With just one week left in Cape Town we still had a few must see things to do but as many of you will know the weather in Cape Town isn’t very predictable so when the day dawned clear and still we took the opportunity to go up Table Mountain.
We didn’t hike up the mountain but before you accuse us of being lazy, it was just because time was short and we had to make the most of it. So we booked our tickets online (a R10 saving), packed a cooler with drinks and snacks and set off for the cable station.
It was such a wonderful day and the views were so breathtaking from the top that we spent several hours taking it all in. However this meant we wouldn’t make the Robben Island tour. So after descending via the cable car we drove up to Signal Hill for one of the other great views in Cape Town and a great vantage point to admire the new Green Point Stadium that was still in construction when I left Cape Town some 16 months prior.
The following day, while a little windy was clear and sunny so we headed off to the Waterfront where we would catch the ferry to Robben Island for a tour of the prison where Mandela spent much of his life. It is quite a pricy tour costing R200 per person and with some quick calculations on the ferry ride across I couldn’t help but think this was a real cash cow. Estimating:
400 people x R200 ea x 4 ferries/day x 7 days/week = R2.24 million per week
Even with the oil price and salaries this seemed like a lot but I was willing to see how the tour was before condemning the operation.
This view is great but was spoiled by the litter on the side of the road as we drove around the Island. Surely they could organise a volunteer group who can’t afford the cost to collect the litter and as payment let them visit the prison that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
This was a second disappointment as, several years before, I had done the same tour and we had been allowed to walk around the quarry and experience just how harsh the glare of the sun off the white rock is that damaged the prisoners eyes for so many years. However, now, because of people stealing rocks as souvenirs they don’t allow you off the buses, what a shame. On top of that the quarry looks overgrown with shrubs and weeds, diminishing the effect of the glare and in my opinion detracting from the purpose of showing this as one of the attractions. Surely with some of the proceeds from the ticket sales they could construct elevated pathways so people could still get the full effect of the World Heritage Site without the ability to steal rocks. I’m just saying.
This was the redeeming feature of the whole tour. The insight and genuineness of the tour guides who spent several years locked up in the Robben Island Prison is apparent and touching. It really made the experience real.
Although we are glad we got to see Robben Island, we had lively debate afterwards as we discussed how we felt about the experience and whether we were short-changed. It’s a pity that in the end we walked away feeling that we weren’t as moved as we hoped we would be. You go to a place like Robben Island Prison to experience a harsh reality, and it should evoke emotion and make you think… rather than dwelling on things that you think could have been done better to portray things as they were.