On Wednesday, October 28th, I headed off to the waterfront and got on one of the hop-on/hop-off CitySightseeing buses. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone: get a ride to Table Mountain, and get to see a bit more of the city. I got to Table Mountain and this time the cable cars were running, so after waiting a long time in line, I finally made it to the top. They give free 30 minute guided tours every hour, so I joined one and that was pretty interesting (love free tours!) and then spent some time walking around, enjoying the view and taking lots and lots of pictures. It’s so beautiful up there, Cape Town is such a beautiful city. I caught the next bus down, and finished the scenic route around the city, ending back at the waterfront.
From there I caught the ferry to Robben Island, which is the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years he spent in jail. The tour leaves from the V & A Waterfront three times daily, takes about 3 1/2 hours, and is completely guided (meaning you’re not free to wander about on your own, which kind of sucks, but it’s still really worth it). It was a super interesting tour, as all the tours are led by former political prisoners on the island, so you really get a sense of what it was like and you are free to ask them questions. Our guide was really great and told us a lot about his time in prison and what he experienced as a political prisoner. It was so powerful and moving to hear him speak. What courage it must take to come back to the place where you were imprisoned for so many years and talk about your experience. He told us that he wasn’t able to complete his first tour as it was too emotional for him. Some of the guides/former prisoners actually LIVE on the island with their families (!), while others commute every day.
Our guide was not imprisoned at the same time as Nelson Mandela, but came to know him afterwards and was lucky to call him a friend. He also was from Soweto and knew Othandweni well (the orphanage where I volunteered), so I ended up speaking with him quite a bit. The tour ends with seeing Mandela’s cell, which is so heartbreaking. It’s crazy and sad to think that he spent 18 years living in this tiny cell, just for fighting for basic human rights for black South Africans. His life is very inspiring and I look forward to reading his autobiography: Long Walk to Freedom.
After the ferry ride back to the waterfront, I walked back to the hostel and got picked up by a friend who was also in Cape Town. We ended up going to this rooftop bar, then heading to a yacht club to meet up with some of his friends. It was really fun (plus who doesn’t love free drinks? And I might’ve accidentally gotten drunk again, oops! But just pleasantly drunk, unlike the last time).
The next day was my last day in Cape Town and my last day in South Africa ? I got up early and packed up all my stuff, then headed to the District 6 museum, which is a museum about the forced removals during Apartheid from an area/community in the city known as District 6. It was pretty interesting, and I spent a few hours there, before heading back to the waterfront to do some souvenir shopping, then to the hostel to collect my bags, write out postcards and hang out until it was time to leave for the airport. While I was hanging out, I ended up talking to this American girl (she was ex-military and was traveling the world on her military pension) who was also heading to the airport, so we ended up just splitting an uber ride, which worked out nicely.
Then it was time to board my flight with SAA (South African Airways) and head back to Joburg for a layover. I so badly wanted to go visit the orphanage and the volunteers during my layover, but it just wasn’t long enough. It was so sad, being that close and yet not being able to visit one last time. ? Then it was off to Perth for another layover and to go through customs before finally landing in Sydney late Friday night. I took a taxi back to my friend Kathy’s house and we spent a few hours catching up before heading for bed
I was happy to be back in Australia and to see Kathy again, but I couldn’t believe that my time in South Africa had already come to an end, it had gone by so quickly. I really fell in love with the country and its people. I’m going to miss the friends I made there and the kids and the accents and the sun!
I highly recommend a visit if you can, there is such a diversity of things to see and do and it is just so incredibly beautiful. I definitely want to go back and visit the orphanage again, and do some of the things I didn’t get a chance to do, like whale-watching and doing a Winelands tour, and going shark-diving! I had debated going shark diving, but I thought I’d better wait until another time, as I’d already had two serious incidents happen that year (setting my kitchen on fire and getting into a somewhat serious car accident) and didn’t want to tempt fate, since things tend to happen in threes. With my luck I’d be that one person who’d somehow get their arm bitten off!
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