Tour Locations | Upper Cableway Station Audio Guide: Tabletop Walking Tour
Third Lookout: Van Hunks
NARRATOR: Stop here, while I tell you the tale of Van Hunks.
There's a gnarly old legend about the early days at the Cape, and the so-called tablecloth of clouds that sometimes covers the mountain. Its central character is Jan van Hunks, a grizzly old pirate who used to come up here to smoke his pipe. On a day like any other, Van Hunks found a stranger in his favourite spot, smoking his own pipe. The stranger challenged him to a pipe-smoking contest with potent, rum-soaked tobacco. Van Hunks gladly took up the challenge, and for days the two men smoked pipe after pipe, until a thick cloud began to billow over the mountain. Eventually the enigmatic stranger couldn’t take it anymore. He admitted defeat, but just before he left, he revealed that he was, in fact, the devil.
To this day, when the clouds that Capetonians call “the tablecloth” envelop Table Mountain, people say that Van Hunks and the Devil are at it again. And this is also how Devil's Peak is said to have got its name.
The 19th century poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti even used this story in one of his poems. But the poem was set in the Netherlands, so – as sorry as it makes me to say it – this legend probably has nothing to do with the Cape. It's far more likely that Devil's Peak got its name from 15th century Portuguese explorers, who called the area Cabo di Diab, which means Devil's Cape. The name was probably just transferred to the mountain that flanks it.
Now go back to the path and continue walking.