brightly coloured houses of Bo Kaap, formerly known as the Malay Quarter. Bo-Kaap is a multicultural area with many of the residents being descendants of slaves shipped from Malaysia, Indonesia and African countries to the Cape of Good Hope during the 16th Century. The area is the spiritual home of Cape Town’s Muslim community and houses Auwal, South Africa’s oldest Mosque.

While I was enjoying the history lesson, I knew in the pit of my stomach what was to come.

‘Right’ Gary said, ‘Are you ready for the mountain?’ I nodded hesitantly…

He drove us up to Table Mountain cableway…I was feeling very nervous already.

Sensing my nerves Gary said ‘We’re pretty high already, you don’t need to go all the way up to the top…’
‘Yes, I do! How can I write a blog post about facing my fears if I only go halfway up?’

Then I saw it…OMG it’s so high! And there was a vertical ascension at the end which looked absolutely terrifying…

 

 

Now I felt really sick. I turned to Mr S, ‘I can’t do it’ I said. I couldn’t get in that little box dangling from a string and go up a million feet into the clouds.

‘You can do it’ he said ‘Just think of the blog.’

Fortunately Unfortunately, the queue for the cable car was about an hour wait so I had time to psyche myself up. Every now and then I’d look up and say ‘I can’t do it, I just don’t think I can…’ But Mr S was my cheerleader all the way, ‘You have to, it’ll make an amazing blog post’…oh he knows just what say to convince me. The queue was particularly long as they been experiencing load shedding (planned power outages) that morning and the cable cars were running on half power using a generator. A fact which didn’t exactly thrill me!

But after an hour long wait we were finally at the front of the queue. I dove onto the seat in the middle as the rest of the cable car has a revolving floor so that guests can see 360 degree views. I didn’t want to see 360 degree views, I just wanted to get to the top of the mountain.

I gripped hold of Mr S and I have to admit that I could barely look out of the window, I alternated between closing my eyes, looking at the floor and very quick glimpses out of the window. The cable car got to the top very quickly, in around four minutes and we stepped out…I was so excited I’d braved it and it would all be worth it….

Oh…maybe not. It was very misty and visibility was very poor. Had it been all of that stress for nothing?

But then something wonderful happened; the mist and clouds cleared and that beautiful view came into focus…

I look like I’m clinging on for dear life but when I was at the top it was so beautiful that my fears melted away.

And at 3,563 feet above sea level I felt on top of the world! Plus I was really rather proud of myself.

 

We even made a new friend!

And once I’d done it once going down was fine!

Gary swiftly picked us up from the bottom of the mountain and dropped us back to the V & A Waterfront. It was nearly four o’clock and though we’d missed lunch we were booked in for an early dinner, so we wondered into The Harbour House for a ‘snack’ and a well-deserved glass of wine.

 

We decided to share a main course seafood platter and a ceviche as a light nibble to assuage our hunger.

 

We weren’t expecting such an epic portion billed as a platter for one.

 

 

But we weren’t really complaining as it was so good! Creamy mussels, spicy calamari and peppery prawns…

Alongside a zesty seafood ceviche. It had been an exciting and exhilarating day but I was quite happy to be back in my comfort zone, drinking wine and eating seafood…

A big thank you to Jarat Tours for a fab day, and to Mr S for helping me face my fear!

I worked in collaboration with Jarat Tours on this trip 


Jarat Tours offer the following luxurious services: 

  • Tailor-made and luxurious tours of Cape Town and Johannesburg
  • A complete travel concierge service 
  • Chauffeur service and airport transfers 
  • Chartered aircraft, yachts and helicopters

My tour with Jarat was complimentary