It is a fact Cape Town has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. (OK take away the townships – but every city has a dodgy area – just look at Bath!)
It was an early start on our first morning after an evening of Ostrich Steak the night before I skipped breakfast, mainly because I was late and we headed off on the trip of Robben Island. This was what I have really been looking forward to doing – 4th trip and finally I made it (first trip was actually before it was a World Heritage Site). Sadly didn’t make it onto top deck which was a pain but there we go. The trip over was pretty calm which was a relief and the view of Table Mountain from the boat was just superb. Almost worth the trip alone.
When we arrived on Robben Island we were escorted onto buses which then proceeded to take us around the island looking at several of the ‘sites’ apart from the Maximum Security prison itself. We were told the history of the island, most of which I knew from reading in the guide book but I never remember reading about the buses I have to say. I was kind of hoping that we were free to walk around the island – its not that small after all – and that there would be placards at various locations to explain what things are or the history behind it. The only time that we were allowed off the bus was at a particular point which gave the most fantastic views back across the sea to Table Mountain and the city itself. Wow. Just how lucky were we with the weather – it was this time last week that the Lions played the Emerging Springboks here and the weather was AWFUL and I was personally a little worried about just what we would do for the three days (yes yes, apart from drink!) and about what a crying shame it would be for all of those that have never been here before. Really didn’t need to worry – if my legs were not as bruised still (marble effect on my calves up to my knees, from the crushing I presume) I would actually be in a pair shorts right now.
Getting back to Robben Island, Simon and I had to be content with just taking photos out of the bus window which I have to say I was a little miffed about. The view over the bay – yes. Well the photos of me there are not all that great it had to be said. I was a little worried about the water breaking behind me on the rocks as the spray kept coming up and I was rather adamant that I was going to get soaked. They will just have to do though. Once we had been whisked around the island we were dropped off at one of the entrances of the maximum security part of the prison and greeted by our guide who was a former prisoner from 1986-1991. His accent was really strong so you had to listen very carefully to what he was saying to hear and understand. It was fascinating but there were times when I really couldn’t hear a word that he was saying – namely when we were in the outside areas as there were some people who talked the whole way through. I was quite disappointed really having been looking forward to going for so long. The bottleneck to see his actual cell was mental and so I hung back in the hope that I might get a little more time to take it all in and get a decent shot. Sadly there was another group behind us and when I went to take the photo one was almost on walk by mode and I was jogged by some arse when I took the photo and so the camera focused on the bars rather than the interior – I only noticed this when I uploaded them onto the pc earlier.
It was still despite all that very, very humbling to see the tiny spaces that the men were in for such a long time for standing up for something that they believed in rather than for actually committing a serious offence and the political prisoners were deemed to be far more dangerous than common-law prisoners and were thus treated far more harshly than say one that had murdered, raped etc. It really beggars belief.
For lunch, which was part of our tour we were taken to a lady’s house in Langa. She clearly rakes in the money from this as her house had two floors to start with as well as being extended out the front as well as the back. The lady was Xhosa and made a right welcome for us going on about watches and how she never needs to wear one and that she was currently going by the time on the Chinese clock on the wall. It was all in relation to what we call different meal times and that we have different foods for different meal times, when for them food is just food what ever time there is no speciality for say breakfast. (I think that is what I understood from it anyway!) We were entertained by some Xylophone / glockenspiel players throughout our lunch, with of course the hard sale afterwards of a cd of their music. Whilst it was very authentic and all that – not quite your Ladysmith Black Mambazo stylee that I so dearly love – I decided against investing in s copy. I overheard the gentleman sitting next to me at lunch describing to another couple where he and his son came from in Surrey (he was from another group – Leopard Purple if I remember rightly, staying in the Mount Nelson) Blow me he lives in the same village as Sue and Peter and knew them. Small world hey!! Lunch itself was a massive spread of traditional Xhosa food and I got stuck into the sweet potato and pumpkin that I love so much. I had to be rather careful with the meat dishes as there were a lot of peppers lurking about in things and I really DIDN’T want another lovely reaction to them thank you very much.
