x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

No dearth of tracks over Table Mountain

My husband and I will be in Cape Town next week for the Fifa World Cup. Can you suggest a few popular hiking trails and day walks on Table Mountain that we can attempt?

With its diverse flora, ever-changing landscape and breathtaking views, Table Mountain is one of Cape Town's must-visit places.

The first car goes up Cable Mountain at 8.30am and the last car descends at 9.30pm. Return journeys for adults cost 160 rand (US$21; Dh77). Note that the cable cars do not operate on windy days and during bad weather. Hiking on Table Mountain is very popular among locals and tourists, and a number of trails of varying difficulty are available. The four Hoerikwaggo Trails (People's, Table Mountain, Orangekloof and Top to Tip) are operated by South African National Parks (www.sanparks.org; 00 27 21 465 8515) and offer two- to six-day hikes that range from easy to strenuous. On the Orangekloof trail, for example, hikers cover nearly 27 kilometres over two days and it is not recommended for the faint-hearted. At R420 (Dh200) per person, the cost includes cable-car rides, permits to restricted areas and luggage transportation. Hikers are accommodated in tents that sleep two to four people.

The guided plateau walks (www.tablemountainwalks.co.za) are the most popular. They depart daily at 10am and 12pm from the Upper Cable Station at a signposted meeting point. Of these, the Dassie Walk is the most popular, probably because it is one of the shortest (it's a 15-minute stroll) and classified as "very easy". Agama Walk is an idyllic, 30-minute climb which offers 360-degree views of Cape Town and Cape Peninsula.

For those who want to venture out on their own and prefer more challenging routes, there is plenty to choose from. Platteklip Gorge path, along one of the most prominent gorges down the centre of the main table ( the gorge divides the plateau into two "tops") offers a direct ascent to the summit . It takes about two and a half hours (depending on how fit you are). In summer, it ends with a view of sunshine conebush in full bloom.

If you're looking for a longer, more arduous climb, go via Back Table, a lower area on the mountain that leads to the south of the main plateau. Or attempt the climb from the Southern Suburbs side, where the Skeleton Gorge route - a strenuous three-and-a-half-hour ascent - takes you up to the top of Nursery Ravine and then in a gentle descent to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. The Bridle Path, also called the Jeep Track because it is laid with asphalt, is a gradual but tricky climb from Constantia Nek along a road that once used to connect the Back Table dams.

Besides these, there are many other paths on the lower slopes of the mountain that can be accessed from Constantia Nek, Cecilia Forest, Kirstenbosch, Newlands Forest and Rhodes Memorial. On the Atlantic side, the most popular ascent is Kasteelspoort, a gorge overlooking Camps Bay, while the Pipe Track is a level route branching off into several paths leading up to the Twelve Apostles ridge. It is popular among those looking for a casual, scenic stroll.

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