Days around Cape Town
We decided to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner for 18 years. Now a United Nations World Heritage Site, this is almost a pilgrimage for many South Africans and by chance we went there on National Reconciliation Day. The result was it was a bit busy. The trip to what is now a memorial to those incarcerated for so many years is well run and organised but felt a bit soulless.
There is a ferry ride out from Cape Town's water front Nelson Mandela Gateway, followed by a bus tour to see the island and particularly the lime quarry where prisoners were forced to toil in the hot sun under close guard by men and dogs.
The prison gateway with the motto of the apartheid government's prison service.
There was then a tour of the prison itself and a rather quick look in the tiny cell that Mandela occupied for all those years.
The guide for this part of the tour had been a political prisoner here for a number of years in the past. Our first reaction was that this was a good idea, but actually we found our guide was difficult to understand both in the way he spoke and in the ideas he was highlighting. For us, it would have been better to have had a rather more dispassionate guide. There was also a real lack of any good displays for such an important site. So many museums we have visited on our travels have been excellent in combining good displays with informative texts or audio-visual presentations. On Robben Island we felt that we were being frogmarched around, there was certainly no time to sit and contemplate this significant place and the price the inmates paid for fighting for their basic human rights.
We did get an excellent view of Table Mountain wearing its table cloth!
On a lighter note we had a trip organised by the Ocean Cruising Club to a local vineyard for some wine tasting and an excellent meal. The Groot Constantia vineyard was one of the earliest to be established by the Dutch in the 17th century and by 1709 it was producing over 5,000 litres of wine a year on the northern slopes of Table Mountain.
The original buildings are well preserved and very Dutch
Here are the cruisers having a merry lunch together, having started wine tasting at a rather early 10.30 a.m.
Gorgeous sunshine, delicious food, good wine and convivial company – just perfect!