Busy Day - V&A, Robben Island and Table Mountain

Trip Start Nov 21, 2008
Trip End Dec 07, 2008

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Monday, November 24, 2008

Up at 7am; things to do, places to go and all that. Whilst I was in the shower, Steve heard a huge bang so looked out of the window and there had been a car crash on the street corner and the World and his dog was getting involved. We had breakfast in the hotel because we thought it was included as we had been given vouchers but we still got a bill so turns out the voucher is meaningless! It wasn't very expensive and was pretty nice so in hindsight not necessarily a bad thing but the voucher thing did confuse us.

Weather was glorious. The sun as beating down on us from a cloudless sky at 9am. We took a taxi the the V&A Waterfront where it was very quiet as it was still early. It was lovely to be able to stroll through the place with no crowds and because of the strength of the sun we each bought a hat from one of the shops there and the hat proved to be a great buy for Steve for the rest of the trip.

We were booked on the 11am ferry to Robben Island and were lucky to be able to grab a seat on the top deck which was open air. The boat actually holds, possibly about 100 people but there are only 28 open air seats. The trip out was very pleasant as the weather was so great and because of this lots of people wanted to sit on the top deck. I felt sorry for the attendant as he (in hindsight, stupidly) let people come up to the top deck to take photos but he then struggled to get them all to go back down again.

There was a group of about 8 lads who just kept snapping photos of themselves just so they could stay up and each time the attendant tried to ask them to go back down they'd say they hadn't finished. One of them kept trying to shake the attendants hand and slip him a note so blatantly wanted to bribe him into letting them stay but the attendant didn't let them so eventually they disappeared back downstairs but they'd been up for the majority of the journey!

There was also a chap in a QPR shirt who had a little girl who sat on he top step leading to the open air deck and the attendant asked him to move downstairs. The QPR guy refused and said his little girl wanted to be outside (like that should allow him to?!). So after some chit chat and the attendant saying only 28 people could be on the upper deck they guy slips down a step and says that he's not on the 3rd deck so there shouldn't be a problem. I think the attendant didn't know what to do so just let him sit there to avoid any confrontation. Unfortunately, the attendant's boss came and saw that this QPR guy was breaking the rules so he made the attendant do something d about it so he went up to the guy and explained that he really had to move and if he didn't it would affect his job. The QPR guy got quite aggressive and abusive and provoked the attendant in retaliating and because the attendant was holding some pliers at the time as he had just finished fixing something he waved them round a bit which made him look confrontational and no doubt if the QPR guy made a formal complaint he would have used this as a defence in spite of the fact he was abusive first.

At this stage a few of the passengers on the deck started to shout at the QPR man and tell him to be reasonable so the guy did go downstairs but by now we had reached Robben Island anyway. There were a couple of ladies sat near us who said that the QPR guys should be made to stay on the island for his behaviour! The attendant was just trying to do his job and I felt sorry for him but I guess he should have been more firm in the first place and just stop anyone from going up to the deck once it was full. He wasn't around on the journey home whereas all the other attendants including the boss were so I hope the QPR guy didn't cause him to lose his job. No matter what the attendant should or shouldn't have done, it would be harsh if it resulted in him losing his job.

This incident made me feel a touch uncomfortable as I felt it wasn't fair on the attendant and I guess it set the tone for Robben Island where fairness and justice didn't exist either. The trip was interesting. We arrived and were put onto buses that drove round the complex with a guide explaining what went on pointing out what the different buildings were. It was hard to believe that such treatment of people happened so recently. What struck me was the pointlessness of it all. It was ludicrous that the prisoners had to work so hard in the intense heat quarrying limestone from point A and hauling it to point B only to have to haul it back to point A the next day. Why make people suffer so? I guess that one thing is symbolic of apartheid in its entirety. Granted, they ended up needing the limestone eventually but originally there was no purpose to this work the prisoners had to do. After the bus tour, there is a short tour of the cells by a former prisoner which is also pretty hard hitting. I had no knowledge about the politics or history of South Africa and after the visit I now know perhaps, a little more but I still don't really understand it but what the trip does is make it real. It doesn't matter if I don't know what the letters ANC stand for and the differences between ANC and PAC but what Robben Island teaches the visitor and non expert is that such harsh treatment existed in my lifetime. We're not talking about something backward and untoward that happened generations ago that we can't imagine because nowadays were all so civilised and reasonable, we're talking about in my lifetime things that are horrifically unjust happen and I think that's the biggest lesson I learnt.

We returned the Waterfront  and we had a late lunch at "Quay 4" overlooking the harbour. We shared a seafood platter (calamari, mussels, linefish, king prawns, chips and rice) and had a bottle of wine. Location and setting were excellent. Food was good value volume to price wise especially when you compare prices to UK but a bit too heavy and in comparison the the rest of the meals we had over the course of the trip probably the least satisfactory quality wise.

Given the skies were so clear, it seemed a good time to try to get to Table Mountain so we worked through the post lunch fatigue and pushed on. Took the cable car up which was pretty scary and the gradient is very steep. At least we didn't try to hike up it - we saw some guys climbing up and that looked even scarier. Did a short walk around the area and went dassie spotting. Dassies look like large guinea pigs and are native to Cape Town. Apparently the nearest relative to the elephant although they look nothing like them. Dassie spotting proved fruitless until the end of the walk when suddenly we saw loads lazing in the sun! Had a coffee there and did some postcard writing. When we came back down, the driver that brought us was still there (he was probably waiting for us to get a guaranteed fare) and he took us back to the hotel.

Sunday evening and the area we were in was pretty quiet. Even "Daddy Cool" was closed so we walked a little way down Long Street and had dinner at "Nyoni's Kraal". Shared a mixed braai (BBQ) platter which comprised of boerewors (sausages), chicken, lamb, beef and ribs as well as the traditional pap, tomato bredie and chakalaka. To explain, pap is like polenta ie a form of starch but was bright white and looked like a disc of polystyrene and the tomato bredie was like a tomato paste spread on top. Chakalaka was like a spiced sauce. The pap itself didn't taste of that much but I don't think it's meant to. The meat was all nicely marinaded and well cooked. It would have been  more interesting and appealing to us if there had been some more unusual meats. We ordered a bottle of wine which Steve drank most of as the meal at "Quay 4" and this dinner was sitting pretty heavy in my tummy so wine wouldn't have helped.
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