I have been enjoying my little house next to the Monkey Forest, although it does come with some quirks. Of course everything in Bali comes with some quirks, at least to a westerner, but I was more than happy to deal with a few quirks due to the smokin deal on the price (less than $10 USD a night).

 

The biggest issue is the monkeys. The monkeys do not confine themselves to the official boundaries of the Monkey Forest, and being mere steps away, they visit my house regularly. The house belongs to one of the local ladies that works at the organization that I volunteered with last time I was in Bali, and I made the arrangements through the current volunteer coordinator. She warned over email that the monkeys often visit the garden of my little house, and if they got to be too much of a bother I could move into her house instead. I was not daunted, I told her no worries, I will get a big stick!

My little house is the one peeking out in the middle, the other two houses are currently unoccupied.

 

Well the ongoing monkey battles are a long story and a blog post in and of themselves, but one of the effects of the monkey situation is I have to keep all of the doors and windows closed unless I am keeping a super close eye on them, and then I will only open the one I am guarding. Now Balinese houses are not exactly airtight even with everything closed up. There are little open portholes at the top of the walls and the roof does not exactly fit tight to the walls. I am used to the lizards and bugs that come and go as they please. They don’t get into my stuff & I let them be. However, it’s been exceptionally hot in Bali, and keeping the windows and doors closed means it gets stuffy without the breeze. The one good thing about monkeys is they go to sleep as soon as it gets dark. So once night settles in (about 7pm), I feel free to open up all the windows in my little second story bedroom and the door to my balcony. It’s super relaxing to sit on my balcony and not have to be on high alert with my stick and slingshot, and my room gets some fresh cool air.

 

My little house is two stories and is probably about the size of a garage back home. The first floor has a tiny kitchen area and a bathroom and the rest of the floor is open with just a table. The second floor has another bathroom, but otherwise is just one room pretty much taken up by my bed, and opens to a nice sized balcony. It’s also very quiet. On one side of me sits the house and workshop of a woodcarver who has passed away, so it’s unoccupied, beyond that is the Monkey Forest. On the other side is another little house like mine which hasn’t been rented out in quite some time, beyond that is a rice paddy. Across from my house is a little ravine with a creek and more rice paddies, and I can just seen some buildings & lights of Ubud beyond.

 

 

I might feel a little isolated, but right behind my house is a small tourist accommodation with a few villas and a restaurant. I quickly made friends with the workers there, as I was commissioned into the neighborhood monkey patrol the second day I was here and even issued my own stick, and bag of rocks for my slingshot. My friend Gusti, who I think is perhaps the night manager, asked me within a few days if I would like to use their wifi (or as they pronounce it here, much to my amusement, wifey), which has saved me a lot of pulsa (cell credit), so we are fast friends. They all know that I stay by myself, so every night when I walk home past the villas Gusti & I have a quick chat and he always reminds me if I need anything, just yell “Gusti! Gusti! Gusti!” and he will run over. I think this is very nice.

The empty house next door on the left and mine on the right.

 

So last night I had an evening yoga class and got back to my side of the forest a little late by my Balinese standards (8:30pm), so I decided to just have dinner at the restaurant at the villas next door. For the better part of the last week I’ve had some sort of stomach thing. No puking thankfully, but bad stomach pains when I would eat. Well the pains have gone away, but my appetite hasn’t really returned. I ordered a pizza, which was about plate sized, but I still could only eat half. I was contemplating what to do. If I left the half a pizza there, they would think I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to hurt feelings (it was very good). However another of the quirks of my little house is the little refrigerator. I plugged it in when I first got here and it ran just fine, but then I opened the door. It looked clean enough, but the smell of mold was so strong I thought I was going to have to burn my nose hairs to get rid of it. It was not something that could be fixed with a box of Arm & Hammer. I do not think it was something that could be fixed with bleach. I think only fire could kill that smell. I quickly determined there would be no refrigeration which was fine since I planned on basically eating out all the time and am ok with room temp water. So there I sat wondering how long could my leftover pizza sit out? Overnight? I couldn’t leave it there & be rude, so I just had them box it up and figured I’d deal with it later. Later came quickly as I walked around to my house. I opened the refrigerator, thinking was it really as bad as I remembered? A second later the smell overcame me and I quickly shut the door with that question answered. I decided to just leave the pizza, which was in a little to go box and wrapped up in a plastic bag on my counter & deal with it the next day.

