Our room rental didn’t come with breakfast, so after getting dressed we took the hotel’s shuttle to Cape Quarter Lifestyle Village, a mall with a number of trendy cafés, to have breakfast. The shuttle’s driver was a Cape Malay guy. Cape Town had quite substantial number of Cape Malay people, whose ancestors sailed to the city from South East Asia (i.e. Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka) hundreds of years ago.
A view from the mall’s balcony. The cafés were downstairs at the patio.
The mall comprised of two buildings. We dropped by Harley Davidson on the way to the other building. If you have a Full B license, you could rent a bike here and take a scenic ride around the cape.
Arrived at the other building. Lovely scenery!
We then explored the area surrounding the mall...
...and found this cute mosque.
We returned to the other building and tried to get a taxi back to waterfront. One thing for sure, taxis in Cape Town were very few. Locals rely on “rikkis” - private minivans that served as shared taxi. Similar to buses, they had specific routes, therefore you had to know which rikki would take you where. The challenge was the routes weren’t published anywhere. The only way to find out was to keep your ears open, because the driver would scream the destination to potential passengers (anybody standing by the roadside) as he passed by! Anyway, since we couldn’t get a taxi, we had to take a rikki. The driver told us he wouldn’t go to waterfront exactly, but would be able to drop us nearby. We ended up somewhere near Green Point Stadium, which was a few minutes walk to our hotel.
A lost tourist in Cape Town?
We returned to our room to leave our shopping goods and walked to waterfront. Next in the agenda was a cruise to Robben Island, the location of the maximum security prison where Mandela was detained. We had booked a tour with Robben Island Museum several weeks before coming here. It turned our to be a wise decision, because while we were waiting to board there was an announcement that all tickets were sold out till 3rd January... and today was only Christmas Eve!
Departure point was Nelson Mandela Gateway. Security was just as tight as getting on a plane.
Scanned the tickets...
...and got onboard!
A lovely view of the harbor from the top deck.
As the boat set sailing towards Robben Island, we moved further from Table Mountain.
After a bumpy ride against wavy waters, we were welcomed by a flock of birds.
We then took a bus to begin our tour around the island.
Welcome to Robben Island!
As the bus moved, the tour guide explained to us the significance of each important landmark. That was the leper graveyard, where people who contracted leper disease were buried.
Another key landmark was a limestone quarry near the prison, where inmates were ordered to work. For those who were detained in individual cells, it was their chance to meet other inmates. The hole at the quarry where they took short rests was dubbed “Robben Island University” as it eventually became the meeting place of great minds. By the way, working at the quarry had damaged Mandela’s tear ducts. Now when he cried, he wouldn’t be able to shed a tear.
“Robben Island University” - the hole where Mandela and other leaders met and shared ideas.
Robben Island had long ceased to be a place of terror. Today’s Robben Island had been inhibited by a small community of former inmates and prison guards living next to each other, at their own free will.
The island was equipped with community infrastructures such as church...
...and primary school. They didn’t have high school though. Students would have to take a boat to the mainland to get secondary education.
The bus made a stop at this point where we could go to the washroom, buy some snacks and enjoy the view.
We boarded the bus again and continued the ride to the maximum security prison. When we reached there, we were greeted by another tour guide who was a former prisoner.
Walking with our fellow “inmates” through the hallways of the maximum security prison.
The shared cell where our guide was once held captive.
We sat in the cell and listened to the guide’s explanation about the structure of the prison, the different types of cells in the prison and the things prisoners did during detention.
He also showed us a magnified version of a prisoner’s card.
Next, we walked out from the shared cell block to the individual cell block, where Robben Island’s most famous inmate - Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - was detained.
This was the garden where Mandela hid his manuscripts.
Mandela hid them at this corner at the end of the garden, underneath the tree.
The garden was just outside his cell, which was one of the windows to the right.
This was his cell’s window from the outside...
...and from the inside.
A peek into Mandela’s cell. Unlike shared cells which had attached toilets, individual cells had no toilet. The big red bin was his toilet.
We proceeded to other areas within the prison such as the reception area, mail censor’s room, study office and so on. Finally, we sat at the kitchen area and the guide took us through his personal story and how he ended up in Robben Island.
He then released us from captive through this door.
Our short walk to freedom ;-)
We exited the area and went to the souvenir store. I didn’t realize that I spent so much time there until Fiza told me that the boat was leaving soon! I looked around, we were the only visitors left, the rest were already onboard! And it was the last boat of the day! Did we want to spend a night in maximum security prison? No we didn’t! Our hotel was already a former prison!
I quickly made my payment and we ran to the boat. True enough, we were the last two passengers. The upper decks were full, so we had to sit at the lower deck. The moment the boat hit the waves, my seasick kicked in, so I had to force myself to get a nap so I wouldn’t feel like throwing up.
We reached the shore feeling incredibly hungry, so we went to the first restaurant that we saw as we exited Nelson Mandela Gateway. It was a Cape Malay restaurant serving halal food, which was a plus point as we could eat anything we like. I’ll write a review on it in my halal feature later.
Each of us bought a copy of Mandela’s autobiography called “Long Walk to Freedom”, in illustrated version.
Fiza’s copy was stamped with today’s date, marking the day we went to Robben Island. Mine wasn’t :-(
Because I was in a mad rush catch the boat!
Arghhh! What a booboo!