Robben Island, the Company's Gardens and the District Six Museum

Robben Island Travel Blog

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Will this be our last look at Cape Town? Or will they let us go again?

We had a good night sleep, but we get up with mixed emotions. We are looking forward to going to Robben Island, but it’s not a good feeling that we have to go home tonight, South Africa has grown on us.

We go out for breakfast, order the same dish as yesterday and have some tuna sandwiches made for takeaway. We are not sure whether we will be having time for dinner before getting on our flight tonight.

Our boat to Robben Island leaves at 9 am, but we have to get to the docks first.

The stone quarry where the inmates had to work, with the monument in the foreground.
A taxi is the fastest way and Johan ordered some in advance. The employees from the hotel want to make us go with the (much more expensive) hotel taxis. In the end we take the hotel taxis, but we do not pay the full price though. Better arrange the taxis without interference of the hotel at all next time. At V&A Waterfront we have to look where we have to go, but it doesn’t take long and soon we are standing in line, waiting for the doors to the boat to open. At nine o’clock sharp the boat leaves the dock and within no time we are in open waters. We go to the upper deck to have a better view. Looking back we can see the city with Table Mountain behind it, and looking forward Robben Island lies on the horizon. Within a good half an hour the boat sails into the harbour of the prison island and if it weren’t for the tourists, a feeling of total isolation would have come over me. Not a chance of escaping this rock alive without help from the outside world.

We get on a bus where a former inmate starts telling us the history of the island.

Walking through this gate meant that your freedom was taken away.
We are taken to the quarry where the inmates had to work. Apartheid was alive and kicking back in those days and this gave some people the opportunity to study or make plans. The most suitable place for doing these things were the toilets. All the guards were white and most of the inmates were coloured or black people. Since whites do not go to “black” toilets, plans could be made without interruption.

A pile of rocks lies near the entrance of the quarry, this is a monument that came to be by accident. Nelson Mandela visited the island one day, after he was released, and put a rock on the spot where the pile now lies, all people present followed his example and the monument was born.

Once we get off the bus and walk through the gates, the feeling of  being trapped starts to surface again.

Look at the differences in rations between the races.
We are surrounded by fences, barbwire and watchtowers. When the prison was still in use everything was painted grey, nowadays some other colours are applied, but it is still not a cheerful place. Inside another former prisoner takes over the tour. He shows us the dorms, the courtyards, the showers and the cells. Also he tells us about the differences in food rations between the races. Blacks got less than Asians, who on their turn got less than the whites.

I wouldn’t have missed this visit for the world, but I am very happy that the tour guide lets us go after he receives his tip. Upon leaving the island by boat again, some seals are waving us goodbye while floating merrily in the sea.

A little after midday we are ashore again and a couple of seals lie waiting for us, as if they were afraid we wouldn’t come back again.

The two most welknown buildings at V&A Waterfront.
From the docks we have a good view at the two most characteristic buildings in the V&A Waterfront. A blue house and the red clock tower, one on each side of the pedestrian bridge. While enjoying a pancake lunch on a terrace near the clock tower a group of singing youths entertain the people.

In the afternoon Trudy and I have got some last things we want to do. First we go for a walk in the Company’s Gardens. These gardens we established in order to grow vegetables so the VOC ships that were on their way to the East could replenish their food supply so the sailors wouldn’t succumb to scurvy. Nowadays they’re more a park where people go for a stroll in their spare time. St. George’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and the South African Museum are all in the direct vicinity. The gardens are a good way to get away from the city noises without actually leaving the city.

The House of Parliament.

The last thing on our program today is a visit to the District Six Museum. We find the museum after searching for it for a while and we are longing for an air-conditioned building. Unfortunately there’s no such thing, it’s warm inside, damp and warm. While looking around we get a better idea of the history of District Six, from which all the people were forced to move to other areas, because it had become “the worst part of Cape Town” after the wealthier people had moved out to better locations. The homes of the poor were demolished by bulldozers, even though many people didn’t have a place to go. Today District Six is a barren outlying area, known as the Cape Flats. It will probably remain like this, because no-one has the guts to build something there. It is still too delicate a subject for a lot of people. We don’t leave the museum in a very happy mood, but when you visit a country you can’t close your eyes for the downside of it’s history.

The Company's Gardens.

Back in the hotel we have time for a refreshing shower (we can use the showers in the hotel’s gym for this), and then we have to go to the airport. On the way there we have another first in South Africa: a traffic jam. Strange, in Holland we have this every day, and here it is the last thing you think of...

At the airport we say goodbye to Johan and Gert and then all we have to do is check in and wait for the plane to take us back to good old Holland again...

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Will this be our last look at Cape…
Will this be our last look at Cap…
The stone quarry where the inmates…
The stone quarry where the inmate…
Walking through this gate meant th…
Walking through this gate meant t…
Look at the differences in rations…
Look at the differences in ration…
The two most welknown buildings at…
The two most welknown buildings a…
The House of Parliament.
The House of Parliament.
The Companys Gardens.
The Company's Gardens.
The traffic jam on our way to the …
The traffic jam on our way to the…
The one place you dont want to go…
The one place you don't want to g…
A former inmate tells the history …
A former inmate tells the history…
In this toilet many plans were mad…
In this toilet many plans were ma…
Swimming from here to Cape Town is…
Swimming from here to Cape Town i…
The dormitory.
The dormitory.
One of the courtyards where the in…
One of the courtyards where the i…
Seals saying goodbye when we leave…
Seals saying goodbye when we leav…
These friendly little guys were wa…
These friendly little guys were w…
Robben Island
photo by: mikevirgo0824