First, let me apologize for the extended delay between both South Africa posts and posts in general. Some weeks I manage to balance things better than others and the last couple of weeks (with the end of the academic year) have been harder to manage. But alas, here I am and here you are…Hello!
Jumping back into our South Africa adventure, we left the Cradle of Humankind on a Monday morning and flew to Cape Town via Kulula Airlines. Our other choice of airline was Mango (affiliated with South Africa Airways), but the Kulula flight matched our travel preferences better, so off we went in the bright green jet.
Upon landing in Cape Town, we purchased shuttle tickets with the MyCiti Airport shuttle service (for only about $6 per person), which took us to Cape Town city center. From there, we had our guest house (the Albatross Guest House) arrange for a cab driver to pick us up in his minibus. This arrangement was strategic – the guest house knows exactly how much it should cost to take us from location A to B, so the cabbie isn’t inclined to rip them off. We just reimbursed the guest house upon our arrival and didn’t have to worry about negotiating with a driver.
After having spent almost a week in the company of Jimmy from DGV Transport (with his plush minibus and incredibly gracious service and company), it felt quite odd indeed to ride in an older minibus with a complete stranger. It’s funny how we all grew so close to Jimmy in our relatively short time with him. I think it’s because he was so tolerant of us and was so incredibly accommodating. Jimmy, if you’re reading this – we miss you!
Alas, I digress. Back to Cape Town. After our awkward drive with the strange driver, we arrived at our Guest House. While Albatross was a modest guest house, it was comfortable enough and it had one major thing going for it – location, location, location! Just two blocks from the ocean and 10 steps from a Hop On, Hop Off tour bus stop, we were right exactly where we needed to be to get the most out of Cape Town.
Since we arrived relatively early in the day, the first thing we did was to take the city bus (just plain ol’ public transportation) to the V&A Waterfront (about 3-4 miles from the guest house). We passed a stadium that was built for the World Cup on our way there.
As you can tell, it was a beautiful day and the V&A Waterfront was hopping indeed.
The Waterfront is the height of luxury that reminded me very much of the ritzy parts of South Florida. There were yachts aplenty, an extensive upscale mall and even a ferris wheel. We were far more concerned with one thing, though – food! Being situated directly on the water, there were no shortage of seafood restaurants there – I was in heaven.
What’s more, the food in Cape Town was relatively inexpensive, which we found to be true in the entire country. My 20 piece sushi/sashimi combo (pictured above) was only about $20. What’s more – that was the most expensive meal I ate for the entire trip. It was far more typical to spend $10 per meal, even for steak.
After we lingered over our meal and walked around the Waterfront for a bit, we decided to walk back to our guest house. It was such a gorgeous day and we had all the time in the world, so a 4 mile stroll seemed the perfect end to our day.
We settled in for the evening and woke up early on Tuesday for a busy day – our plans included taking a ferry out to Robben Island. This was my most anticipated part of the trip. I could not wait.
The ferry launches from the V&A Waterfront, so we made our way back there, grabbed some lunch and prepared to depart. This was the sign posted at our point of departure.
The bus finally made its way back to the highlight of our tour – the prison facility. What’s remarkable about the prison tour portion of the excursion was that our tour guide was himself a former political prisoner who served 8 years at Robben Island.
As we walked out of the prison facility and made our way back to the boat, we passed by the iconic sign that thousands of prisoners viewed with dispair.
As the tour wound down, I reflected on my own convictions. Is there any right on this earth that I feel passionately enough about that I’m willing to go to prison for? To die for? Robben Island was the one stop on this South African adventure that transformed me back into the role of student instead of professor. I’m humbled by the resolution of those who fought for the right to be treated equally, yet frustrated by the fact that this equality is yet to be realized. Will it ever be realized? I don’t know. What I do know is that the country of South Africa is beautiful and complicated, as rich in history as it is in natural resources.
I’m so thankful that I finally got to visit Robben Island. It truly was everything that I thought it would be. Stay tuned for Part II – our visit to Table Mountain (oh and cue the ominous music – it was intense!).