A Wonder of the World in the Vibrant Mother City of Cape Town

Heather O’Keeffe is a student at Case Western Reserve University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Heather is currently studying abroad with ISA in Cape Town, South Africa.

Everyday I look up at Devil’s Peak and everyday my breath is taken away. The University of Cape Town is nestled on the banks of the mountain, so walking between classes, heading home from the grocery store, or warming up for soccer practice. The mountain is there, bold and beautiful.

Jammie Plaza is at the center of UCT. Student life happens here right under Devil's Peak
Jammie Plaza is at the center of UCT. Student life happens here right under Devil’s Peak

Devil’s Peak hardly compares to Table Mountain. The Table Mountain: a wonder of the Natural World in the middle of city alive with 3.74 million stories. I will never forget going out to dinner at the V&A Waterfront and watching the clouds creep over the mountain; a constant cascade of white, creeping over the mountaintop but never reaching the ground. It was absolutely mesmerizing.

Table Mountain, in all its glory.
Table Mountain, in all its glory.

Needless to say, I’m obsessed with the geography of the Mother City and Table Mountain National Park. After 84 days away from home, I finally made it up the mountain. Meandering around the tabletop, after scrambling up a 3km staircase, I truly felt as if I was on top of the world. All of Cape Town was below me. I could see Camp’s Bay, where the rich go to play; the outline of Muizenberg Beach, the perfect spot to learn to surf, when the Great White Sharks aren’t around, of course; District Six, a constant reminder of the apartheid regime; the lake that held the 24 hour sailing race I participated in with the UCT Yacht Club; and the City Bowl, complete with the castle, soccer stadium, business district, and countless streets containing cute coffee shops, quirky restaurants, and many a fun Saturday night.

A tough hike will always be worth it with this kind of view at the finish line
A tough hike will always be worth it with this kind of view at the finish line

It’s the unique combination of natural seclusion in the middle of a bustling city, and the unreal beauty of Table Mountain, that fuels my intrigue. This past week my curiosity peaked; I began investigating the Hoerkiwaggo Trail. It’s a five-day, four-night trail stretching 75 kilometers from the cable car overlooking the City Bowl to the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern most point in Africa.

Table Mountain National Park stretches all the way down the peninsula.
Table Mountain National Park stretches all the way down the peninsula.

Hoerkiwaggo is Khosian for “the mountain in the sea,” which accurately describes this trail. Besides hiking through the mountains with the cityscape in the background, the trail runs through the mountains and along the beach. One moment you’re wandering down a white sandy beach with the frigid Atlantic Ocean crashing beside you, and the next you’re scampering up a cliff, covered in fynbos, a plant kingdom unique to the Western Cape.

How insanely epic does that sound? The Hoerkiwaggo Trail has moved all the way to the top of my Cape Town bucket list. In a close second is conquering Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, and Lion’s Head in one day! It seems the ultimate physical challenge, with breathtaking views of a city I have come to love at every turn.

Hopefully, before my ten months come to an end and December calls me home, I will achieve both these goals, or rather realize both these dreams. Whatever happens, even if I never summit again, I know Table Mountain will continue to capture my heart, as it has every Capetonian and visitor to this beautiful corner of the world. And that isn’t so bad either.


Author: Heather O'Keeffe

Oringinally from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Heather is currently a sophmore majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Sports Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Except for the occasional Netflix coma, Heather prefers to be busy. In her life sports and traveling reign supreme. Her favorite memories include playing soccer with local kids in Istanbul, listening to English fans chant while walking to the Bernabeu, swimming through rapids in Norway, and coaching Aussie Rules in Queensland. Heather's life long goal is to work, in any capacity, for the Olympics.

9 thoughts

  1. This sounds so amazing! I have been in Cape town, but not on the mountains. I am definitely inspired to see it now. :) Just a very random question, how is studying in South Africa?

    1. Studying here is amazing! There is always so much to do and the city continues to surprise me. Although because there is so much to do it does get hard to hit the books.

  2. I live in Cape Town, and I think its the best city to live in, I’m glad you’re exploring it. Though as a Capetonian I feel so embarassed that I don’t explore this city more. You need to check out the Biscuit Mill though, it in woodstock and the best place EVER…if you ask me :)

    1. Don’t worry, plenty of people in NYC never go to the Statue of Liberty! And I’ve been to Old Biscuit Mill once and plenty of my friends are obsessed with it!

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