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  • Day171

    Robben Island

    March 4, 2020 in South Africa ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    After a few days spent surfing in Muizenberg, we head Robben Island for our final South African excursion. This was the notorious prison island used to hold political prisoners during the Apartheid era. We had learned about the struggle in Joburg, and it is hard to forget about the terrible past that still shapes present-day South African society.

    The tour is a little strange though. The tour guide seems more interested in describing modern day life on the island (the museum staff must live here) than the history. This isn't helped by the fact that a large French tour group opted to come on the English-speaking tour rather than fork out more for a private French-speaking one. This means that everything, no matter how boring or inane, has to be repeated in French, and it takes ages. There's a sense of growing discontent in the tour bus, which comes to a head when we head inside the prison. We meet our second guide, who was actually a prisoner here during apartheid. At the gates of the prison, the French tour leader asks if she can translate everything for her group. One of the English-speaking tourists pipes up- "If you have to translate everything, we won't have time to get around!". There's a murmur of agreement in discontent. The tour leader responds by invoking the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who wished for peace between nations. It seems a little ham-fisted to conflate Mandela's struggle with a tour leader's mission to save money on the trip, but hey-ho.

    Sure enough, though, we have to rush through the prison, and get about half as much information as we would otherwise. When we pass one prison cell, the guide points out that this was where Mandela was imprisoned. Cue a rush to the door of the cell, everyone armed with cameras. There's a big scrum, and despite being next to the door when the guide made the announcement, we find ourselves at the back of the crowd, unable to get a picture of what- to be honest- is just the same as any other cell in the prison.

    On the ferry back to Cape Town, Chris spots what he thinks is a shark, but he can't be sure. We'll count it.
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