 

I shut the lights off downstairs, went up to my room and opened the windows and the door to the balcony. I went out on the balcony and was enjoying the dark and the quiet and reading a few things on my phone. Some time went by and I heard a thump. I paused and turned my ear to my room but I didn’t hear anything else. I figured something fell of my shelf with the breeze, or maybe it was a noise from the villas & not my room. I didn’t really think much of it and frankly was too lazy to investigate.

 

Give or take a half hour and I decide it’s time to go to bed, I go into my room, shut the door to the balcony and, walk over to the windows to shut them (just in case I don’t wake up before the monkeys do). That’s when I hear a noise downstairs. I freeze and think do I need to yell “Gusti! Gusti! Gusti!”? My common sense kicks in, if someone would have broken in through the door or windows downstairs I would have heard it, that means it is something small. The sound also sounds like something rustling in a plastic bag. I have a tokay that lives in my kitchen rafters. Tokays are fairly large geckos, and I know they eat bugs, but left over pizza? Doubtful. Oh and did I mention that the Balinese won’t go near the Monkey Forest at night because it is filled with spirits? They all ask me how I am sleeping, fearing that the spirits are disrupting me. Now I don’t believe in this, but at this point it time I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind. Mostly I am thinking “oh please don’t be rats, please don’t be rats… or something bigger” I grab my flashlight and creep down a couple of steps and bend over so I can just see into the first floor. I shine my light, and see that my take out is now on the floor, and the bag is opened up. I am not seeing anything moving, I slowly move my light and under the kitchen table… and I see two white furry little paws, attached to… a little kitty cat. Oh thank heavens, I’ve never been so happy to see a cat in all my life. It is a tiny little thing like all cats are here and totally skittish. I am now talking to the cat like we are old friends. “Oh Putty Tat you really made me nervous, are you hungry? Want some more pizza?” I picked the meat off of the pizza and some cheese and tossed bits to the scared kitty under the table, until I was afraid the little thing might puke. Then I opened the door and took the last of my leftovers out and hurled them from my front gate to the ravine across from my house. If the rats (or whatever) wanted the rest of it, I wanted them to eat it far from my house. I figured kitty would would run out when I opened the door. I figured wrong. Kitty wanted to stay under the table. It took some herding, but I finally got kitty out the door. I locked everything back up and went back upstairs and just waited a couple minutes. Sure enough kitty poked it’s head back in my second story window and I had to shoo it away.

 

Moral of the story, I shall have no cross ventilation going forward. Even at night I can only leave one guarded window or door open.

 

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The next stop on our itinerary was Sossusvlei, the giant red sand dunes in the Namib desert, which is the oldest desert in the world. It was a long untarred roadtrip getting there, but we did see a few interesting things along the way like the heard of springbok crossing the road below and a pretty hawk. From a long distance away driving towards the dunes, they glow a surreal magenta/red/orange color with purpley blue rocky hills behind them, and a silvery green in front from tiny little sage brush type plants that look like tribbles. I tried several times to capture this goregous colored landscape with my camera, but it just never came out the same way it looked to the naked eye.

 

We stayed right outside the park gates in a campground with very nice facilites. Each spot had it's own little covered deck type area with a private shower and toilet. There was also a communal swimming pool, which we made use of in the +110 f heat. The very pleasant thing about the desert here is although it gets extremely hot during the day, once the sun goes down it cools quickly and is actually a bit chilly at night, so it's super confortable for sleeping.

 

There was a luxury lodge across the street from our campground (rooms starting at $350usd per night), where we had a very good buffet dinner both of the nights we stayed here. We've found it's easy to enjoy some of the ammenities at these lodges (spa, dining, tours), while staying at the more affordable campsites adjacent to them. The buffet featured nine different types of game meat; springbok, impala, zebra, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, red hartbeest, eland, kudu, ostrich and I can't remember what else, to be grilled on demand. Between Neal and I, I think we tried bites of all of them. Game meat here tastes surprisingly un-gamey. In fact all of the game meat I've had has been delicious! However they all taste somewhat similar as well, so I think that the marinade they soak everything in probably has something to do with it. The cuts are also sliced pretty thin. I noticed that when I ate the meat fresh off of the grill it was quite tender, but once it began to get slightly cool it also began to get tough. I have a suspicion that if you just shot one of these creatures in the wild and threw a hunk of meat on the bbq they would not taste quite this good.

