31 July 2009

From Robben Island to robbin' b@stards

We've been really lucky with the weather since we arrived in South Africa. Apart from our first day in Cape Town we've had clear blue skys and bright sunshine. It's not been particularly hot but it has been very pleasant considering it's the middle of winter.

Our luck finally ran out yesterday when we visited Robben Island, the former prison for the anti apartheid protesters. There's nothing like a gray sky and a bit of drizzle to cheer up a prison!

After Liz's declaration about never going on a boat again following the crossing from Zanzibar to Dar, we again found ourselves sea bound. And just to make things even more fun the 25 minute crossing was nice and choppy. Not quite bad enough to force breakfast to make a re-appearance but still bile churning.

Once you get over to the island the tour is split into two parts. The first part is a bus tour around the island where they explain it's history and the stories of some of it's more famous inmates. The second, more interesting and more poignant part of the tour, is a guided walk around the prison compound by a former detainee.

Our guide, Kgotso, was sentenced to a 25 year stretch for being a member of the ANC's paramilitary wing. However he ended up only serving 7 years as the prison was closed down in 1991 as part of the deal that saw the end of apartheid.

We got to hear all about life in the prison and even got to see Nelson Mandela's cell.

Robben island wasn't only home to political detainees, the island is also home to a colony of about 2000 prison penguins.

The rain got even worse when we left for the airport this morning and we would have probably made better progress if we had a boat rather than a taxi. We've had a great time in South Africa but it has certainly felt a little bit odd to be somewhere that feels so similar to home after nearly 9 months on the road. Liz has been in her element as they have their own clone of M&S out here (which is rather confusingly called Woolworths) and you can even get a South African version of Heat!

We're now making our way up to Cairo but have had a bit of an incident during our transfer at Johannesburgh airport. Some thieving b@stard baggage handler cut the locks and zip off my Berghaus backpack and stole my Leatherman pocket knife / multi-tool thingy. A nice leaving present from South Africa!

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