Back to Cape Town....via the Garden Route - Page 14
My 5 day stop at Plettenberg Bay has zipped passed so fast and has sadly come to an end, which means today we have a 6 hour journey back to Cape Town.
It was a good day to travel as a new weather front moved in and the up to now ever present sun was replaced with dark clouds, wind and rain. South African roads are still very much clearer than our European roads and despite the wind and rain, this allowed us to skip unimpeded through the countryside at a brisk pace.
We arrived in Cape Town late afternoon, which was just enough time for a quick nap and a shower before Percy came back to pick me up, for what was to be my last proper night on the town, as my very last day (tomorrow) was to be cut short by a very early nights sleep, as my plane took off at 6am the following day. Yawn yawn!!
So we headed back down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and enjoyed yet another rather tasty meal at one of the harbour-side restaurants.
Robben Island, Cape Town -
For the final full day I was booked on the ferry to Robben Island, which can be easily seen from Cape Town. Despite the sunny day the wind had picked up and this in turn prevented the ferry from leaving on time and there was an hour delay. As with most boat journeys, what looks to be a fairly short distance takes awhile by sea and it was about 45 minutes before the ferry arrived at our destination.
From the boat we were gently herded onto a coach and once on board a guide introduced himself and explained that the tour would be in two parts, the first being a tour of the island. He informed us that Robben Island had been declared a South African national monument and a museum and had also been recognised as a World Heritage Site.
What did surprise me was how big and substantial Robben Island was, I guess I was expecting something compact like San Francisco's Alcatraz. The island apparently has a very large penguin colony, although none were on show from the coach. The guide was very informative and explained that Robben Island had a long history of being used as a place of punishment. As early as 1657 it was used as a place of banishment, sending exiles and slaves to dig out the white stone found there. Around 1846 the prison was converted into a hospital and 9 years later it became a colony for people with leprosy. Over time some of the hospital was converted back into a prison and the hospital lasted until 1931 when leper colonies became outmoded.
The Second World War saw defences being built on the island to protect Cape Town but they were never called upon and the facilities were later used as a navy training centre.
The island became a maximum security prison in 1959 and between 1961 and 1991 held over 3,000 political prisoners, the most famous of these being Nelson Mandela, who was incarcerated here for 18 years of his 27 years in jail.
With these bustling facts and figures still very much settling in my mind, we were dropped off at the front of the prison gates and our guide bid us farewell as he handed us over to our next guide who was a former political prisoner.
It is the political struggle against the Apartheid that sets Robben Island apart from other prisons. If you compare it to other infamous prisons, brutal and harsh as it was no doubt for those imprisoned, it perhaps does not compare to the extremes of Nazi concentration camps. That having been said, it is very emotive to be sitting in a prison cell block with a soft spoken former political prisoner, recalling what it was to have the freedom that he was fighting for taken away from him for many years of his young life. It must be very difficult to work in a place that had for many years been your prison.
It is perhaps fitting that the journey back from Robben Island allows you time to think and contemplate. I left Robben Island understanding why it was a symbol, not just against apartheid but as a struggle against injustice.
Final Tour -
Percy met me off the Robben Island ferry and the rest of the afternoon was spent doing some last minute shopping. A final spectacular meal at yet another of the V & A's endless supply of restaurants and then sadly an early night as I had to be up at 4.30am to get to the airport in time for my flight back to Saudi Arabia.
Goodbye, Farewell -
I wasn't really awake when the hotel reception phoned me to let me know that Percy had arrived, as it was barely light. I sat in the luxury Percy Tours minibus still not fully realising that my 3 week adventure had finally come to an end. It was only when we arrived at the airport that things started to sink in and after a big emotional hug from the world's best tour guide I sadly made my way to check-in.
My first visit to South Africa was brilliant and much of the credit has to be given to Percy who true to his marketing words gave me the perfect designer tour of the Western Cape. I had seen wildlife up close and personal, I had eaten delicious food, I had seen spectacular scenery, I had flown in model aircrafts, I had swam with Great White Sharks (and survived), boated amongst whales and dolphin, I had been Tarzan's Jane through the trees, my accommodation had been well thought out and very comfy, I had covered some 4,000km in luxury and style. I hadn't been wanting for anything and I was truly entertained from start to finish.
Now all I have to do is sort out my 750 photos of my African adventure, so that I can show them off to my friends and family and explain what a great time I had (even secretly hoping to make them a bit jealous in the process too).
I hope to revisit again soon and I will definitely be spreading the word.
South Africa and Percy Tours - I love you!
Louise “Jungle Jane” Karle.
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