 

We drove out to into the dunes the next day. You can drive most of the way in a 2wd, but the last 4km require a 4wd. There are national park shuttles that will run you back and forth that last little bit, but since it was early and still cool we elected to walk in.

An ostrich with a dune
 
A 4km walk is no big deal. A 4km walk when you sink up to your ankle in sand each step is somewhat less enjoyable. The views were spectacular though, and I did feel some smug satisfaction each time a shuttle of lazy tourists passed.
Shadow & sand selfies.
Surreal looking giant dunes all around us.
 
Little creatures to check out in the sand.

 

The walk could have also taken a long time because I stopped every few feet to capture these beauties at different angles.

 

The patterns of the windswept sand were very cool.

 

Once we got to the end of the 4wd trail we climbed up Big Daddy Dune, and slid down the side to see Dead Vlei.

That tiny little speck is Neal. I was being pokey with my picture taking. The scale of these dunes is staggering.

 

Dead Vlei is a salt pan between the dunes with some dead trees in it. This area was once fed by a seasonal underground river, but the river changed course and the trees died. It's very well known for it's surreal look and the sample image from my favorite photo editing app, Snapseed, features a picture from here. I didn't tell Neal that one of the reasons we trekked all the way out here was so I could recreate that picture! I wasn't sure he'd understand 😉

The infamous Dead Vlei trees.
So photogenic! I couldn't stop snapping!
 
Pretty sure this is the spot where the Snapseed sample image was taken, so I had to get a picture of myself here!

 

According to the guide book this is the biggest tourist attraction in Namibia. Note the tiny specs on the top of the dune and the guy walking through my frame. So many people here, might as well be Disneyland 😉
The colors and stark contrasts are fantastic.

 

As desolate as the Soussusvlei is, there is a surprising amount of life. Little lizards, and birds were all around. There was one picinic table near the dunes under a big (living) tree, and one of the tourists spilled a bit of her water on the table. A flock of tiny finches landed right in front of us and started drinking. I've lured birds with food before, but never water. They were as bold as could be trying to get more water from us, and we obliged.

The desert was really heating up by the time we were done, so we decided to take the shuttle back to our van. We were in a large Jeep/Land Rover type vehicle with three rows of bench seats behind the driver and it was just like the Indian Jones ride at Disneyland. We were bumping and jostling all around as the driver swerved around some of the bigger bumps, flew right over some, and gunned it through deep soft sand. That 10 minute ride was a super fun end to the dune adventure.

 

 

 

At some point, most likely when browsing the internet instead of working, I ran across some haunting photos of a town being swallowed by the desert. They were so beautiful and surreal looking I assumed it was some sort of Photoshop trickery, but upon Googling I found this ghost town really did exist in the Namibian desert. When I started to plan this trip and realized I'd be going to Namibia, seeing this town was high on my bucket list, and I was prepared to travel a long way to get there, and we that's exactly what we did.

 

Kolmanskop was founded in the 1890's to mine the diamonds found in the desert sands surrounding this area, and at it's peak it was home to around 375 permanent residents, plus hundred more mine workers on temporary contracts. At the end of the 1930's larger deposits of diamonds were found further south in Namibia, and the mining operations, along with almost all of the residents, moved to the better location.

 

 
This area is still owned by Nabdeb, the Nambia DeBeers mining company, and you can only visit a section of Kolmanskop by permit for a few hours a day. There are still diamonds to be found in the area, and although they are too small and scarce to be economically mined currently, Nabdeb certainly doesn't want anyone else poking around in the sand. They really do not take trespassing lightly, this was reiterated by our tour guide several times, and the signage is everywhere.
 
 

 

 

 

When you visit Kolmanskop you can join in on one of the two guided tours per day, and you are also free to just climb through all the houses (as long as you don't cross into restricted areas) with a casual warning not to have more than two people on an of the upper floors at the same time, and to keep an eye out for several types of snakes. This is just awesome and would not be allowed in the US. I was feeling so Indiana Jones I had to take a selfie!

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed in Luderitz, the closest town to Kolmanskop, a small port town sandwiched between the forlorn desert and the fridgid Atlantic. Aside from the bit of diamond mining, oysters are the big game in town, and they are incredibly fresh and delicious. The lagoons around Luderitz Bay are also home to African Flamingos.

