In the days of the old Cape Colony, c18th Century, merchant trade
was the lifeblood of this thriving Dutch outpost as ships travelled
along the spice route to and from India. The rough seas of the Cape,
infuriated by one hell of a South Easter wind known today as the
Cape Doctor, had always been a particularly daunting challenge for
any experienced Captain. Generally speaking in this era
intercontinental travel by ocean wasn’t exactly a fun experience,
and I’m sure most would have sold their souls for a cattle-class seat
on a SAAirlink plane any day.

But with the expansion of any trade route in those days another
grim, yet recently quite romanticised, threat grew alongside; piracy.

Likely to challenge the Devil to a smoking contest... and win

Pirates weren't quite as popular back then...

One particular Pirate was Van Hunks, who after years of drinking
lots of rum, sleeping with anyone willing to lie still (or at least play
dead for long enough) and pretty much being a serious badass by
anyone’s standards, decided to retire on the slopes of Devil’s Peak,
Table Mountain, along with his wife.
He soon realized that being stuck at home with the bitch is pretty
much a pain in the ass, nagging him all the time to take out the
garbage and empty the shit-buckets, and made a habit of taking
walks up the peak and chilling out with his pipe (probably
contemplating where he could dispose of Mrs. Van Hunks’ remains).
One day a stranger approached him, and asked the retired pirate for
some tobacco (yes, you can probably hear him go Aweh, larney ‘ie ‘n
skyf ha’ vi’ ‘n man‘ie?).

"Hou 'n skuif", "Skuif jou neus deur my hol"

"Hou 'n skuif", "Skuif jou neus deur my hol"

After stirring up a conversation which turned into a bit of bragging,
a smoking contest ensued with the prize being a ship full of gold.
Smoking was a pleasure for Van Hunks, and the contest continued
for days until the stranger eventually surrendered. The stranger
turned out to be Asmodeus (The Cape Devil), and being the sore
loser he is, the devil had Van Hunks swallowed by a roll of clouds
and thunder, leaving behind a scorched patch of ground, and a
certain sigh of relief within Van Hunks (wherever he was), as we
didn’t need to go back to that cow at home…

It is said that the smoke which remained after they disappeared
turned into the “table-cloth”, the famous blanket of clouds which
form on top of Table Mountain when that damn South Easter blows,
and whenever the cloth is pulled over, it is the Devil challenging
Van Hunks to another smoking challenge.

Artist's Impression

Artist's Impression

Variation 1:
The first version of the story I heard spoke of Van Hunks being
caught in a huge-ass storm, and called upon Asmodeus to save his
life in return for his soul. Asmodeus did, and when he eventually
came to claim Van Hunks caught him on the technicality which
allows a soul to challenge Death (or the Devil in this case) to a
contest. In this variation it is said that the Table Cloth is the two of
them still smoking today for Van Hunks’ soul.

Variation 2:
I have also heard a variation where it was a spliff smoking contest,
but this one isn’t quite as well-told, except between a few geek
stoners sitting around a coffee-table giggling over a bong about how
they’d like to check out the shit the Devil could conjure up for the
contest, and how they’d totally outsmoke him, but probably wouldn’
t be able to find their feet and would spend eternity stuck on the
damn peak, immobile.

Variation #3?

Variation #3?

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