Table Mountain History

My second blog of table mountain is going to cover the history of the impact that Table Mountain had on the people of the Cape and it’s development.

The Majestic Table Mountain presides over Cape Town like an ever present guardian and protector.  It must have been an awe inspiring sight when the early explorers headed towards Cape Point on their way to the East to procure spices to take back home.

The History of Table Mountain

  • The Khoekhoe herders moved down to the Cape from the north around 2 000 years ago. They were drawn to Table Mountain due to the abundance of fresh water and grassy vegetation which was ideal for grazing. These herders lived on the milk from their herds, shellfish, meat and plants.  They named the mountain “Horikwaggo”, Mountain at the Sea.  They lived happily alongside the hunter gatherers, known as the San, who were gradually absorbed by the Khoekoe.
  • Their peaceful existence was rudely disrupted by the arrival of the European explorers in the 1400s and later by the Dutch who arrived in the 1600s. There was a great deal of conflict over land and cattle which resulted in the reduction of the indigenous population.  This  was further exacerbated by the  outbreak of Smallpox in the 1700s.
  • In March 1503 the Portuguese Explorer Andonio de Saldanha, who was probably the first European to climb Table Mountain named the Mountain “Taboa do Cabo” (Table of the Cape).
  • The Dutch arrived and settled in the Cape in 1652. The reason they chose Table Bay as a harbour was the availability of water in the area around Table Bay.  The Dutch  constructed “graghts” or canals to channel fresh water form the gorges of Table Mountain to the growing settlement at the base of the mountain.
  • The British took over from the Dutch for second time in 1806 and the Table Mountain rock, water and timber were utilised to support the growing population of Cape Town. The Canals which were built by the Dutch were filled in and a system of pipes was built to channel water to the city from the Mountain. During the latter part of the 1800s reservoirs, pipelines and dams were built to supply water to the ever-increasing population of Cape Town.
  • In 1929 the first Cableway which was built from Wood and steel was opened. This was upgraded in 1958 and in 1974. The most recent upgrade was in 1997 when the round cars with revolving floors, known as Rotairs were introduced. The revolving floor affords occupants a 360’ view as they ascend or descend. The trip from the lower cable car station takes it’s passengers 704m up from the lower Cable Station which is  363m above sea  to the upper cable car station which is 1 067m above sea level.  It carries on average 1 million people per year and has an accident free record.

The Growth of the Mother City at the base of Table Mountain

  • Table Mountain has presided over Cape Town through the centuries and borne witness to the growth of the City of Cape Town. When you are at the top you can see some of the remnants from the early days, the best example being the Castle of Good Hope.  The Castle was built by the Dutch East Indian Company between 1666 and 1679 and is the oldest colonial building in South Africa.
  • The farms that were developed by the Dutch on the slopes of Table Mountain gave way to suburbs.  An example of this is Oranjezicht which was once a farm granted to Peter van Breda in 1731It was named Oranjezicht, possibly because of the view of orange orchards in the Company Gardens or because it overlooked the Castle’s Oranje Bastion.
  • A very prominent feature as you stand on top of Table Mountain and look over the city, is the harbour. It was built around 1654 by the Dutch with a view to supplying food and water to passing ships. Over the years the harbour has grown enormously.  The biggest developments being in 1870 being the construction of the Alfred Basin and in 1954 the Duncan Dock.  In 2008 there was another huge development when the Container Depot was constructed.
  • Table mountain has overseen the physical change of the shore line of Cape Town when tons of soil were removed from Riet Vlei and used to construct what is now known as the Foreshore. Woodstock was once a beachside suburb, and there was a hotel called the Beach hotel, all that changed from 1937 when 480 acres were reclaimed from the sea.  In 1945 the largest dry dock in the Southern Hemisphere was developed which put paid to Woodstock’s Beach!
  • Another very prominent development which you can view from Table Mountain is the Victorian Alfred Waterfront which was transformed in the 1980’s from a very functional and industrial harbour to a vibrant place where tourists and locals alike gather to eat, drink, shop and be entertained. Our developers went overseas looking for best practice and now developers from overseas come here to look at what we have done!

Come and let me share the Splendours of Table Mountain with you!

As your Tour Guide, I would point out these and many more features of the City at the base and on the slopes of Table Mountain.  There is no better way to orientate yourself in the City as you have a bird’s eye view of the City from there.  Once you have seen it from above, I would take you to see and experience some of the places you spotted from the top of Table Mountain.

If you are adventurous you have the option of abseiling (rappelling) from the top which is an amazing experience, or I could take you to Signal Hill where you can parasail down to Sea Point promenade, another awesome experience!

Come to Cape Town, let me be your Tour Guide and share the Splendours of Table Mountain and its surrounds with you! Please feel free to see what some of my previous visitors thought about their experiences of me as their Tour Guide:

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