Monday, February 3, 2014 (Day 6)
- V&A Waterfront
- Robben Island tour
- Chapman’s Peak Scenic Drive
Weather: Sunny, hot
It is another beautiful day outside our windows and it sure makes it hard to get up and moving in the morning when you can just sit in bed and watch/listen to the ocean.
We had to run an errand this morning and then meet for an 11am tour of Robben Island. Well, our errand ran a little long, and it took longer to drive to the V&A Waterfront from Blouberg than we originally thought. So we missed our tour by about 5 minutes. Oh well. Luckily there was space on the next tour at 1pm, so we rebooked for then.
Instead we decided to tour the V&A Waterfront first today and we started by crossing over a swing bridge. The bridge actually hinges at one end and swings to the side to let boats through. (This would be instead of the normal bridges that lift up in the center) The bridge is just a small pedestrian bridge and apparently the crossing used to be done by a “Penny Ferry” from 1880 – 1980s. For the last 40 or so years of operation, one man was the Penny Ferry guy and took everyone across.
We went over to the shopping area to eat lunch and walk around a little before our tour.
The Robben Island Tour was quite interesting. It was about 3.5 hours total including the boat rides to and from the island. The ride to the island was only supposed to take about 30 minutes, but we were on a slower boat and it took an hour. The boat ride back took about 40 minutes or so. Once on the island, we were loaded onto a bus with a tour guide to tour the island and then we had a walking tour with a different tour guide through the prison. Then we had a very short amount of time on our own and it was back to the main land.
We actually didn’t come in with that much education about Robben Island or even the full history of South Africa. We just knew about Nelson Mandella and a few key facts. So we learned quite a lot.
- Robben Island was a leper colony from 1840 – 1930. We passed by the leper colony graveyard on our bus tour.
- Robben Island has been a museum for the past 20 years since the freedom of the prisoners on April, 27, 1994. Now there are about 200 museum workers that are actually living here on the island.
- Robben Island has a long history of being a prison. The only successful escape, though, occurred in the 1600s. Many since then have tried to escape by swimming off the island, but failed. It’s a long swim through shark infested waters.
- One special area of note on the island was the lime quarry where the political prisoners of recent history were sent every day to work.
- There was a lot of segregation and unequal treatment of the prisoners here on the island based on the prisoner’s race. There was a lot of emphasis on the tour about the different diets that the prisoners’ were fed based on their race.
- We also learned bits and pieces of the South African period of apartheid which was the period of intense racial segregation that just ended in 1994.
Our walking tour of the actual prison itself was lead by a former political prisoner from 1977. Unfortunately he was not a very good public presenter, and he started us off with a rather long, droning speech that put several people to sleep in the very hot room with no breeze. Of course the most important part of the prison tour was seeing Nelson Mandala‘s prison cell. This was the only cell that had some items laid out in the cell itself. The other cells were all barren now and you could tell that the prison had been renovated with lots of fresh paint.
After our tour, we made a quick trip out to a penguin boardwalk where some African Penguins were hanging out and then went back to the docks for our 4pm boat ride back.
On the ride back, we could see that all the wind had picked up the sand in the air so all of Cape Town was shrouded in a brownish haze. The haze was obscuring some of the mountains in the background. More interesting, though was the fact that we were able to spot several seals and some orca whales from our boat. Luckily our boat ride back was much faster and we were back on dry land soon.
We took a walk out to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Stadium just to see the outside and then went back to the car to take a scenic drive south of Cape Town on Chapman’s Peak Drive.
Chapman’s Peak Drive is pretty short at only 9km, but interestingly enough it is also a toll road, so we were able to drive nice and slow due to the lack of cars on the road.
Since we’ve been in windy Cape Town for a few days now, the windows of our car are so dirty and covered in salt water spray, sand, and dirt. Of course on the rental car the windshield wipers are not great, so our drive south into the setting sun at many times was quite a difficult one with all the glare.
It was a windy drive too! We had to hang onto our car doors very carefully everytime we opened up the doors because the wind would whip them right off if we weren’t careful. The drive was quite scenic with plenty of pull offs to look back on the bay and we stopped at a beach pull out at the end of the drive to watch the setting sun.
On the way back, we were amazed to watch a helicopter land in a picnic area right in front of us. We weren’t quite sure what was going on, but we were guessing that it was a touristy helicopter tour the way they kept traveling up and down the bay.
We drove all the way back to the Blouberg area north of Cape Town arriving in our neck of the woods about 9pm and found a seafood restaurant for dinner.