Thursday, 11th January
Accommodation : Commodore hotel
So everyone will tell you that Cape Town is beautiful and having never been here before we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Now as a tourist you of course you get to see the tourist side of a town. Having said that, Cape town is glorious – a cross between Sydney with its harbour and waterways and Melbourne with its food, shopping and beach promenades. We love it. It feels like a safe place in a crazy country. Somewhere where you could spend days here doing a lot or days doing nothing. The waterfront houses a working port and there are a series of canals with bridges that rotate and others that open to let the expensive boats come and go.
Throughout the waterfront area there are also a multitude of buskers, with spots actually encouraging busking and people to support them. Music, noise and entertainment fills the area but in a rally positive uplifting manner. Nothing like black black gospel, Africaan singing. A giant Ferris wheel is right in the middle of the area and can be seen for all around. It’s not as big as Melbourne but probably used more often!
There is however, a big water crisis going on, something we were even informed of on our arrival in Cape Town. Residents re only allowed to use one litre of water per person. Use more than this and apparently there are big fines. Even in public toilets there is no water in the taps, with people being told to use the installed hand sanitiser instead.
Our hotel is a two minute walk to the V&A Waterfront, I guess like Southbank, Docklands and Circular Quaynput together but without a casino. There’s shopping centres, a great Food Centre in a large warehouse type space and another great craft centre where traders can sell their items – a permanent craft market.
Half of today was spent on a Robben Island tour. Luckily I’d booked this a few months ago in Australia as there are absolutely no tickets available here…one of the hottest tourist tickets around. To get to Robben Island you take a 50 minute fast cat ride to the island some 12.5 km off the mainland. We’d hoped it would be a little cooler here but no chance…still a balmy 35 degrees with little wind.
Robben Island is actually quite large and only one part of it is the prison. Nowadays the other parts house a fully functioning community made up of workers and people whose job it is to protect the heritage of the place. We were shown around by an ex-prisoner, someone who was locked up there in the 1970’s for being involved in protests. He was therefore seen as a political prisoner, ironically treated harsher than the actual criminals on site but looked after better than the political prisoners of the 1960’s (of which Nelson Mandela was one). Everything about the prison was created by the prisoners themselves with the walls being built from the quarry that they had to work in each day. It was very interesting listening to this man and his tales of what happened, how things were staged when organisations such as the International Red Cross visited and how there were differences of opinions between the youngsters of the 70’s and the older wiser heads of the ’60’s.
After returning back to the waterfront, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then met our guide Eric at Nobel Square for a three hour photographic tour. This guy was super experienced having worked around the world both as a photographic journalist and also on freelance work for organisations such as National Geographic. Whilst the tour was based on the premise of taking photos of the area, it was also an opportunity to explore some of the parts we didn’t even know about yet and got the perspective of a local as to what things were good to do. What we have discovered is that even though we are staying for a few days, it probably isn’t enough but we’ll use what time we’ve got to do a number of key things and see the sites such as we have done on our first full day.