Today was the day I finally got to hike up a mountain. To be fair, I have only been in Cape Town for about a week and a half. However, the second I stepped out of the airport I saw mountains and immediately wanted to be on top of them.

The view of Table Mountain from the street I live on
The view of Table Mountain from the street I live on

The city of Cape Town is built around Table Mountain. Table Mountain a flat-top mountain that is one of multiple mountains comprising Table Mountain National Park. It officially became one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012 (“It’s Official”). The two main peaks on either end of Table Mountain are called Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. Lion’s Head is the peak known for good sunrises and sunsets. It is also the shortest and easiest hike, so the locals advised us to start with it. So, with maybe a little too much pride, I, along with three other friends, decided to hike Lion’s Head to see the sunrise.

It is summer in Cape Town, so the days are long, and the sun rises early. To be precise, the sun rises at 6:10 am. This meant we needed to start hiking before 5 am. We woke up around 4:00 am, were in an Uber at 4:30 am, and began hiking at 4:54 am.

About five minutes into the hike all four of us started complaining about something. It is a lot of work to walk up a steep hill, especially so early in the morning. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

hiking down the mountain
hiking down the mountain

We assumed we were making good time when we stopped behind a long queue (line) of tourists along a narrow path with a drop off to one side and tall, intimidating rocks to the other side. They informed us that they went the wrong way, but the satellite map on my friends’ phone appeared to show us on the right path. They backtracked, and we moved forward, quickly to find a dead end. Luckily as we shamefully began following the narrow path back, we found the correct path. At the top of a ladder we climbed, we were supposed to turn left instead of right. It really is hard to see in the dark. This was our first humbling experience.

Next, we made it to a fork with a sign that said “alternative route” or “scaling”. It was emphasized that scaling was at our own risk, but we proceeded up the path, nonetheless. Rungs were somehow drilled into the rocks to help us climb. Near the top of about a 20 foot climb, the rungs disappeared and a heavy metal chain was along one side of the rocks. That is what we used to get up the remaining few feet of rock.

The most challenging part of this experience was doing it in the dark. A sunrise hike meant hike up in the dark in order to see the sun rise at the top. None of us owned head torches (headlamps) so we were using the flashlight on our phones to light the way. However, when scaling rocks, both hands are needed, so the phone flashlights were turned off and put away.

After we made it through the scaling portion, feeling pretty proud of ourselves, we could see the top of the mountain. However, it still seemed so far away and what was between us and the top of the mountain was more rocks! So, we climbed. There was another ladder, more rungs, and a lot of careful stepping up rocks.

The view of the top of Lion's Head from hike down
The view of the top of Lion’s Head from hike down

As my friends and I talked about the unexpected intensity of this hike while climbing, a few locals passed us. One woman asked us if we had done Devil’s Peak or Table Mountain. We admittingly denied our hiking experience in Cape Town. With a friendly smirk, she explained that Lion’s Head is nothing compared to the other hikes. Apparently both Devil’s Peak and the top of Table Mountain include longer, steeper, harder climbs. More information on that to come soon.

However, in good timing, we made it! I’m not going to lie, standing on top of a mountain before 6 o’clock felt accomplishing. Also, the view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking. I saw the ocean, different beaches, the city, and other mountains all from one point. And I can’t forget the sun, of course. Or did we miss it?

"cloud clearing! quick--let's get a picture!"
“cloud clearing! quick–let’s get a picture!”

We were standing on top of the mountains for 15 minutes with colorless clouds. The clouds would engulf the top of the mountain and limit our visibility, then blow away so we had a clear, gorgeous view, only to quickly return. The colors in the sky were not meeting my expectations because they were completely lacking. It was light enough outside that I thought the sun had already risen without colors. But all of a sudden, the sun popped out behind a mountain in the distance. Within seconds, colors of pink and orange were painted across the sky so vibrant I thought I was dreaming. I thought to myself THIS is why I woke up at 4am.

A view of the sunrise as the colors start pushing through the clouds
A view of the sunrise as the colors start pushing through the clouds
Just sitting on a rock, admiring the view!
Just sitting on a rock, admiring the view!

 God’s majesty and beauty was shining right in my face, and I could not help but be in total awe. I am so thankful to be in a city and country that has a variety of activities, and a melting pot of people where I can learn from others and constantly be reminded of God’s majesty that surrounds me—and all of us—every day, even if we don’t think we can see it.


“It’s Official – Table Mountain Is a New7Wonder of Nature.” TableMountain Aerial Cableway | Official Website,

Published by Julia Wilson

Class of 2021 IES Abroad Cape Town, South Africa Biology, Psychology

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