Table Mountain Location Facts History Cape Town South Africa

Table Mountain Location Facts History Cape Town South Africa

In Africa’s southwest corner ramparts of sandstone rise out of the sea. Visible from more than 125 miles (200km) away, they have served as a spectacular and comforting beacon for seamen ever since the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias became the first European navigator to see them in 1488. Now they are one of the world’s most unforgettable landmarks – south Africa’s Table Mountain.

The Flat-topped monolith, its summit over 2 miles (3km) long, stands regally above Cape Town. From the top, beyond the city spread out below, you can look west across the Atlantic Ocean, south to the Cape of Good Hope and then turn north to see Africa rolling away into the interminable distance.

A ‘CLOTH’ FOR THE TABLE

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In summer a mantle of white cloud, fanned by the southeast wind, can billow across the top of the mountain and slip below its northern face to create an extraordinary ‘tablecloth’ of white across its entire surface.

Table Mountain is a massive block of sandstone, laid initially on a shallow seabed between 400 and 500 million years ago. Geological upheavals have since lifted it so that the summit is 3560ft (1086m) above sea level. Its northern face rises as a sheer precipice between distinctive peaks – Devil’s Peak on the eastern side, and Lion’s Head on the northwest.

Below the summit, Table Mountain’s green slopes fall away in a brilliant panorama of wildflowers. At least 400 footpaths – and a cable car that carries half a million people each year – now give access to the mountain, once the domain of lions and leopards.

VENTURING ‘BEYOND THE GARDEN GATE’

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Explorers risk life and limb to seek out the world’s remotest regions.

From the age of five, wrote the French traveller Alexandra David-Neel, ‘I craved to go beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by, and to set out for the Unknown’. This deep desire to explore the unexplored filled many adventurers. Others, including the Swedish geographer Sven Hedin, were others are driven by an unslakeable thirst for knowledge of the natural world. Whatever the motive, the passion to explore seems to be all-consuming, enabling men and women to risk the most extreme physical hardships.

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