Freewheeling down a mountain at speed was my kind of fun. We humans have always wanted to fly and scootering down Table Mountain with the wind in my hair felt like flying to me. It was sky-high exhilaration under the warming rays of the African sun.
Most visitors to Cape Town hitch a ride with the cable car and sail to the top of South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain but several windy days in a row, when I visited, meant the Table Mountain Aerial Gateway was out of operation.
I’d booked an afternoon trip that day with Scootour, which takes adventurous riders on giant-wheeled non-motorised scooters powered by gravity, for a different take on Cape Town’s famous natural backdrop, where the rewards are awesome panoramic views of the "Mother City" as she slopes towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Before I headed up Table Mountain that gusty afternoon, I called Scootours’ office, as I figured the wind might blow us gravity geeks off our mountain trails. Not so, they said, explaining that the paths on the inner flanks of the peaks are sheltered from the whirling winds.
Preparing for take-off
Before setting off we were fitted with helmets, gloves, and bandanas and given a lesson on scooter brakes so we didn’t fly over the handlebars when pulling up. Most of the tracks downhill were off-road rocky-ish trails; we had to slow down and cross a road or two but there was little traffic. Tracks were peppered with pebbles and small rocks but not so much that we couldn’t navigate or bump our way over on our downhill runs.
Scootours first takes everyone on a five kilometre rookie ride down Signal Hill, a 350m-high peak next to the vast flat-topped Table Mountain. That afternoon parts of Table Mountain National Park’s peaks and plateau — soaring some 1,085 metres high — had disappeared under a dusting of ice-white flat-bottomed cloud — as if the clouds were concealing something immodest in the sky. Here at the top of Signal Hill we would take it slow to start with and iron out any hiccoughs on the knobbly trails. We reached the colourfully painted buildings of Bo Kaap, the former Malay Quart, intact and impatient for the second run.
The greatest thrill was to come from the downward trail from Table Mountain. The sky was a perfect cerulean blue and there, before us, as a front drop to our high-speed ride was Cape Town pinned between the outstretched curved embrace of Signal Hill and Table Mountain.
The view rolled down before us beginning with the random scattering of angular chalk-white boulders, pale yellow grass, and hardy green bushes and umbrella pines, followed by the smattering of red-roofed homes beyond the forest boundary, a cluster of skyscrapers in the CBD, and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with its tall white boat masts at the marina, slinking in to a white-tipped navy Atlantic Ocean.
The constant views of sunny Cape Town beaming in its natural amphitheatre surrounds are hypnotic, and the thrill of the monster-wheeled Scootour adventure just made us all want to sign up again and go back.