Our Overseers Cottage adventure on Table Mountain is by far one of my favorite moments from my month in Cape Town, and as is the case with most adventures, this story doesn’t start with the trek itself. It starts roughly three days before — when I knew nothing of Overseers Cottage.
On October 14, about halfway through my month in Cape Town, as I was talking about local hikes with Gary, an Unsettled Medellín friend who lives in Cape Town, Gary told me it’s possible to stay overnight on top of Table Mountain. There’s a place called Overseers Cottage, and it’s rentable to the public through Table Mountain National Park. With a great deal of excitement at the thought of hiking up and then sleeping on top of Table Mountain, I scoured the internet later that day to see how I could make this experience a reality.
I found the cottage on the South African National Parks (SANP) website, entered the date range for my remaining time in Cape Town (October 14-November 2) and waited a few seconds for the page to refresh. Fate was on my side. There was one — I repeat, ONE — night available between the day I was searching and November 2, and it was only three days later. A Tuesday night. A night during the workweek. A work night for me, since I was working California hours. I checked my calendar and gave it some thought.
Sitting at our long kitchen table that Saturday evening, I gaged interest with my housemates and later the entire Unsettled Cape Town group. But honestly, had no one else been interested, I would’ve gone alone. It would’ve been a far lonelier experience, but this was an adventure I wanted deeply. A remote overnight stay atop Table Mountain? Yes, please.
It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was the off-the-beaten-track experience I’d been looking for since arriving in Cape Town. So I registered with SANP and booked the cottage. This was a case of acting first and figuring everything else out later.
Hiking up Table Mountain to Overseers Cottage
That Tuesday, after a good deal of planning, a trip to the grocery store and a drive to Constantia Nek to drop off the rest of our payment, 11 of us hiked up Table Mountain. We started in Camps Bay along the Pipe Track and then veered off to take Kasteelspoort to the top.
Overseers Cottage or not, I highly recommend Kasteelspoort for a hike. The trail involved some scrambling but nothing unbearable, and beyond the views of the Atlantic Ocean, Camps Bay and Lion’s Head, I loved the flora lining the trail.
From Camps Bay, it took us an hour and 15 minutes to get to the top of the mountain and then another hour and 15 minutes to get to Overseers Cottage. Our group did split up at the start, and some people started on the other side of the mountain and hiked up the jeep track from Constantia Nek. It took them about an hour-and-a-half to get to the cottage.
Settling in atop Table Mountain
At the cottage, we made a fire in the fireplace and explored our home for the night. Overseers had all we needed and more. There were multiple rooms. A fireplace. Two bathrooms and two shower rooms. A fully-stocked kitchen — just gear, no food. A large table with two benches for communal dining. Outdoor areas for braais (barbecues). And more. (Overseers Cottage is actually two cottages. The main cottage sleeps 10, and the second cottage sleeps 6.)
With the fire going, we sat in the living room and relaxed for a while, waiting for the last two in our group to arrive. That evening, as golden hour approached, all 11 of us climbed up a koppie of rocks outside the cottage and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains to our west — the 12 Apostles, I think. Everyone was giddy about our remote location, cozy cottage and natural surroundings. It was magical.
To our east, we watched as lights turned on in the cities and townships below. Then, with the sun gone, we went back inside to cozy up for the night. Using a few headlamps and the kerosene lamps provided by Table Mountain National Park at the cottage, we cooked a pasta dinner together — pasta, broccoli and garlic bread with wine and then chocolate for dessert.
We placed all the food on the long, wooden table in between three kerosene lamps and gathered ourselves onto the two benches surrounding it. We toasted this moment of embracing the unknown and dug into our modest but delicious feast.
No cell phone service, no wifi, no electricity. Our meal was lit by those three kerosene lamps. It was a moment of great warmth and great community. I love how sometimes the greatest moments can be the simplest moments. Our overnight trip was simple but spectacular for all the right reasons. We disconnected from the world to connect with ourselves and one another. My kind of getaway.
Good times with great friends
After dinner, we gathered around the fireplace fire and spent the evening playing games together. All 11 of us. No one checked their phone. No one worried about the time. We were all living in the moment, embracing the time we were sharing in this special place together.
We played Fishbowl (also known as Hollywood or Celebrity to some) and Who Am I? — that game where you tape a name to your forehead, ask “yes” or “no” questions about your identity and guess who you are — until 10 or 11 o’clock and called it a night, climbing into our warm beds (some of which were very squeaky bunkbeds).
