Friday, June 11, 2010

Paying our Respects, and Taking in the View....

If yesterday was a great day, then today was simply stunning, from just before dawn when we awoke this morning, (see the photo to the left), through to the very last rays of the day this evening. If this is winter here in South Africa, who needs summer..? There has not been a breath of wind all day or even a cloud in the sky to interfere with the warm sun, which was just what we wanted as we had plans to take in 2 of Cape Town’s biggest attractions.

First thing this morning we hot-footed it down to the V&AWaterfront to catch the ferry for a tour of Robben Island. I figured you can’t come all the way down to Cape Town and not pay your respects to the prisoners of Robben Island and Nelson Mandela. The sea was flat and glassy as we left the harbour, which afforded us a commanding view of Cape Town with the impressive backdrop of Table Mountain.

When we arrived at Robben island, the tour started with an interesting coach ride around the island to see some of the less well known sights, including the Leper colony graveyard, the prison guard quarters and the various quarries in which the prisoners were forced to work. Next we went to the Maximum Security Prison where we started a walking tour, which was led by an ex-inmate who had spent 7 years in various parts of the prison. Listening to the guide speak about how the prison worked and his experiences within it was extremely powerful and moving. It really brought it home to us just what it was like to be a black political prisoner in Robben Island, and how the prisoners educated and improved themselves while resisting the inequity of the Apartheid system.

Next we went to the exercise yard and then on to the cell where Nelson Mandela, (Prisoner No: 466/64) was held for 18 years of his 27 year incarceration. Before 1980, prisoners were made to sleep on a thin mattress on the floor, which must have been misery. Even on a warm winter day like today, the cell block was bone chillingly cold, and I was glad to get out of there after 20 minutes. We took our ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ to the harbour and caught the ferry back to Cape Town.
After a nice lunch, we stopped by the apartment to pick up the car and drove up to the Table Mountain Cableway. Even from the bottom of the cable car the view over the city was impressive, but when we arrived at the top, we were transported into another world, which on this fabulously clear and cloudless day, we felt we could see forever.... There was a trail that led around the top and it was such a great day to be on top of Table Mountain, we sat around just soaking in the view before moving to the next great vantage point. This had to be the highlights of our time here in Cape Town so far, and it’s gonna take something really special to beat it.

After nearly 2 hours we reluctantly took the cable car back down to the bottom station and headed back to the apartment where Fiona and I spent the last hour of the day out on the balcony. We watched the sun set over the Waterfront and World Cup Stadium, sipped a Castle beer or two, and listened to the distant stains of the ever present Vuvuzalas.

I might be getting a bit repetitive, but today was another great day to be in Africa....


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  2. Well - At last. You guys will be suitably pumped from your first match in the long anticipated and followed Greenpoint Stadium.
    Hallowed grounds of Cape Town City & later on the Ramblers. Well close.
    As a kid we watched many games at the old Greenpoint Stadium between CTC & Hellenics and spent many happy hours on the old common flying (and chasing) model planes.

    How's the hearing? :-) certainly distractingly loud on the telly.
    There "appeared" to be quite a few empty seats too?
    Hey - how was the big March to the stadium?

    Look forward to your next blog.