Cape Town - They stand balanced on the thick ropes that guide the cable car up Table Mountain.
As the attraction’s only visitors, the maintenance crew are a lonely trio tinkering on the roof of the car’s round carriage as a gentle wind sweeps through the ground terminal.
But their time spent hanging 15m in the air isn’t just a spectacle, it’s work that will allow the cable car to operate safely throughout the summer months, ferrying countless tourists to the flat plateau of the mountain-top.
“Some fancy footwork is required,” said technical manager Andries de Vries, as he stood watching the crew at work.
The cable car has been closed to visitors since Monday as annual maintenance began. De Vries said the crew was conducting slack rope tests, a procedure which involves checking that the car’s brakes are still functioning properly.
It is one of many procedures crews will conduct during the two weeks of down time, including renewing switches and bearings where necessary, servicing the main gearbox, generators and back-up generators as well as general maintenance and testing.
Marketing manager Collette van Aswegen said the checks were a necessary part of running a cableway, as mandated in the Swiss Governing Body for Cableways’ dense manuals.
“We hold ourselves to the highest standard of these requirements,” she said.
Last year, experts from the Swiss organisation flew down to South Africa to be part of the cable car’s annual maintenance.
“We test the brakes every month, but these checks we are doing now require a lot more work. We are going to make sure everything meets the Swiss Governing Body’s high standards before we start going again,” said De Vries.
Van Aswegen said the station’s two cable cars should be reopened, “weather permitting”, on August 11.
The company is hoping to break the record it set last year, when more than 120 000 visitors clambered into cable cars during December. It was a bumper year thanks to good weather, with the cableway operating for about 72 percent of that time.