Back Home in Cape Town!

Well I’m finally home… home as in Cape Town. Two years ago (right now), I studied abroad for a semester here in Cape Town and I fell in love with the city and I can’t even explain how wonderful it is to be back! The past few days since our arrival from Johannesburg have been jammed packed and full of activities. Fortunately we have a rental car so it has been easy and convenient getting around the city so we’ve been able to do a lot! After landing at the airport, we were first off to the University of Cape Town (UCT) where we walked around campus for a bit and I visited my study abroad office–they were quite excited to see me back… what a fun surprise! Then we headed up to the Rhode’s Memorial, adjacent to campus, which overlooks the entire city… how incredibly beautiful! We even drove by my old home on Alma Road… wow, what memories… before heading towards the hotel and getting settled. The rest of the first night was spent around the city as we walked around Camp’s Bay (a beautiful beach area close to our hotel), visited Sea Point, and explored the downtown area. The next day we ventured out to Stellenbosch, a town about an hour outside of Cape Town with a strong influence. The town is known for two things: wine and diamonds… so of course we had to take part! We walked the main street of the small town looking for diamonds before heading off to a nearby vineyard where we enjoyed a bit of wine tasting! Because of the environment of South Africa, the country is able to produce some incredible wines which are popular all around the world! Stellenbosch is similar to Napa Valley in that it is set up that you can travel vineyard to vineyard to vineyard and the landscape is simply breathtaking! We really enjoyed our afternoon in Stellenbosch! After wine tasting we headed to visit cheetahs at the Cheetah Outlook, an organization working to promote education about the endangerment of cheetahs. To raise funds for their cause, they allow visitors to pet cheetahs as they learn about the struggles and obstacles that the animals face here in Africa. My mom, being the cheetah lover that she is, was in heaven!! Afterwards we spent the early evening driving along the coast on Beach Road towards Betty’s Bay–one side was land and mountain, the other was ocean. This is one of my favorite things to do here in the Cape Town area as the road follows the coast of False Bay and the scenery is indescribably beautiful. We caught the sunset over False Bay before reaching Betty’s Bay which is home to a colony of African Penguins at Stony Point. We timed it perfectly as we were able to see the penguins (there were hundreds of them!) right before it started down pouring! It is currently winter here in Cape Town but winter is certainly a relative term. The temperature is in the 60s and 70s so definitely mild and I’ve been in shorts for most of the week… most people here think it is crazy to be wearing shorts but to be honest, it is quite nice weather compared to our winters at home! It is typically quite rainy and cloudy here in the winter however which ended up canceling our swimming with sharks trip but luckily that is all that it has affected thus far… fingers crossed!! On our third day here in Cape Town we headed down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, an area modeled after the waterfront in San Francisco. This was our meeting point for our ferry to Robben Island where many anti-apartheid activists were detained during the Apartheid era. All of the tour guides at Robben Island were inmates at one time or another thus making for a very powerful, firsthand account of the place. Robben Island, now 12 km off-shore, was actually a part of the mainland back in the day. Beginning in 1498, the island was home to the mentally ill and those with leprosy until the prison was established on the island in 1962. The prison was built by the prisoners themselves and was finished in 1966. Prisoners were kept on the island from 1962-1991 and the island was home to up to 1,500 prisoners at a time, however these prisoners were never white men or women. 95% of the prisoners were black, native men while the remaining were Indian. The prison authority was all white men and prisoners were kept on the island for a minimum of five years and a maximum of life (however the longest one actually stayed on the island was 26 years). Every prisoner arrived by boat and no one ever escaped from the island. Upon arrival, there was no orientation but rather other inmates gave the newbies a rundown or they would learn quickly from breaking them. Our tour guide was actually a prisoner on the island for just over six years from 1984-1991. He was punished for being a black’s rights activist and was sentenced for 25 years that would have ended in November 2009… wow. He was prisoner number 38-84, meaning that he was the 38th prisoner to arrive in 1984. He moved to the island (of which 100 people live) and began working, giving tours in 2003. I couldn’t even imagine how emotional that must have been for him and I’m sure is still today. We visited three different parts of the prison, all of which has been conserved since the prison was shut down in 1991. Fortunately with the new ANC government, the prisoners were all released from 1990-1991… most of the prisoners were activists and made the ultimate sacrifice of freedom in the struggle for democracy. The prisoners were housed in either private or communal cells. The private cell was six feet by four feet and most of the time, the inhabitants slept on the floor. We saw Nelson Mandela’s cell… Mandela stayed on the island for eight years before being released. He was imprisoned for twenty-seven years in three different jails. The communal cells housed 60 men, all of which slept in bunk beds crammed into a room. There was a doctor who visited the onsite hospital once per week. If prisoners were good, they were chosen as cooks for the kitchen but otherwise prisoners had hard, manual work that they were required to do. They had breakfast then worked eight straight hours, most of which was work outside in the heat in the lime quarry. Initially, the lime was used to build roads around the island but this only took six months to complete. They continued to use carving as physical work for the prisoners for no real reason but did so for 13 ½ years. After their long day of work, prisoners had dinner at 3:30 before being locked into their cells for the rest of the night at 4. They had dogs on the island and I was shocked to learn that the dog kennels were actually larger than that of the private cells… wow. Despite having been on the tour myself before, the tour was still incredibly interesting and serves as a good reminder of what this country has truly been through. I think my mom got a much better understanding of the history as well. And of course hearing all of the stories from someone who was a prisoner himself made it that much more impactful. Once we returned back to the waterfront, we walked around the shops and restaurants for a bit before making our way to Cape Town’s best bakery, Charley’s Bakery… yum! We have had a wonderful few days here in Cape Town and we have just a few days to go before returning back to America. Although the time has gone far too fast, we are enjoying every second of it and are taking in all Cape Town has to offer! See all of you very soon!

Rhodes Memorial

The Lion of Cape Town

Camp’s Bay



False Bay

Penguins at Betty’s Bay



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