a view into the sordid life i lead

Monday, February 28, 2005

Robben Island - part 1

Probably the most famous landmarks of apatheid era South Africa are Robben Island and Soweto, for mostly the same reason: Nelson Mandela. Actually, that's not completely true, since Soweto's notoriety is probably more due to Steve Biko than Mandela. Robben Island lies off the coast of Capetown - a remarkable similarity to San Francisco and Alcatraz. The difference between Alcatraz and Robben Island is, of course, the fact that the latter was a central spot for political prisoners in addition to hardened criminals.

I could probably debate the merits and demerits of making a place that was a prison into a tourist destination, but for now we just go with the flow.

The ticket counter for the Robben Island ferry is located in a very touristy building on the Capetown waterfront. The cluster of buildings in this area are obviously geared towards the upper crusties, and the tourists since the place is basically a mall - shops for all kinds of tchochkies. Right next to the ticket window is a lady selling prints of art that Mandela made while imprisoned on the island. I'm not sure why it is I'm surprised when I see this kind of marketing going on, but I've got to grow a thicker skin i think!

Walking the gangplank, sorry pier, to the ferry there's a little setup where a guy's taking photographs of people as they board the boat. It's not something I paid attention to until after the trip, so I'll just leave it at that for now :-) The ride from Capetown to Robben Island is 30 minutes, and, as with any good tourist ride, it's got a video, a sales pitch, and snacks. I had decided to record the trip on my mp3 recorder, but I somehow managed to fuck that up and had the recorder set to line-in instead of mic-in. So I managed to record about 3 hours of nothing. We could wax philosophical on that, but basically it pisses me off i was that stupid!

The ride to Robben Island is a great way to see capetown - there's no other way to see the city with the panorama of table mountain as its backdrop. Puts pretty much any other mountain-nestled town to shame i think :-)


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