Travelog: Cape Town, South Africa (Day 1)

The view of Cape Town from Robben Island.

After over 20 hours in the air we had finally made it to our destination, Cape Town, a port city located along the coast of South Africa. Once we arrived at the hotel it was one in the morning, and it sure felt like it.

Sleep came quickly, but sadly, so did the alarm. We awoke at six to tackle the day ahead of us. We got on board a bus and were dropped off in the center of the city. Here, we were told that we had an hour to explore and eat lunch before a boat left to drop us off on Robben Island for a tour.

Because every prison needs a welcoming sign.

Because every prison needs a welcoming sign.

The group we went with consisted of businessmen who were part of the GCCA (Global Cold Chain Alliance). My father is a member of this organization and because of this, gets to travel to other countries often and this time, he decided to take me along.

We made great use of this hour and walked all around the city seeing what the great Cape Town had to offer. We primarily stopped in a market called, “The Watershed”. A dedicated place for merchants who sold pieces that were handmade, whether it be extraordinary paintings, guitars made out of an oil can, or sculptures.

Our time ended quickly and before I knew it, we were on Robben Island. This island wasn’t an ordinary prison for crooks, but also for political prisoners. The most popular prisoner here was Nelson Mandela who spent a total of 18 years at this prison. Here he wasn’t known as Mandela, but as number 46664.

When we arrived on the island we were met by our tour guide, ZuZu. This man was no typical tour guide, but was actually a former prisoner on this island for 5 years. What did he do? He took part in an uprising while he was a student in 1976, the police shot many of the rebels but he was one of the lucky who survived and was sent to this island.

“At first I felt lucky, but when I arrived here that soon faded,” ZuZu said. This prison was no ordinary jail, here torture and forced starvation was common, and for some, a daily routine that took lives. There were many forms of torture that went on here, many too gruesome to tell. The prisoners being tortured would be taken outside to a dedicated place for the beatings.

Where Mandela hid his transcripts, called by his fellow prisoners as, "Mandela's Garden."

Where Mandela hid his transcripts, called by his fellow prisoners as, “Mandela’s Garden”.

Besides when they were tortured, the prisoners were only ever allowed to leave their cell once a week. Mandela was one of the prisoners sent outside often, but he was able to use this awful time for some good. Here he hid his transcripts for what would become his book, “Long Walk to Freedom”.

“You may be thinking to yourself why we call Mandela our hero, why I call him my hero. Well let me tell you. He believed and taught 4 things; peace, hope, reconciliation and forgiveness. He saved us from this jail and instead of fighting back and seeking revenge he told us to forgive, because if you don’t forgive, your life is short,” ZuZu said at the end of the tour. Even with all the evil things they went through, Mandela and his followers still forgave and saved South Africa from Apartheid rule and to everyone’s surprise, did so without war.

ZuZu and I posing by a freedom sign at the prison.

ZuZu and I posing by a freedom sign at the prison.

After the tour it was time to freshen up and get ready for a fancy business dinner. This had to be the highest class meal I’ve ever been to. Everyone was in nice suits and had expensive wine in hand. While I was in a pink button-up shirt, khakis, and had Coca-Cola in hand. At this dinner, there was a wide variety of options, but I was determined to try new meals while I was in Africa. With this mindset I ordered the ostrich filet which turned out to be great, in fact it tasted quite a lot like beef.

That dinner wasn’t only the fanciest, but also proved to be the longest because the conversations seemed to never end. After almost 2 hours we were back in our hotel room, definitely ready for a good night’s rest.