A day trip to Robben Island is a very eye opening experience when in Cape Town. Here you will learn a lot about the brutal history of the apartheid and see where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.
But first let me continue our travel story 🙂
The next day a very seedy group boarded the truck feeling pretty sorry for ourselves. It’s a long quiet drive to Cape Town. When we arrive it is raining, which is good as the rain is much needed for the city.
For our last night of the tour we are staying at a hostel. After unloading the truck and saying goodbye to our awesome crew…
We have an hour to chill before going on a “township” tour. Now everyone else thought this was a tour of the town. I however knew it wasn’t. Instead we were going to tour the make shift shanty towns that millions call home. I felt super awkward about this. Once explaining this to Renee and the other people they weren’t really keen on it either. But we were already on the bus on our way there. So we were committed.
Now the Langa Township is a first hand look at how corrupt the South African government actually is. The local police will hardly ever enter these townships. We were told that there is a murder every two days and a rape every three days inside these townships through out Africa. And out here they have their own laws. When found guilty of murder or rape, the person is taken out the back of the township and burnt alive.
After we entered a house of a family in the township to see how they live out here in their tiny tin shacks. Which I thought was very intrusive of their life. But at least they must get some money from the tour company for allowing us to see how they live.
We had a brief chat with the family and learnt the strong bond of community in these townships. Also how they all have to make something from nothing with basically no help from the government.
Next stop was the township centre where the massacre of 1985 took place. Here police open fired and killed six local teens. Then at one of the teens funerals a couple of days later, the police ordered the crowd to disperse immediately. When the crowd did not comply the police opened fire on the crowds killing 35 people and leaving 27 wounded!
Lunch in the township
We then headed for lunch at a restaurant in the township. Turned a corner and passed two men in bullet proof vests full of shotgun ammo, carrying shot guns. All of a sudden five men run out onto the road waving their hands and yelling. I thought to myself this is it.. We are getting car jacked out here! Luckily for us, these guys work at the restaurant and were out on the street to wave us into our secure carpark.
We enter the restaurant and there were two other ladies on a different township tour. They were not so lucky. As they explained how they were just robbed at knife point for their bags and camera gear!
None the less we pulled up some chairs and ordered some food. We got to go into the kitchen to see how they were cooking up the BBQ. Man it smelled delicious!
I gave a cigarette to one of the guys hanging out at the front door and asked “where could I get some beers from?” He explained how to get to the bottle shop. But advised that it definitely would not be safe for me to walk there. So he insisted on going for me. What a legend! I gave him a nice tip and shouted him some beer.
We ate our lunch then as we were getting back into the van our tour guide said that we had to cut the tour short. There was a protest against the government going down. The rioting was in full effect, and it wasn’t safe for us to go anywhere near it. We were all totally cool with this decision. So we headed back to our hostel.
The following day we all organised a trip to Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town.
Now Robben Island, is the place where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years during the apartheid. It also was the prison for all of Africa’s political prisoners and criminals.
We caught the first ferry out into the South Atlantic ocean –
“The sea was angry that day my friend, like an old man returning soup” – George Castanza.
The water was so rough! People were getting sea sick left, right and centre.
One and a half hours later we finally step foot on Robben Island.
A strange feeling was in the air as it was super quiet. Alot of death and suffering has gone down on this island over the years.
We all loaded up on a bus as they gave us a tour of the island.
This island was a leper colony back in 1984. There is still a leper graveyard on the island.
We drive past the small town where the prison guards lived. And then past the local church.
Then stopped for a quick lunch break along the shore line looking back at Cape Town.
A nice view of Cape Town from Robben Island
Then we’re off to our last stop. A tour around the prison where Nelson Mandela and many more political prisons spent their sentences.
Our guide Peter- a former inmate
We met our tour guide Peter who he himself served 18 years in this very prison. During the apartheid, Peter was convicted of two counts of manslaughter, terrorism acts and political conspiracy.
He gave us a tour of this prison where he lived for 18 years, starting at the football field.
He told us about how the guards would never allow the prisoners to be in groups and talk. But at the football field it was the only exception. Here they could discuss politics. When the guards asked them what they were talking about, they would say they are discussing the football match, which was about to start.
From there we checked out the kitchens, and the prison cells.
The prison cells where jam packed and had very basic amenities. They only had a thin mat on the concrete floor for a bed. The guards installed microphones in the alarm speakers, so they could listen in on the inmates discuss politics. Which was not allowed and was met with harsh punishment.
It took awhile before the inmates worked out there were microphones in the speakers. When they did, they would cover the speakers with a pillow. Someone would keep a watch out for guards while they discussed politics.
Nelson Mandela’s cell
From these cells we moved onto the inmates recreation area near where Nelson Mandela stayed.
Over in the far corner is where he wrote his book ” Long walk to freedom.”
We then walked through the cells and had a look at Mandela’s jail cell.
It was surprising they didn’t have a tribute or anything to Nelson Mandela. Alot of the other cells had information and pictures about their former inmates. But nothing in his.
Once seeing the rest of the cell block our tour concluded. Then we returned back to dock to catch the ferry back to Cape Town.
On arrival we were greeted with some seals chilling at the dock.
This tour was a real eye opener to how fucked humans can be, and how bullshit politics and racism actually are!
We are all people of this earth, we all bleed the same colour, and we all eventually turn into the same dust. After spending weeks travelling through the most beautiful landscapes and seeing the most amazing wildlife Africa has to offer, it was a harsh reality check of what humans are capable of ☹️
Stay tuned for my last African Adventure Blog where we summit to the top of Table Mountain!
I promise that will be a more uplifting post but just like life you have to have the good with the bad.
If you ever want to add a day trip to Robben Island – Cape Town you can book the ferry and tour HERE
For more African adventure stories, check these out 🙂