Photo of the week – November week #2: Table Mountain solitudes

Table Mountain hikes

View southwest from near Blinkwater Peak, Valley of Isolation visible on the left side of the photo.

The dictionary defines a solitude as a lonely and unfrequented place, and Table Mountain abounds with them. Just yesterday did I have the privilege of passing through two: Valley of the Red Gods and Valley of Isolation, both on the Twelve Apostles. Neither offers much in the way of views, but that only serves to amplify their charm. Table Mountain hiking offers far more than views: one of the overlooked joys of a Table Mountain hike is finding perfect peace and quiet in pristine nature.

Valley of Isolation is a natural hollow drained by an underground stream and hemmed in by brooding hills carpeted with indigenous shrub interspersed by striking rock-formations. An all-pervading silence blankets the place, broken only by the clicking of frogs (outside high summer). It’s so still, and the atmosphere so loaded, you find yourself talking in a subdued voice. To laugh out loud would be sacrilege. Isolated it is – and sacred, too.

It’s neighbor, Valley of the Red Gods, is larger and more open, and surrounded by high hills. A stream runs through it, and a lush growth of ferns and old man’s beard testifies to moisture in the ground and the air. The silence is thick and ancient, the atmosphere benign and evocative – evoking different emotions in different people; it’s got that quality about it: nostalgia, wanderlust, kinship with nature, perfect peace, a gentle detachment from the world… It is said that a member of the Mountain Club of South Africa, caught up by the spirit of the place, quoted Kipling’s ‘The Feet of The Young Men’ (with its reference to Red Gods symbolizing the call of faraway places) when passing through there in the 1890s, and so the valley got its name.

Hiking Table Mountain enables you to explore its solitudes and experience the inner fibre of the mountain. And in doing so, you open yourself to emotional and spiritual uplift.

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