 

Flamingos and the city of Luderitz across the bay
 

 

 

After a couple of lovely days on the cape, we started the epic road trip and started north to the South Africa/Namibia border. We knew we wouldn't make it to the border on the first day, so we stopped in tiny town in just prior to the Northern Cape border. I was used to hearing the occasional Afrikaans in the Southern Cape, but it was definitely the main language up north. In fact it felt like we were in a whole new country. The next day we continued along the very long Cape Namibia Route under wide blue skies with beautiful silky looking clouds.
I was seriously amused by one of the rare radio stations we were able to tune into, which played what sounded like Afrikaaner country western music, then Megan Trainor's All About the Bass, some more Afrikaaner country western, then Shaggy's “It Wasn't Me” from the late 90's, then some Sam Shepard before it got too static-y to bear any further. All of this was intermixed by a DJ who I could only describe as speaking Spanglish, but instead of Spanish, Afrikaans. He just flowed from a few words of one language to the next back and forth, and I could kind of figure out what he was saying.
 
After a long morning of driving, we finally hit the border in the early afternoon. You go through the South African border control, where they exit stamp your passport, and ask a few questions about the van, and what's in the back, then you go through a short no man's land over the Orange River, the official border, and then deal with Namibia Immigration.
The Orange River dividing South Africa on the left with Namibia on the right. This is the little no man's land between the two border control stations.
We got our passport stamps & officially entered!
 

First thing we did on the Namibia side was stop for gas and a new SIM card for my phone. We pulled into the gas station, and found this creature on our front bumper. That's a bug of some sorts folks. I don't know if you can quite appreciate the scale in this picture but it was huge. I seriously thought it was a bird at first until I saw the body. It's a little unnerving to find an insect the size of a finch smooshed to your bumper. I certainly hoped it's family wasn't out looking for us to extract their revenge.

Our next stop was to be the Ai Ais Hot Springs Resort at the southern end of the Fish River Canyon. It didn't look like that far of a drive on the map. It was far. Very far. Also, we thought northern South Africa was sparsely populated, but it was a booming compared to southern Namibia. Over the entire multi hour drive to Ai Ais we saw four other vehicles on the road. And, the majority of those roads ended up being very dusty gravel/dirt roads. We passed zero towns, houses, gas stations, etc. Toto we were not in Kansas anymore! We were very glad to roll up to the Ai Ais gate about an hour before sunset. We did catch sight of a few cool animals on the way in, like the dik dik below.

A dik dik, they are tiny (about a foot or so tall) adorable deer that hop up sheer rock cliffs like no big deal.

Ai Ais really does feel like an oasis in the middle of nowhere. It was built to take advantage of the natural hot springs in the area, and they had an outdoor mineral water pool, as well as indoor soaking pools, and a spa. Because camps, or lodges as they are sometimes known, are so spread out, and it takes so many hours to get from one to another, let alone an actual town, they all contain a wide variety of ammentities and accomidation options. Campgrounds, hotel type rooms, private cabins or bush chalets, restaurants, stores, petrol pumps, etc. We opted to camp and sleep in our little van, and the campground area had very nice (and clean) toilets, showers, and cooking buildings scattered about, as well as individual water and power at each campsite (surprisingly tap water is still fine to drink). We ejoyed a cold beverage & dinner at the restaraunt, made plans to get massages and lounge in the pools the next day, and headed off to sleep. Early the next morning I woke up to the van a-rocking. I slowly opened my eyes and looked over at Neal, still peacefully snoring away. I then slowly and quietly raised my head and turned to look out the front windshield… and saw a baboon sitting on the hood looking in the window at me. My elbowing Neal and hissing wake up! wake up!, scared him away and he jumped down and loped off a few yards away. That was a very amusing way to start our camping adventures!

 

One of the baboons hanging around our camp. These guys are the size of a large-ish dog, about 40-50lbs.

 

Indoor pools.
 
The large outdoor pool and tennis courts behind it.
 
It was surreal floating in the pool while watching the baboons on the hills fighting and bellowing like they were acting out a scene from Planet of the Apes.
 

We spent two nights, and had a full relaxing day taking advantage of all the hotsprings had to offer, before heading out to see the actual Fish River Canyon. Back on the dusty untarred road we saw a few springbok (tasty and adorable), but got to late of a start to see much else.

