A Travellerspoint blog

A sad history of, mostly, one man

Astonishingly for winter, the Cape Town weather was pretty good. Whilst I was there, there was no rain at all until the day before the final: There was some wind, but not even much cloud: The famed Table cloth stayed away from Table Mountain, and it could generally be clearly viewed for large portions of all days.

I had arranged to spend about a week in Cape Town – I had figured that by this point I would be tired of constantly moving around, and knew Cape Town was a place I could hang out and enjoy for a bit. Which is pretty much what I did. I had a great time watching the Semi Finals at the fanzones, but otherwise didn't really do very much. I just hungout and wandered a bit. My internal “go and do stuff” drive has also apparently gone on holiday – I was increasingly getting into a deep state of “meh”, and from memory (which, admittedly, is struggling to remember what I was doing yesterday, let along longer term details) I am currently in the least adventurous, active and sociable state that I have ever been whilst travelling.

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The one thing I did do, however, was go to Robben Island. I had tried last time, only to discover that they were all booked out for the few days I was around. This time, I would not make the same mistake, and had booked my ticket a couple of months previously. I had then lucked out on weather – the table cloth on table mountain cleared for long enough to see it in all it's glory, and the wind and waves were not string enough to prevent the ferry from leaving. The following few days trips were all cancelled.

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Robben Island was a prison pretty much from day 1. Beginning as a Leper colony, it eventually got developed in the 1960's as a prison for political prisoners and dissidents. Though thousands of people were incarcerated there, it is mainly known for one reason: Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison here (although he was not the longest inmate on the island, nor was he eventually released from prison here: That was Victor Versal Prison in Paarl).

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Mandela's cell from outside, and inside

It is a kind of pilgrimage for people the world over, the most internationally recognised reminder of apartheid. On the island, visitors are shown around by former inmates of the prison, and though it is a bit rushed, it was fascinating to hear first hand reports of life there. My biggest regret is actually how the prison population is remembered. Everybody knows about Robben Island because of Mandela, and his story is well known. But there are thousands of other poor souls who suffered the same – and in cases worse – treatment in the prison who's stories are now almost marginalised or even forgotten about, simply because they are not Mandela. In a way it is good: because of Mandela, nobody will ever forget Robben Island and what it stood for. But it must not be forgotten that it was not just the prison of one man.

Posted by Gelli 10:45 Archived in South Africa

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