On my fourth day in South Africa, I took the day off from volunteering so I could be a tourist. I ventured down to the Waterfront, an idyllic area of the city, and spent the day at the famous Robben Island, walking along water & enjoying fantastic food.
The Waterfront is beautiful, with quaint buildings, clear skies, sailboats & a mountain backdrop in every direction. Oh, and a ton of great shopping.
Mid-morning, I hopped on the ferry to Robben Island, the secluded prison where Nelson Mandela and other protestors of extreme racism were imprisoned when the government informed apartheid, racial segregation.
At this point, we were shuffled into a bus to tour around the island, which was actually really disappointing. The bus was packed full of people, so you could hardly see any of the attractions at each stop and unless you wanted to clamber upon each other, there was no real way to take pictures of anything, so I don’t have much to show you.
The island has a small community that lives there even today, where they hold traditions such as only getting married on February 14th in the local church.
There are shipwrecks on the island actually quite frequently, I would assume from the strong South African winds, which was unique to see.
I also hadn’t been aware the island was used as a WWII lookout post, although the war never made it to South Africa. The guns and fortresses stand on the island today.
We then took a walking tour of the maximum security prison building lead by a former prisoner. He shared his experiences of protesting by fasting for a month just to get a bed to sleep on with his fellow mates. We walked through the courtyards and among hundreds of cells.
The highlight was, of course, seeing the cell where Nelson Mandela was locked up for 18 years & hearing of his inspirational work even when he was imprisoned. Yet again, the tour was not well organized, and fifty or so of us were crammed in the tiny hallway to see the cell, so this was the best picture I could manage.
On the ferry ride home, I managed a seat up on the top deck where we were drenched with huge waves, but gifted these amazing sights.
After the tour, I walked the pier, enjoying local musical talent & famous landmarks.
I planned to return to IY for the afternoon, but I was shocked with the news that a fire had lost control the night before, and due to the poorly constructed & stacked homes, hundreds of shacks were burned down. The fire was still burning the following day and therefore, the township couldn’t be entered.
I was so devastated by the news, and had no idea what I would find in the township the following day, or if I would even be allowed in. I wanted so desperately to help, and knowing I only had one day left instilled a sense of hopelessness in me. It was with a heavy heart that I entered the township the next day…which I blog about on Monday!