 

Our 60km drive to the main viewpoint of the canyon took about three hours on the bumpy roads. We are learning to have a lot of patience with getting from point A to B here. Sometimes the gravel/dirt roads are relatively smooth, and we can go at a decent pace, and sometimes they are very corrugated, and in our 2WD van with not great suspension we have to crawl along at a snail's pace. We drove out to a couple of viewpoints at the north end of the canyon and enjoyed our little picinic lunch of sandwiches. I made the poor choice of feeding my crusts to some darling little black birds that were hanging around and almost incited an Alfred Hitchcock-esque attack, but that is a lesson I will never learn because I am a sucker for small creatures.

Foolish human, if you value your eyeballs you will give me and my minions more crusts!!!
Fish River Canyon in all it's glory, not much water down there as we are just at the end of the dry season. This is the second largest canyon in the world.
The trailhead down to the bottom of the canyon. It's a 90km hike from one end of the canyon to the other, and it's strictly prohibited to hike down there without a guide.
 
Neal walking back to our camper van after a short hike to the canyon rim. I love this picture because it really shows just how vast and desolate Namibia has been.
After our fill of canyon vistas we headed to Canon Roadhouse to spend the night. Lonely Planet described it as having a kitschy Route 66 theme. Being as we were litterally in the middle of nowhere desert, I didn't quite anticipate just how well fleshed out this theme would be. We were driving for hours with nothing insight and all the sudden, boom! there's a big Americana themed full resort with everything you might need, petrol, restaraunt, ATM, motel style rooms, campsite, pool, etc. It is so weird, yet such relief after so much remoteness.
 
This place was just built in the late 1990's so they had to ship all these rusty cars in from somewhere (on many miles of rough unpaved roads).
 
The restaurant and bar, full of German tourists!
 
They must have had well over 100 vehicles strewn over the property.
 

We camped here as well, and the stars were just amazing. At our last campsite there were some very bright lights, probably to keep the baboons away, but here they were much more sublte and the night sky with no moonlight was stunning. So fantastic to just lay in the back of the van with the sliding door and moon roofs open and watch the sky.

The next morning we set off pretty early and managed to spot lots of wildlife from the car!

 

Oryx, known locally as Gemsbok

 

These guys are really massive and super impressive looking in person.
Little zebra family
This zebra crossed the road right in front of us at a full gallop to join the rest of the herd.
 
It's just too cool to see these guys in the wild!
And lastly, as tomorrow is Thanksgiving for all my friends & family in the USA, I'll leave you with the birds that may rival turkeys for intelligence. We ended up seeing many ostriches just chilling sitting on train tracks, they don't see to be the brightest.
 

 

 

Last Wednesday Neal & I picked up our rented camper van and started our epic road trip. The plan was to first spend a couple of days just south of Cape Town exploring all the little towns down the cape to The Cape of Good Hope. Not only is this a beautiful area, but it would also give us a couple of days to make sure all was good with the van before we started down some very remote stretches of road.

We did a leisurely drive down the Atlantic seaboard, and made our first stop at Hout Bay, a small active fishing harbor.

Along with some well used boats, and lots of fish & chips shacks, there was a man who would feed the seals from his mouth for “a small donation for my kiddies”. I took some pics and gave a donation. He obviously does this shtick all the time, and these are wild seals. I wonder if he always has the same “co-star”, or if it’s a rotating cast?

 
We left Hout Bay and took the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive out of town. This road is built rather precariously into the side of the mountain, and is frequently closed due to rock slides. That’s our little camper van below on a turnout.

After some nice seaside driving we cut across the cape to Simon’s Town, who’s big claim to fame is being home to Boulder’s Beach and its large wild African penguin colony. We followed the map and signs to what appeared to be a pretty nondescript neighborhood, and then pulled in to a not very big parking lot along side a park on the water. It was not the big zoo-like scene I was expecting. We walked down to the water by a restaurant, and there was a small group of the little critters, just busy being cute & penguiny.

These guys are also called jackass penguins because of their honking which sounds a little like braying. We hadn’t even gotten to the official nature reserve yet, so we could walk right up to them. We were all just hanging out on the beach together.

 

Case in point “someone” taking a selfie with a somewhat reluctant penguin.