Early the next morning, the girls in my room and I woke up to watch the sunrise from the koppie of rocks. I suppose, due to early morning swim practices, I’ve seen many a sunrise in my life, but I haven’t really seen many sunrises. I digress. Regardless of how many I’ve seen, this sunrise was something special. As the sky grew lighter, we waited for the sun to make its first appearance of the day — and it did in quite a memorable way, rising up directly between two mountains to the east, cradled right between the peaks.
It was early, and cold, so after taking in the first rays of the day, I climbed back into bed for another hour or two.
That morning, we had oatmeal for breakfast, packed up the cottage and started our hike home. Departure times varied as most of us had to work that day, but we were all out by the 10 a.m. check-out time.
More moments like this, please
I want to continue living my life in pursuit of moments like the ones I experienced atop Table Mountain. Moments where I find myself immersed in a unique place in nature with good people who embrace adventure. I want to live a life in pursuit of moments where I put my phone down, where I disconnect and lose track of time, where I’m truly living in the moment.
The only downfall of our Overseers trip is that it wasn’t longer. I so wish we could’ve stayed up there for two or more nights. When it comes to time away and time outside, one night is never enough.
There’s something about hiking to a space and spending time there (especially overnight) without cell phone service, wifi and electricity that really slows down the pace of life. That really brings you back to life.
Disconnecting from the world around me in this way centers me deeply. Always.
staying at Overseers Cottage: everything you need to know
When we set out to stay at Overseers Cottage, there were some questions and answers I had to string together. Nowhere could I find one website or resource that spelled it all out. So here’s most of the information I gathered in putting our overnight trip together. If you’re looking to stay at Overseers Cottage, perhaps you’ll find it useful.
Making a reservation
- If you’re not already, you’ll need to register with South African National Parks. You can do this on their website.
- Check available dates for Overseers Cottage here.
Tip: if you and your party have a range of dates available, put in the full range. The results will tell you which dates are available and which aren’t.
- It’s best to know the total number of people in your party before making the reservation. You can pay with a credit card online, but if you add more people to your reservation after the fact, you will need to pay the balance in cash at Constantia Nek at noon on your check-in date. This isn’t the end of the world, but if you aren’t planning to depart from Constantia Nek, it’s a bit of a pain to drive there to pay the balance in cash and then drive back to the start of your hike.
- Book your stay for as long as you can.
What’s included? What does Overseers provide?
- Linens & towels. The main cottage has 4 bedrooms: 1 with a bunkbed, 1 with 2 bunkbeds and 2 with two twin-size beds. The second cottage has 2 lofted bedrooms: 1 with four twin-size beds and 1 with two twin-size beds.
- Toilet paper.
- Fully-stocked kitchen. Just gear, no food. Big stove and oven. (There are no paper towels / napkins.)
- Two braais and multiple picnic areas outside.
- Indoor fireplace. We found wood for making a fire in the indoor fireplace, but it may have been left by previous parties. I recommend bringing your own as well as some fire starters.
- No electricity. The stove and oven are run with gas. Kerosene lamps are provided — and really add to the ambiance and experience.
- Through Table Mountain National Park, there is an option to have a truck take your overnight gear up to the cottage for you. To keep things simple, we opted to carry everything in ourselves. However, I think using the truck service would’ve been just as easy. You just need to meet the driver at Constantia Nek at noon the day you’re arriving at the cottage.
Communicating with Table Mountain National Park
I made our reservation on a Saturday. The Monday after I made that reservation, I had a full email from an employee of the park. We talked via phone that day, and then she continued to answer other questions I had through email. She was patient, timely and informative.
Getting to Overseers Cottage
There are multiple routes with varying times and difficulties to get to Overseers Cottage. You have to hike in; driving in is not an option. I can only comment on the routes taken by our group.
- Kasteelspoort: 2.5 hours from Theresa Avenue (Camps Bay) to Overseers Cottage
- Constantia Nek jeep track: 1.5 hours from Constantia Nek to Overseers Cottage
What’s the cottage like? What’s in the area?
Overseers Cottage is on the backside of Table Mountain. It may even be more appropriate to say that it’s on top of the 12 Apostles. The cottage overlooks all that lies on the east side of Table Mountain: Khayelitsha, Muizenberg, Claremont, Newlands, Wynberg, etc. across to the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
This is an incredibly unique, off-the-beaten-track experience in a naturally beautiful place. Depending on how long you stay, it gives you the chance to explore the top of Table Mountain at length. I also love that Table Mountain National Park makes you rent out the entire cottage, no matter your group size.
November 21, 2017