Friday, October 10, 2014

Table Mountain National Park

Monday, October 7, we got up early to ride the cable car up Table Mountain. We still arrived later than expected and had a two-hour wait in the heat for the ride up. Fortunately, today, the tablecloth did not get set and we were able to have great views even in the early afternoon. By the time we left, the fog had rolled in down below but not atop the mountain.

Rising 3566 feet above sea level, Table Mountain is a landmark for sailors from over 100 miles out to sea. The mountain rose out of the sea about 600 million years ago making it six times older than the Himalayas. Today, it is classified as one of the seven ‘new’ wonders of the world as voted by people online. I guess that means the Victoria Falls, which we will see in a couple of weeks is one of the ‘old’ wonders of the world. It makes for a good marketing tool anyway. Certainly, both Table Mountain and Victoria Falls are both worthy of a high placement on any list.

The tablecloth refers to the cloud cover that forms at the top and then flows down the mountain where it dissipates in the warmer temperatures. The legend is that an old pirate and the devil have been smoking ever since the pirate suggested a smoking competition to save his soul.

Most impressive about the mountain is the wide variety of plant species. The southern part of South Africa is one of six of the world’s plant kingdoms and the only one that exists solely within one country. The dominant plant type is the fynbos which includes over 8000 species, most of which are endemic to South Africa. Over 1500 of those species exist on Table Mountain giving it more plant diversity than any other place on earth. We only saw a few that were flowering, but it is still exciting to see that much diversity. I had hoped to see a couple of new birds, but none showed. Maybe next time.

South of Table Mountain the peninsula extends to the Cape of Good Hope, so named by Prince Henry as it indicated the possibility of the trade route to India and the Spice Islands. A 99 mile drive circumnavigates the peninsula and reaches right to the tip called Cape Point. Once we returned to the bottom of the mountain, we left to travel some of that 99 miles on our way to Cape Point and Simon’s Town where we would see the African penguins. With a bit of luck we would also see some of the resident baboons.

A young ostrich
Baboons playing in the road. We think they may have been a bit tipsy since they seemed totally oblivious to us.

The penguins are molting. Molting takes 21 days during which they stand in place with nothing to eat. Many birds are unable to fly while molting which obviously makes them more vulnerable to predators. The penguins have to make sure they have fattened up for the three weeks they will spend without food. 

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