Video: Table Mountain

Looming over Cape Town is the beautiful Table Mountain, a must visit on any Cape Town trip.  Just like stupid Robben Island, Table Mountain is subject to worker strikes that may or may not make your excursion possible.  On our visit, there was a strike going on and there was a 50/50 chance of us being able to go up.  Unlike Robben Island however, we were able to make this stop actually happen because the day of our visit the workers and employers and come to an agreement.

That being said, it was a little cloudy on the day we went which is not uncommon, so keep that in mind.  But we were lucky enough to catch a few breaks in the clouds to get some spectacular views of Cape Town.

On a cloudy day, the view is awesome.
On a cloudy day, the view is awesome.

There are multiple trails of varying degrees of difficulty to hike up or you can take a 4-minute, 255R cablecar ride that has a pretty cool 360 degree rotating floor.  As a group, we took the cablecar, but a return trip to South Africa to hike up the mountain has been added to my to-do list.  Once at the top, there are 15-, 30-, and 60-minute trails to walk around the top of mountain as well as cafes for refreshments.  A rock climbing company was also at the top offering tourists a chance to scale down the side of the mountain (another on my to-do list), and you’ll most likely run into a dassie or two, an indigenous animal that looked like a mix of a squirrel and a gopher.






Kuang Si Falls

After our outing with the elephants, we made our way to what is on pretty much every Top 5 of Laos list — Kuang Si Falls.  Because we had already pre-arranged this at the hotel, our driver picked us up from the Elephant Village and drove us the 30-45 minutes to the falls.  If you take the excursion out there on your own, I would highly recommend getting a driver with an actual car as opposed to hiring a Tuk Tuk.  The road there is dusty, bumpy, and windy and would be very uncomfortable on the back of the rickshaw.

The entrance fee for the falls is 20K kip.  Be sure to bring a bathing suit and towel because even if you don’t think you’ll want to go in the water, you will once you see it.  The Kuang Si Falls are a beautiful emerald-jade color with hundreds of butterflies that flutter all around; it truly lives up to the hype.  The first watering hole you approach at the falls is by far the biggest and busiest.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is the only watering hole out of the excitement of seeing it first.  Keep walking up and you’ll see that there are about 7 or 8 watering holes and they get progressively less and less busy as you keeping walking up the hill (that being said, the first watering hole does have a tree that you can jump off of into the water).

As you make it up the hill, you’ll eventually reach the apex of the falls which is a giant 200 ft. waterfall.  At the bottom, you can take some great pictures and there is a trail that will take you to the top.  Now when we tried to hike up this, we were both wearing flip flops, making it nearly impossible.  So if you want to hike up to the top, be sure to wear shoes.  Also, the climb is incredibly steep, like on your hands and knees steep.  It is not for anyone who isn’t in peak physical shape.  As we were struggling to get to the top, we asked the folks coming down if it was worth the effort.  Most, if not all, said “No”.  The general consensus was that the view wasn’t really that good at the top and you may as well just take more pictures from the bottom.  So it’s up to you whether you think the climb is worth it.

We eventually settled on a water hole 2/3 of the way up from the bottom of the trail and hung out there for a good couple of hours.  The water is a little chilly, but you do get used to it after a while and the refreshing coolness and cleanness of the water is a welcome escape from the hot mugginess of Southeast Asia.

 

 

Hanging out at 2800 meters

Continuing my conversation about Venezuela, it’d be remiss of me to not mention further my group of high school friends who I take many of my travels with.  Once a year, we try our best to reunite to take our annual “Fire It Up” trip.  Going to Venezuela was one of the excursions.

First of all, going on the trip we went on to Venezuela was not cheap by any means.  Despite the fact that we’re all pretty low maintenance when traveling, the cost of the airfare and travel package was pricey.  That being said, you DO NOT want to be traveling around Venezuela without some sort of guide, especially on the hiking trip we took, so the cost is worth it.

The trip we took was a climb up Mt. Roraima, which is on the Venezuela/Brazil border.  If you’ve ever seen the movie “Up”, you remember that flaptop they wander around on?

Yeah, well Mt. Roraima is the real life place that the movie was depicting.  And yes, our trip was to go to the top.

Now, if you didn’t read the Wikipedia link I inserted, I’ll give you a brief description of what it is.  Mt. Roraima is a flattop mountain (think Will Smith’s hair in the Fresh Prince).  The top is a plateau that’s about a little under 3000 meters high and has a walking area of about 30 square km.  Getting to the top is no joke and I WOULD NOT recommend it for those of you who might not be in top shape.  The dangerous climb up  and down the side of the mountain is rocky, steep, and wet (at the part when you hike up and down through a waterfall).  And you’re doing all of this with all your gear on your back.  But when you do make it to the top – it’s like no other feeling.

Needless to say, it’s incredible.  It’s hard to describe in words what the plateau is like other than it’s like walking around on another planet.  Literally, you can hike around on the top for miles.   One second it’s sunny and clear, and the next second, a cloud will come cruising in and you’re immersed in fog.  There’s not a whole lot of life on the top, but there are several very unique rock formations all around making it very serene, eerie, and alien.

For those you who don’t like heights, stay away from the edges.  There is literally a straight 3,000 meter drop on the sides of the plateau that would make even a skydiver squirm.

Like I said before and earlier this week, the hiking company we went with was outstanding: New Frontier Adventures.  There’s not enough good things to say about the group of guys who we traveled to the top with.  All of our guides were friendly, competent, and made climbing up the 3000 meter side look like a walk in the park.  (Literally, I thought I was in shape, but after seeing these guys fly up the side of this mountain with 40lbs of gear, I need to rethink my workout).  A few of them always went ahead to have camp setup by the time our group arrived, and a few stayed with our group.  They made sure we all were okay with the pace and every few hours or so we’d have a “cookie break”.  I sorta felt like I was back in 4th grade summer camp.  Our main guy, and translator was Liu Izquierdo.  If you ever go with this company to this place – request him by name.

The guides took care of the tents and cooking while we hiked to the mountain and while we were on top.  I shit you not: these guys can cook.  They didn’t just make rice and beans and give us water to drink.  We had straight up meats, cheeses, pastas, casseroles, and they even hiked up a bottle of rum!  Now you may say to yourself, “why are you doing cartwheels over pasta?”  Believe me, when you’re out on a mountain, hiked all day, legs and back aching, and it’s 30 degrees (the temperature difference from the bottom to the top was like going from Florida to Maine) it’s nice to have real food. And these guys are gourmet chefs of the mountain.

The experience was memorable not only because of the great guides and environment, but because meeting the other hikers going up the mountain was a lot of fun.  Not a lot of people hike up and down the challenging face, so when there’s a group that is going up alongside yours, a bond is formed.  We met some really friendly locals during our climb, and exchanged stories, drinks, and items with them such as Venezuelan chocolate for Trader Joe’s trail mix.

The challenge, the bonding, and the unbelievble sights is what made this trip a must-do.  So, if you’re looking for an adventure, but are apprehensive about going it alone – save up your cash and vacation time and book a trip with New Frontier’s up Mt. Roraima.  Just remember to bring plenty of bug spray.  The insects at the base of Mt. Roraima had a Chinese buffet courtesy of my limbs.