"Long Walk to Freedom"
Cape Town Travel Blog› entry 7 of 25 › view all entries
October 13th, 2008 – by: wils0n33
This was a very interesting day as I visited the Townships just out of Cape Town and then Robben Island were Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. I had a tour booked as they tell you not to just go into the townships and start walking around on your own. You would prob be fine, but would be hassled for money so much it would ruin your visit. We drove through District Six and visited the District Six Museum, very interesting as it chronicled the forced relocation of people and its deceration as a "white only" area, as well as the "pass books" that all black people had to have under Apartheid. I wished the museum could have been bigger, it used to be a small church, you can even still see the pulpit. We then drove to the Townships were we drove through some and the guide explained the conditions of them, which is so sad and humbling. Really makes you grateful and appreciative of all that we have. Many of the people are living in little shacks just one step above homeless, they kinda look like "Hoovervills" during the Great Depression in the US. The biggest one Kaylietscha (not the correct spelling) has over 1 million people in it. It is also very trashy with people just dumping garbage anywhere they can. Its not all dirt poor, some people even have nice houses and there is a "Beverly Hills" of townships that we visited. Suprisingly there is little resentment or crime in them. We stopped and spoke with a local medicine man who still treats many people in the townships for common colds to diabetes. Even among all the animal skins and herbs he had condoms everywhere. At least he is doing his part to curb the spread of AIDS. Also an interesting part of the Townships is the cuisine. They have "Smilies" everywhere which is just a goat's head. When they aren't cooked you can still see the teeth and it looks like they are smiling, hence the name. I didn't eat one though, haha. We then stoped to visit some local families and I got to talk to them and hear about their day to day lives. They all even had Obama buttons on the wall. I played with her kids, who were the sweetest children ever, I wanted to stuff them in my backpack and take them home, but I decided against it. Most of the children didn't even have shoes or shirts on, its really sad to see poverty stricken children. Upon leaving the township we drove right past a golf course and country club, not on purpose, but someone joked here is how the other half lives. Which is true, you could hit a ball out of bounds and hit a Township house. We then caught the ferry to Robben Island which takes about 35 min and was VERY cold. One thing that kind of sucks about Cape Town is so much is dependent upon the weather. Table Mountain almost always has her "Table Cloth" on which means you can't get great shots and the Cable Car to the top is prob closed. You can still walk up it, but is really cold and harder to get to photos when its cloudy up top. Also if the water is to choppy then the ferries to the island don't run. Ours was actually the last one as the wind was really picking up. We got to the island and all piled into a bus for the bus tour around the perimiter of the island. It felt a bit rushed and you couldn't get out and just walk around, though the speaker on the bus was an excellent one, very interesting and entertaining. He said every country had a role to play regarding the island in some way and he tested it by asking people where they were from and he had an answer for every country. We heard about the history of the island, saw the leper graveyard, guest house where Mandela stays when he visits the island, etc. We then took the guided tour of the prison led by a former political prisoner. Also interesting, but I felt that his speech was all to rehearsed, there was nothing but a mundane, monotone speech and he didn't really answer any questions. We did get to see Mandela's cell and the courtyard where they would exercise/break rocks. We were actually shown a limestone quarry where prisoners were forced to work for no reason other than to keep them occupied. Also limestone is really bright and hard on the eyes without protection and of course they didn't have sunglasses and as a result many went or are almost blind. Even today you can't photograph Mandela with a flash as his tear ducts dried up as a result of this punishment.
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