Through Disa Gorge
Into the Heart of Table Mountain
Table Mountain's north facing side is its most visited. Its entry by cable car and elevated views makes it world famous. The routes up the front are steep ascents on sun-baked sandstone, covered with hardy bush.
On the other side of the mountain, reclusively set in its southern valley, is Disa Gorge. Hiking up it is less vertically challenging. It's also more shaded. The whole place feels softer. But don't mistake it for a mere stroll.
Surrounded by steep and ancient rocky banks of ferns, mosses and flowers as well as trees, you reach deep into the mountain. In the late summer one can find walls dripping with red disas. Follow trails through Afromontane forest sometimes close up at canopy height, with the river bubbling below. This is the oldest intact forest on the mountain. Entry to hikers is tightly restricted by the authorities.
There are short detours to check out the historic Woodhead tunnel that once sluiced the mountain's liquid bounty through to the city. This is now done via the Twelve Apostles Tunnel a little further upstream.
Once you have decided whether to hike up or down it, the next matter to ponder is where-to-from-here? Having done the downward walk you could end the outing by sleeping overnight in the Orange Kloof tented camp; or do the upward hike and spend the night at the Overseers Cottage.
A day-only activity could start from Constantia Nek, and head over to the upper cable station.
Alternatively, one could head back down to where you started via the jeep track; or branch off to any of the western or eastern trails.
One needs a permit to day hike it. Only 12 day-hikers are allowed through; another 12 can do it if they have over-nighted at Orange Kloof. A registered hiking guide is required to accompany permit holders.