Once we had our fill of photo opps we walked back up towards the parking lot and found the path to the park actually meandered through the neighborhood a couple of more blocks. We headed over there, paid our entrance fee, and strolled along the elevated boardwalk to a giant colony.

The small group we had seen on the initial beach was nothing. This was hundreds of penguins! They are really just as adorable in life as they seem on TV, and so funny to watch waddle around. They are funny little awkward walkers although very agile in the water.

This guy was just snoozing and enjoying the last few rays of sun. So hard to resist SQUEEZING!
SO MUCH CUTE!
Boulder’s Beach is litterally right in the middle of a nice beach side neighborhood, with street signs like this.
 

The next day we headed down to the tip of the cape to see Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. They create a bit of a Y shape at the tip of the continent, Cape Point to the east and Cape of Good Hope to the west. It’s funny that the Cape of Good Hope is more famous, as it’s pretty much just a large rock formation jutting out into the ocean, where Cape Point is actually much bigger and home to two lighthouses (the first was built too high on the point and was often obscured by fog and clouds, so after a few additional shipwrecks… oops, a second lighthouse was built further down on the cliffs).

Neal & I had to get our picture taken with the famous sign (in English and Afrikaans). There was litterally a line of tourists waiting and the person waiting behind you would take your photo, very efficient!
 
We also climbed up to the top of the rocky Cape of Good Hope for additional photo opprotunities, and saw our old friends the dassies.
Still irritated that we are on his rock.
 
Almost friendly
 
Me at the very edge of the world! Nothing but ocean and Antartica behind me.
 
The funicular up Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope in the background.
 
The upper, older & often useless lighthouse on Cape Point.
 
The lower, newer Cape Point lighthouse
Looking back at Cape Point from the Cape of Good Hope you can see the distance between the two lighthouses.
 
A huge container ship rounds the Cape of Good Hope as a line of cape cormorants glide by.
 
All day long as we were driving along we saw a bunch of signs warning about baboons. Baboons are dangerous wild animals. Baboons are aggressive. Do not feed the baboons… and on and on. We began to wonder where these elusive dangerous baboons were hanging out, as we hadn’t seen them at all, when finally we saw a momma, daddy & baby hanging out in the parking lot at the Cape of Good Hope. Sadly this was just about the time I realized I was developing a nasty migrane, so I got one quick shot as I hustled to the van to take a handfull of extra strenght tylenol. I say sadly, because I had to lay down with my eyes covered for about 15 minutes while the pills kicked in while Neal got to watch stupid tourists getting too close to the baboons and getting mugged for their water bottles. I miss out on all the fun 😦

 

At just over 3,550 tall, Table Mountain is the large flat topped mountain in the photo above. Devil’s Peak is to the left, and Lion’s Head to the right. Capetonians love Table Mountain, and it’s not hard to see why. It creates a breathtaking backdrop to the city, and it offers a peaceful bit of wilderness just moments away. The first thing you read or are told about the mountain, is not to underestimate it. The weather changes in the blink of an eye and can be quite different on top than it is in the city below. I’ve been lucky enough to go up to the top twice now and experienced this first hand. The first time I went up with Elena and Ingerid it was sunny and gorgeous. However, the sun was so strong that even with a hat and reapplying sun screen regularly, I ended up having to put my windbreaker on and enduring a little extra sweating, to keep from burning. The second time I went up with Neal I experienced how quickly a very cold, wet, and windy storm can pass through.

You can hike up the mountain in about 2-3 hours, but most tourists (myself included), chose to take the 4 minute aerial cable car ride up instead.
 
Fun fact about the cable cars – there is no running water or sewers on the top of Table Mountian, so the bottom compartment of the cable cars are actaully large water tanks. These tanks take fresh water up for the cafe & restrooms, and haul waste water down daily. The water tanks are also sometimes kept full to act as weights on the cars keeping them steady during high winds.
The cableway on a stormy day with Lion’s head & the Atlantic Ocean in the background.
 
Once you get to the top of the mountain there is the upper cableway station with a small gift shop (with lots of hats, jackets & sweatshirts for the unprepared), and one other small building with a cafe & restrooms. Other than that it’s all nature.
The cableway station on the right & cafe on the left.
 
Lions, leopards & baboons used to roam up here, but now the common wildlife is a bit smaller.
Lizards like stunning views.
 
