Today was our last day in Africa, but we weren’t flying out until 11:00pm, so we had a whole day of exploring ahead. We booked a tour at Robben Island and planned to hike Table Mountain in the afternoon, but the weather didn’t quite cooperate, so ended up taking the tram up into clouds and having a coffee atop before heading back down.
Robben Island was my favorite part of the day – it’s a former prison on an island off of Cape Town. A lot of political prisoners did time there including Nelson Mandela. Apartheid in South Africa took place between the 60’s and the early 90’s. Apartheid was a state system of racial segregation and discrimination. Many of the people who worked to end apartheid people were imprisoned at Robben Island.
We had to take a boat to get there. You’ll notice a view of Table Mountain out this window, and it’s not too good. Table Mountain is wearing a tablecloth today, apparently. Darn!
Here’s Chris walking into the maximum security part of the prison, I told him not to smile and look real sad because he’s going to prison.
The prison that political prisoners stayed in only closed in 1994. Since this wasn’t all that long ago, the tours are given by former prisoners. Our tour guide was at Robben Island for 7 years, when he was in his 20’s. He’s giving the tour in the cell he stayed in.
When the prison first opened in 1961 and originally prisoners slept on mats like this.
Here’s a menu of who ate what in prison – black inmates ate less than Coloureds (asian, non-black, but not white, there were no white prisoners in this prison).
A view from outside the cells
Nelson Mandela spent most of his time in a private cell to avoid conversation with other inmates. Though they came up with secret ways of conversing – like having meetings in the cave that was used for a bathroom at the limestone worksite.
Our tour guide was surprisingly forgiving of his prison time and what happened to him before and when he was in prison. The museum now at Robben Island is actually there because it was a prisoner’s idea to make it a museum. I like that this sign read “While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, will will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering. We would want it to be a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil, a triumph of wisdom and the largeness of spirit against small mindedness and pettiness; a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness.”
After we got off the boat, we saw these seals – they were smelly and noisy.
Our next stop was Table Mountain. We originally planned to hike to the top (takes about 90 minutes) and take the tram down, but it was not a very nice day for hiking and the mountain was in the clouds – today was our last day, so we didn’t really have another choice!
There was only like 4 of us riding the tram up, I guess we got lucky in not having to wait in lines, huh?
The view from the base of the tram wasn’t too bad, but not ideal either…
Nice views – totally worth putting $ into this thing to see them. For sure.
Our friend Erin went on a sunny day and sent us this photo – here’s what the view should look like!
We walked around in the fog for a bit, still no views, but felt good to move a little bit – we had about 20 hours of traveling ahead of us.
We really made the best of our trip up here, you can’t go to Cape Town and not go atop Table Mountain, so now we can say we did. It just wasn’t real great.
Here’s a photo of my beer at the airport. I really liked Black Label – it’s “Champion Beer” because “Champion Men Deserve Champion Beer”. Funny.