Have you ever been so scared, so freaked out, that your mouth completely dried out from breathing so fast and you started to choke? That’s what happened to me when I went abseiling down Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
When I flew down to Cape Town, there were a few things on my “To Do” list. After swimming with great white sharks (more on that another time), abseiling was probably the second scariest thing on that list. Because I didn’t want to just do the normal touristy stuff. Although I did some of that too, this trip to Cape Town was supposed to be more. It was supposed to be one of the best adventures of my life! And it was.
Table Mountain is one of the most well-known landmarks of Cape Town. It is a World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of Nature. It’s flat at the top like, you guessed it, a table. The top of the mountain is 1,086 meters (3563 feet) above sea level and approximately 3 kilometers (2 miles) from side to side. There are a lot of trails you can take to the top if you want to go on a nice hike. I chose to take the cableway up. It’s an impressive cableway! There are two cable cars; one goes up as the other goes down. Each holds up to 65 people and they revolve 365 degrees, which allows for some awesome panoramic views of the city below.
Once you’re at the top you can walk around and take in the view, eat some snacks at the Table Mountain Café, and do some souvenir shopping at the Shop at the Top. And if you want a little more of an adrenaline rush, you can step off the top and abseil down 112 meters (367 feet) and do the world’s highest commercial abseil. You don’t need to have any climbing or abseiling experience; they show you exactly what you need to do. I had abseiled once before, but it was in basic training and I went down the side of a wooden tower that was 35 feet tall. This was totally different!
My heart was pounding! As I was nearing the edge I heard a man with a German accent say, “Crazy Americans.” Was I crazy?? I was starting to think so. I refused to look down. I slowly stepped off and let the harness catch my body weight while my feet stayed in contact with the cliff face. Picture me making an “L” with my body. I let go of some rope and started to go down when my foot slipped and I slammed into the cliff. No bueno. It took me a couple of tries but I managed to get in the right position again and I slowly kept making my way down. Longest minutes of my life!! I swear my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. I was sweating bullets. I didn’t realize how fast I was breathing until I started to choke and cough because my mouth had completely dried out. I kept telling myself I had to be near the bottom soon. Then I had an interesting, albeit brief, conversation with the guy that had gone down ahead of me. He was shouting at me from the bottom…
Guy: Look down!
Guy: Look down!
Me: Fuck you!
Guy: You really need to look down!
Ugh. Fine. So I looked down, and a few feet below me I realized that the cliff face ended and curved inward to form somewhat of an overhang. I stopped letting out any rope. My mind started racing. What do I do now?? Am I stuck?? Holy shit! Fuck! Why wasn’t I told about this?? I didn’t occur to me that I could keep going with my legs dangling in the air. Not until the guy at the bottom shouted up for me to keep going.
As I did I started to turn. I was no longer looking at a cliff, but at the beautiful landscape below me. I could see Signal Hill and other mountains, Cape Town, and the ocean. I continued to slowly make my way down and when my feet finally touched the ground I felt such relief! My legs felt like Jell-O and I actually had to sit down for a few minutes before a guide led us on a hike back up to the top. Keep in mind, we weren’t all the way at the bottom of the mountain; the abseil is only 112 meters. But I was so exhausted and the adrenaline was starting to wear off. I finally made it to the top though and after sitting and taking in the views again I said goodbye to Table Mountain and took a cable car down to the bottom of the mountain.
That was definitely one of the scariest moments of my life. I’m so glad I did it though!! And not to sound too cheesy, but I felt like if I could do that, I could do anything!! I felt so proud of myself, I went into town and bought myself a necklace with the symbol for bravery.
So… what adventure are you most proud of?