Amazing Stories of Cape Town’s Table Mountain

Table Mountain

The Table Mountain in Cape Town is not only a magnificent sight. It is also the topic of several amazing myths, legends and stories. In this post I will share my favorites with you; two old legends and one true story.

The African Legend – Qamata vs Nkanyamba

This is the story of how Table Mountain was created, according to the traditional beliefs of the Xhosa people. It all starts with one of their most important gods, Qamata and his struggles to create dry land.

Qamata was the son of the sun god, Thixo, and the earth goddess, Jobela. He wanted to create dry land, but the dragon of the seas, Nkanyamba, was not pleased with that plan. The result was hard battles where Qamatas mother, Jobela, created four giants to fight against the sea dragon. Though, despite their size they could not withstand the dragon and they all were defeated. And as they died they all asked the earth goddess, Jobela, to turn them into mountains so they they could protect the land. Jobela did this, and the giant of the south became what we today know as Table Mountain.

The Dutch Legend – A Smoke Contest With The Devil

This is the legend of Jan Van Hunks and his passion for smoking. Van Hunks lived in a house at the foot of the mountain that we today call Devil’s Peak, and his favorite activity was smoking. Every day he would sit on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, smoking his pipe for hours. And then, one day, a stranger came up to him. They both were bragging about how much they could smoke, and they agreed to have a smoke contest. As a passionate smoker, Van Hunks probably thought he could beat anyone, but he did not know that the man he was competing against was the devil himself.

They placed a huge pile of tobacco in between them, and started puffing. Soon they were surrounded by smoke, and the cloud grew bigger and bigger until it covered the entire Table Mountain. Van Hunks had started to fear that he would actually loose the battle when he finally saw the stranger giving up. The man was too sick to continue, he leaned forward and the hat fell of his head. And that was when Van Hunks could see who he was up against. He had just beat the Devil in a smoking contest!

The devil was not pleased with loosing against a human, and being a bad looser, he clapped his hands and they both disappeared forever. But the smoke is still there to this day, a huge cloud on top of the Table Mountain, appropriately named the Table Cloth. And the Devil’s Peak was named after the stranger who lost a smoking contest on the mountain’s slopes.

A True Story of the Table Mountain

The Table Mountain is not only the topic of old myths and legends. This is the true story about how the Table Mountain became home to a huge, but short lived, Gold Rush.

In 1856 a local auctioneer, Mr Saleem, came up with a plot to make some quick money. He gave a piece of gold to his servant and asked him to tell the people of Cape Town that he had found the gold in the hills of Table Mountain. And not just that, he also said that there was a whole ore of gold up there, and more to find for whoever went to look for it. A scheme was successfully initiated.

As the rumor spread, people where racing to the mountain in order to dig for this precious metal. And as they arrived at the gorge where the gold was supposed to be hidden in the ground, they found that Mr Salem had already set up a base where he sold exactly what the men desired the most; beer, wine, spirit and sandwiches. At twice the price of what he could charge in town, of course. But the gold diggers where more than willing to pay, they were starving and thirsty from working in the heat. And surely they could afford it, soon their pockets would be full of gold.

The result was a five day gold rush in the Table Mountain, but no gold. The gold Mr Salem had given his servant was found in Australia years earlier. The only wealth created in this gold rush was a very nice profit to Mr Salem from his refreshments business. And Mr Salem fled the country soon after. To read the full story, check out today’s article in the Times Live: The Late, Great Cape Town Gold Rush.


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