Dispatch 8:
Good Hope, South Africa 2007

Table Mountain is an amazing natural wonder that is right in the middle of a great world city. A cable car ride to the top is an amazing experience.

The cable cars have glass walls and revolving floors so, as the attendants tell you, you donít have to jockey for position. They allow a certain number to enter and you stand while the car is lifted rapidly to the top as the floor turns you around the panorama.

The speed is amazing, but the ride is smooth. It is only when you pass the car going the opposite direction that you realize how fast you are moving. Quickly you are at the top of this glorious mountain, high over the city and the gleaming ocean. It feels as if you are on top of the world, as if you look down upon all of creation. In fact you are literally in the clouds.

As the atmosphere moves inland from the ocean, it rises along the mountainside and the water vapor coalesces into visible clouds, which materialize out of empty space and then move across the top of the mountain. South Africans refer to it as a tablecloth when the clouds cover the flat top of Table Mountain.

At that altitude there is a heavenly silence and calm. One looks down upon the city as one imagines the gods would. Its crashing and hustling and honking are as remote as a distant era.

Of course there was a crowd of tourists and schoolchildren present at this miracle, but no amount of tourist clamor can detract from the experience. While I was there, I witnessed a thick cloud approaching the top of the mountain, advancing, enveloping everything as in a science fiction horror flick. When it came to the edge of the mountain, the cloud of vapor literally poured over the side. It was a marvelous, breathtaking sight.

A comedown, however, was inevitable. There were more sights to see and things to do in Capetown. Our tourguide, Mario Jacobs of Cape Rhino Tours, drove us on a tour of the Cape. We drove along the shore of Table Bay, stopping here and there along the way at white sand beaches with hotels and shops lining the ocean drive, and all the while the towering spectacle of Table Mountain providing a backdrop.

We stopped for a lunch of fish and chips at a funky harbor restaurant called Fish on the Rocks and then headed south toward Table Mountain National Park and the Cape of Good Hope.

Within an hour or so we reached the Cape of Good Hope, so called by the Portuguese soon after its discovery for them by Bartholomew Diaz. It was celebrated for showing the Portugueses a way to India without having to travel on land through the Ottoman Empire, where they may enter unmolested, but would probably get robbed when returning full of booty.

It was an incredible experience and spectacle to see the rim of white foamy turbulence where the warm currents of the Indian Ocean meet the colder waters of the Atlantic, and to climb to the top of the hill to the ancient lighthouse where people from all continents converge, many of them writing their names and love notes to their sweeties on the walls of the lighthouse.

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