Robben Island, the not so distant past

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday the view of Table Mountain from our balcony was crystal clear with blue skies and lots of sunshine, today it's grey and Table Mountain is shrouded in low clouds, compare that to yesterdays picture.

So even though we are aching and suffering from our incredible descent down the Skeleton Gorge we were thankful that we picked a great day to go visit the mountain.

 Today it was something different and we had our places booked on the 11am ferry to, and tour of, Robben Island. Robben Island is the place where Nelson Mandela and over 3,000 other political prisoners were sent during the apartheid years.  It lies approximately 12kms off the coast and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So after a leisurely breakfast at Derwent House, we caught a cab down to the Ferry Terminal near the V&A Waterfront. It was lucky that we'd already booked our tickets online as there was quite a crowd waiting for the tour.

When it was time to board I suggested we seat on the open top deck, but after going up there Kelly, wisely, suggested we move inside and I'm damn glad we did as I'm sure we would be frozen popsicles if we had stayed outside. The weather by this stage had turned nasty and it was blowing quite hard and raining steadily.

View of city and table mountain from the ferry

Arriving at Robben we disembarked and the whole tour got onto several buses for a driving tour of the island. Our tour guide, for this part of the tour, was a young man named Kent. Kent provided a wonderful commentary on the different sites we visited, peppered with enough humour to balance the stark and tragic nature of what we were seeing and being told.

Kent our tour guide

The island is quite flat and windswept and you can see Table Mountain and Cape Town in the distance ...

View from Robben Island looking back to Cape Town

... with the highest point on the island being the spot where the islands lighthouse was built.

Robben Island Lighthouse

After a tour of the island we were driven to the prison itself, said goodbye to Kent and met up with "Sparks" our guide for the prison tour. Sparks is an ex-political prisoner who spent 7 years incarcerated on the island. In a cell that held 60 prisoners he told us how they had to live during that time, what little they had to eat, what they had to wear and how they were beaten and punished by the prison authority.

Sparks, our prison guide

As part of the tour we visited the cell that Nelson Mandela occupied during his 17 years incarceration and Sparks told us stories of how they would communicate with other prisoners segregated from them by lobbing tennis balls filled with messages over the high walls.

Nelson Mandela's Cell

We finished our tour visiting the colony of African Penguins that inhabit the island. The original colony of African penguins on Robben Island was exterminated by about 1800. The island was recolonized by about nine pairs of African penguins in 1983. There are now about 20,000 penguins on the island.

African Penquins

If you would like some more information on the island you can find it here, Robben Island.

The trip back was crowded and it rained quite heavily but shortly after arriving back at the Ferry Terminal the rain eased off so we walked over to the V&A Waterfront about 5 minutes from the terminal.

What can you say about the Waterfront? Well it's like Darling Harbour but in Cape Town and apparently it's one of South Africa's leading tourist attractions with over 10 million visitors a year going there! It's got shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and lots of people, not really our cup of tea but it's heavily policed and is a very safe place for tourists to wander around. We grabbed a coffee at one of the restaurants, took a couple of pictures and headed back to the hotel.

V&A Waterfront

After discussing tomorrows travel plans and tonight's dinner options with Chris, the day manager of the hotel, and perusing the many travel books they have scattered around I came across a place called Cafe Mojito, not far from the hotel on Long street. You may not know it but Kelly and I have a soft spot for Mojito's, having sampled them from almost every country and town we have visited so the Cape was going to be no exception.

We hopped a cab, our aching legs couldn't carry us any further, and headed downtown to Long street. Now this area is pretty much the opposite of the waterfront, a bit seedy, bars and restaurants built in old houses, the odd adult store here and there. Much more our taste LOL.

We found the cafe, and grabbed a table next to the front window and ordered up two Mojitos. The cafe is fabulous decked out with a jumbled assortment of pictures from Cuba showing locals smoking cigars, a bar with a palm frond roof, high ceilings and well worn tables.

A great dinner at the Cafe Mojito

The Mojitos arrived and WOW they were up there with the best we have had, delicious and only $5 Aud each! For dinner we ordered Chorizo pan fried with spicy jambalaya sauce & served with Cuban bread strips, Crispy Jalapenos deep fried with salsa mayo, spicy Jerk Chicken Salad with feta, olives, pineapple & pawpaw. Oh and two more Mojitos to replace the first two we had finished while waiting for dinner. To wrap it all up we finished by sharing a plate of Banana fritters dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with vanilla ice-cream.

Feeling fully satisfied we wandered out on the street, into a cab and were back at the hotel in about 5 minutes. Tomorrow we are planning on renting a car and doing a bit of sightseeing down Cape Peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope.

Tony Redhead

93 Maud Street, Unley, SA, 5061, Australia