The afternoon part of our tour was to a township where we had lunch and saw inside one of the hostels in the township of Guguletu. Having seen the schools of Tipini and Nelson Mandela Schools in Umtata some 9 years ago, I was more prepared for the sights that we saw than some others. The streets are full of debris and as for the little streams – they are as murky and what have you as you see on Comic Relief films. Something I certainly was not prepared for to put it mildly. Not all of the accommodation was shacks made of corrugated metal there were some houses – but I use the term loosely. But these were closer together than terraced houses; I know that is not physically possible but still. They can extend their ‘houses’ forwards or backwards or upwards but obviously not sideways. Most of this type of accommodation is used as hostels but not in the sense that us Brits think but there is one rooms with like 4 beds in. Each bed is for a different family – be that 2,4,6,8,15 children and the adults or just one male. There is no privacy. They are usually taken up by men that have come from the Eastern Transkei to find better prospects of work in Cape Town and even when their wife comes to visit they are not left alone in the room (catch my drift there?!). There were loads of shards of glass all over the floor and yet the majority of the small children were running around with bare feet. I won’t go on too much more but it once again made me thankful for all that I do have. It also reminded me that I have not remembered to arrange another sponsor child now that my time with Sein in Kenya has come to a close – must contact Action Aid again on my return.
The evening came the turn of the Gulliver’s Forum which was being held in another hotel – good lord it was posh! A 6* apparently. We had free beer and wine and soft drinks as well as some pretty decent nibbles, a lot of which I found to be fish before we had the forum. Jason Leonard and Rob Lowe (SA flanker, back in the day) were the guests, Jason was staying at our hotel and it was hilarious watching all of the guys swarm around him like flies!! Jason this, Jason that. The evening was good fun and Chris from our group managed to win the signed shirt from the evening’s stars through playing heads and tails which was nice for him. It was very interesting hearing Rob’s views on Peter De Villiers – clearly not his favourite and believes that he has a lot to answer for. Interesting, interesting.
Table Mountain was the destination for the following morning and I headed up there with Simon and the chaps from Dubai on what must have been one of the first cable cars up to the top – no queue what so ever – main point of going at that time obviously. The view as ever was simply spectacular. I don’t think that I have ever seen it as clear as it was. The smog that seemed to be lingering over parts of the bay that we could see from Robben Island the previous day all seemed to have blown away in the night. Its divine in its natural beauty and the sheer drops from the side are just amazing (and pretty scary too!) I was all ready to abseil down the side but sadly by the time that we had gotten back around to the side where they do that the wind had picked up rather and to be honest – I bottled it! We went and had a coffee instead – what a wonderful view to have a coffee with, looking back over the Twelve Apostles. Better than your average busy Starbucks in the centre of a town, even if the coffee still wasn’t all that good – the view made up for it ten fold!!!
Coming back down we headed back to the hotel for a bit, Simon was off to Camps Bay to see some friends and the guys from Dubai were planning on spending the afternoon at the Waterfront. So I gate crashed as I didn’t really fancy going down there on my own. We had about an hour and a bit in the hotel before we left though and so I totally repacked my bag so that I have everything that I need for the next few days on the top, dirty washing on the bottom – Hilda bless her can have that when I get to Juliet!! I hand washed my strip as I suddenly remembered that I had not done so and it stank. I hung it out on the back of a chair on the balcony for the afternoon and as it was such a beautiful day it was all ready to be folded up and put away in the case when I got back to the hotel later on in the day. Had a delicious steak lunch and a few beers and whilst the chaps sat and drank a bit more I popped into a shop here and there to have a look. I only ended up in buying a casual Sharks shirt though, namely because I can fit little else in my blinking luggage which is already overweight!!
Sadly the plans for Mama Africa didn’t work out as the others were lateish back from their day trips and exhausted. To be honest it kind of worked out the best as my throat was REALLY killing and my glands were all up to I went down stairs and got a packet of crisps and some chocolate and had that as my supper so I could take the Malaria tablets and so on. I was in bed at 8.15 feeling a poorly girlie I found a blanket in the cupboard and put that on the bed as well and I turned the light out at 9 hoping that it would all go away and I’d be as right as rain in the morning for the flight to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga and the Kruger.