THE then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret during their royal visit to the cable car in 1947.     Supplied
THE then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret during their royal visit to the cable car in 1947. Supplied
THE first cable car in 1929.     Supplied
THE first cable car in 1929. Supplied
THE cable car as we know it today.     Supplied
THE cable car as we know it today. Supplied
THE cable car tea room on top of Table Mountain.     Supplied
THE cable car tea room on top of Table Mountain. Supplied
Cape Town - NELSON MANDELA, Queen Elizabeth II, Oprah and Sir Edmund Hillary have all been taken for a ride in it.

One of South Africa’s most famous attractions turned 90 onFriday and has shown no signs of slowing down. The cable car took its maiden voyage up the slopes of Table Mountain on October 4, 1929. Managing director at the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Wahida Parker said “going up mountains is in our DNA”.

“At a human behaviour level, I think when we encounter a mountain, our instinct is a desire to ascend or at a more philosophical level, conquer it. I have no doubt that the original Khoisan people ascended the mountain and were quite familiar with the pathways,” she said.

The idea for a rack railway (a train drawn up by locomotive running on cogwheels which fitted into the slots on the line) to the top of Table Mountain was born in the 1870s, but the plan was scuttled by the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. It was again taken up in 1912, when a Mr HM Peter proposed to the City Council that a funicular railway be built from Oranjezicht via Platteklip Gorge to the top. The council at the time approved £100000 but the plans were yet again interrupted with the outbreak of World War I 1914 - 1918.

But the desire to gain access to the mountain never died and in 1926, a Norwegian engineer, Trygve Stromsoe, proposed building a cableway to the Council, and the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Co Ltd was registered that year. These days it costs R360 for a morning ticket and R300 for an afternoon ticket, but if you are an SA citizen there are an array of freebies and discounted prices. As part of the birthday celebrations, tickets cost R90 until the end of this month. You can also get a free ticket on your birthday.

“I think that spirit of adventure and thrill-seeking was much more alive back then, than it may be today. Also back then there were very few health and safety measures in place so it was quite a daring exercise,” said Parker.

There are three Rotair cable cars in the world and South Africa is the only country in Africa which has one. While Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, did not manage to squeeze in a ride on their recent trip, Queen Elizabeth II did so when she visited the country in 1947.

Other famous people to have taken the ride include Tina Turner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jackson, UB40, Rowan Atkinson, Justin Bieber and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. The cable car makes about 190 trips a day and has seen more than 28million visitors.

“Our biggest disaster is sending people away who have travelled from far and wide on the day that the wind blows. We have stringent health and safety measures and we err on the side of caution whenever we have the slightest inclination that we may have a problem,” said Parker.

Weekend Argus