I saw quite a few blackbirds, lizards & dassies. Dassies (rock hyraxes) are interesting little creatures, they appear to be oversized gerbils, but they are not rodents, their closest living genetic relative is the elephant.
Dassies also enjoy the view.
 
I took a lot of dassie photos, but they seemed to always have a cranky look on their faces. I imagine them saying “Hey kid, get out of my yard!”.
 
Lizards were a little harder to spot, but I still managed to get several photos.
 
 

The real draw at the top is not the little critters (although I enjoy them so!), it’s the view. The view is so expansive the only way I could get it in one photo was to break out the fisheye lens!

Lion’s Head and Signal Hill on the left, the citybowl of Cape Town in the middle, and Devil’s Peak on the right. Table Bay and Robben Island, too.
 
This picture is looking the opposite direction, south down the 12 Apostles Mountains with the Atlantic Seaboard and Camps Bay.
You can really see how crazy the weather is here. Up on the top of the mountain it was rainy, cold, and very windy. Down at Camps Bay, it was still sunny and warm.
 
Although it was a little (lot) windy, and I was a bit on the wet and cold side, I am not one to miss a great photo opp! Me at the top of the Plattekip Gorge, the cravass most hikers use to get up the mountain, with Devil’s Peak & some super foreboding storm clouds in the background.
 
Lots of bright sun on my first visit.
The bushland flora on Table Mountain, and along the coast in the Western Cape is called fynbos. The Dutch gave this group of plant life it’s name and it means “fine bush”.
 
It’s seriously unreal how dramatic and rugged both the hills and the skies are here. Amazing how this is just minutes away from the city center by cable car.
 
Rain or shine, I could not stop staring at this view.
The top of the mountain was expansive, flat, rocky and bushy, as expected, but there were also many little hidden pools like this all over.
 
Every single direction I looked was photo worthy!
 
Table Mountain is simply stunning, and an extremely special place in the world. I’m so glad it’s been cared for and left in it’s natural state as much as possible. I’ll leave you with a dassie watching the storm roll over the world below him. If you look closely you can see the lower cableway station, the lone building on the first road down the mountain.
 

 

  1. “…pleasure” When you say thank you in Cape Town, people don't say you're welcome. The standard response is “pleasure” or “my pleasure”, short for it's my pleasure. When someone, especially a gentleman, says this to you in a South African accent it is charming… quite charming. In fact all of us girls were swooning over it when we first heard it at our convention, and it has not lost it's luster yet 😉
  2. Warthog I was excited to try all the unique game meats in South Africa, pretty much just for the novelty factor. I did not expect to actually enjoy them, but then I tried warthog, and now there is no going back. Warthog was not what I expected. I expected gamey and tough, but what I got exceptionally lean, yet somehow incredibly juicy, with a flavor that is definetly pork, but somehow better. Please some Portland hipster start a free range, organic, humanely raised, artisanal, grassfed, farm to table warthog ranch. Start it soon, or I may never be able to come home.
  3. Tap Water I had read somewhere that it was safe to drink the tap water in Cape Town. Now it's also safe to drink the tap water in LA, but it tastes like bleach and nastiness and no one does it. Even in Portland where our water is great, I don't drink tap at home because the pipes in our neighborhood are old and it ends up having a distinctly musty taste. Imagine my surprise in Cape Town when out of desperation one night I took a sip of tap water at my hotel, and… it tasted great! And by great I mean no taste at all. Also, no tummy troubles! Oh man it is so convenient to just fill up my water bottle with tap at anytime, no popping into the corner store all the time to buy water.
  4. The Sky The sky here is amazing. The light has a really dazzling quality, especially during sunrise and sunset (see the picture above). I'm not sure if it's the way it filters between the mountains into the city, or the latitude, or what. Also the clouds. They are always moving, different shapes, sizes, colors, ect. As a photographer I am mesmerized by it, and I'm talking pictures of the sky & the light all the time.
  5. VH1 Classics The basic cable here has a station called VH1 Classics. It plays music videos non-stop. No commercials, no VJs, no reality TV, just videos. The bulk are from the 80's and 90's, but they seem to play anything from 70's to present day, so they take some liberties with the term “classics”. It is the best for a little background music, and I am loving watching videos I haven't seen in over a decade. I wish you existed in the US.