Archive for the ‘Cape Town’ Category

12 Mar 2005: Robben Island, Cape Town

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” ~ Nelson Mandela.
These were the great words from Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa. Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and was subsequently convicted by the South African courts. He served 27 years in prison from 1963 – 1990 and was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years. Today, I am visiting Robben Island to gain insights of this great Nobel Peace Prize recipient and his struggles on the long road to freedom. 
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The prison conditions on Robben Island were very basic.  Prisoners were separated by their ethnicity and each group (A, B, C or D) received different meal plans and different items of clothing. The political prisoners were kept away from ordinary criminals and received the least privileges. As a D-group prisoner (the lowest classification), Nelson Mandela was only allowed to see one visitor and receive one letter every six months.
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And this was Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, measured only at two-square-metre – it is unimaginable that any soul could endure a 18-years locked up in such small and confined area!

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Robben Island was previously used as a place of banishment for sending exiles and slaves to dig out the white lime stones. The only time Nelson Mandela and his comrades were allowed out of the prison was to go work at the lime quarry. Initially, they were only supposed to dig rock for 8 months, but the hard labour was extended to nearly 13 years.

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Nelson Mandela’s view of the world was a desolate courtyard without any vegetation and boxed-up by tall, cold concrete walls, laced with barred wires. In 1978, he finally convinced the prison officials to allow him to start a garden in the courtyard. The garden was a release of the depressing routine of prison life. But more importantly, it provided Mandela with a place to hide the manuscript of his autobiography (” The Long Road to Freedom”) which he scratched out on whatever paper scraps he could find.

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Robben Island signifies the African’s strength and will to resist oppression. Ironically, the island has a scenic view of the beautiful Table Mountain. Perhaps, it was this view which kept Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates living in hope and never gave up in their fight for freedom.

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22 – 24 Jan 2005 : Cape Town

Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront

It is easy to comprehend why Cape Town remains as the most popular tourist spot in South Africa. Afterall, it has the combined winning recipe of warm weather, good security and offer great sightseeing options and food.

We arrived in Cape Town on Friday late evening and stayed at a business hotel called City Lodge. This is an affordable and centrally located hotel at the gateway to the vibrant and dynamic Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront. Set against a backdrop of magnificant sea and mountain views, Cape Town really reminded us of San Francisco. Both cities are located on peninsulas with habours and majestic coastlines. San Francisco has an infamous Alcatraz Island while Cape Town boasted its Robben Island.  They have common fair-temperatured climate and a  rich blend of diverse cultures.

V&A Waterfont is a cozy place which can be explored on foot in little more than an hour – exciting shopping and entertainment venues, inter-mingled with sprinkle of live, work, shop and play.

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We were very fortunate to enjoy Abie Thomas’ live performance here. Abie and his band have been entertaining the people in Cape Town for over 20 years. This self-taught trumpeter started street busking for tourists at the waterfront more than 10 years ago and his band has become a main entertainment attraction here.

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The Wine Route

Although JL and I are not wine fanatic, the thought of joining the Stellenbosch wine route sounds like a refreshing thing to do.  Located about 50km north-east of Cape Town, Anura Vineyards is situated between Paarl and Stellenbosch in the foothills of the Simonsberg mountains. The name is derived from the Latin classification of frog to commemorate an area on the farm fondly known as Padda Bult or Frog Hill. Natually, Anura anmed its ultra-premium labels “Frog Hill” and“Padda Bult”.

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This vineyard is family-ran and its grapes are harvested by hand at optimum ripeness. They are hand-sorted to ensure that only the best bunches are brought to the crushing phase with careful attention paid to the crushing process, the type of yeast used, the fermentation method and temperature, as well as the wood used for fermentation and ageing. To compliment the wine, we were served with in-house quality soft-cheeses.

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Stellenbosch Town

Stellenbosch is a quiet town situated about 50 km east of Cape Town. It is also known as the City of Oaks as its founder governor planted a large number of oak trees to beautify the streets.




 After the wine tour, we visited a cheetah sanctuary where you can get close and up personal with this fastest animal in the world. We learnt how to differentiate a cheetah from a leopard. Leopards have rosette-shaped spots, while cheetah have solid round or oval spots. Leopard hunt at night but the latter hunts during the day.


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 Cape Peninsula – Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserves & Cape Point

After an hour drive from Cape Town, we entered into the world of Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserves. As the van whirled along the spectacular winding paths, you feel that you are standing on razor’s edge of the earth. The cool, howling winds embraced our warm soul as we stood at the towering heights, admiring the mysterious deep blue sea, covered with fury white waves crashing against the precipitous cliffs . We had reached the most south-western point of Africa and the scenery is simply breath-taking!

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This is a piece of tranquil land with unsurpassed serenity. From a distance, we spotted a few ostriches pecking their food.


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Finally, we reached the end of the Cape Peninsula, the Cape Point.  To experience the full scenic view, we had to climb up the sea cliff that rises 238m above the sea, to the old lighthouse. Here, you can see the interection where the mighty Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. It is said that if you swim across, you can experience the warm current on the East coast and the cold water from the West Coast. This was also the end of the Cape Peninsula trip.

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 Kirstenbosh National Botanical Garden

 Besides the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is probably the next botanical garden that I enjoyed visiting. This world-heritage site displayed the beauty and diversity of the South Afican flora and plants. It is complimented by the magnificence backdrop of the Table Mountain.


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The garden featured a Medicinal Garden, which introduced the medicinal uses of South African plants. I took picture of this medicine plant called mother-in-law’s tongue, which I wondered how it got that name?

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Another special botany was the cycad, the living fossil which the “dinosaur saw” about 150 million years ago. Their leaves are tough and spiky to prevent the dinosaurs from eating them.

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The visit would be incomplete without seeing the Protea Garden, the South African national flower. The flower is named after the Greek God, Proteus, who (according to the legend) could change his appearance.

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It was a relaxing trip with lots of sunshine. We felt greener after an-hour soak in nature.


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Table Mountain National Park

The Table Mountain National Park  is the scenic coastline situated at the south-western tip of South Africa, stretching from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south. The park is widely recognised for its rich and diverse array of flora and fauna. As we approached the Table Mountain, we were greeted by the “Lion Head”, an elongated hillside sticking out from landscape, resembling a reclining lion.

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 As the cable car brought us up to Table Mountain, the national park appeared to be a child’s Lego playland. On the summit, you have a  spectacular panoramic views of the peninsula.

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The local told me this interesting fact: the Table Mountain is an accurate “weather forecast” for Cape Town. If the Table Mountain is covered with a “white table cloth” (i.e., white clouds), it is almost certain that it will be a cloudy or rainy weather tomorrow. Hmm… guess the weather outlook from this picture. 

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Boulders Penguin Colony & Simon Town

I was very surprised to learn that there was a growing colony of the African Penguins right here in the Cape Peninsular. The Boulders Penguin Colony is home to these vulnerable penguins. There were wooden walkway in the vicinity to allow us to see them in their natural habitat.

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On the way back to Cape Town, we passed by a village and naval base called Simon’s Town, located along the shore of False Bay. This was the last stop of our guided tour for Cape Peninsular.

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