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Climbing Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

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Table Mountain is the flat-topped mountain that dominates the skyline of Cape Town, South Africa. It is 1085.9m at its highest point, Maclear's Beacon, and the top can be reached in one of two ways.

Option One

The enthusiastic - and fit - can climb the mountain by one of the many well-marked paths, taking anything from two to four hours, without stops. One of the nicest routes is from Kirstenbosch Gardens up Skeleton Gorge to the top, Cable Station. It has the advantage of being in the shade until you leave the gorge, and you get to say 'I went to the very top' without taking a detour.

Die-hard climbers can climb the Devil's Peak which adjoins the western side of the mountain. It is a relentless upwards path which takes at least four hours from Newlands Forest and there's no cable car to bring you down. It is also possible to climb the 'back' of the mountain from near Constantia, thus avoiding Maclear's Beacon and the hordes of tourists at the top Cable Station.

Option Two

Those not inclined towards great physical exertion can brave the queues and take the Cable Car from Kloof Nek to the top of the mountain. At the time of writing it costs R65 for a return on the rotating cable car, a ride that takes 5 minutes each way. You can then walk gently around on the flat top and it will take and hour to reach Maclear's Beacon where you can enjoy the scenery, the wildlife and those people with vertigo refusing to go near the edge.

There are souvenir shops and a restaurant at the top cable station, but as they have a monopoly on business on the mountain they are inevitably more expensive than elsewhere in Cape Town. However, the cable car does not run in very high winds, so check that it can bring you down before you start to climb. Also the 'tablecloth' cloud cover often arrives quickly and without warning, and no matter how pretty it may look on postcards it is definitely better viewed from below.

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