Monday, 22 June 2009

Cape Town... A Step In Madiba’s Shoes

It was the 10th anniversary of the yearly Cape Town International Jazz Festival that drew the collective of newshounds to Madiba’s country. But they eventually got more than a taste opf rhythm and beats as the South African Tourism lured theminto a scheme to explore the richness of cape Town. Thus the journalists from different parts of the world including US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana and others tore through the heart of Mandela Rhodes Place tripping on its sight and sound.
At a special dinner for the media at Panama Jacks, in Table Bay Harbour, the tour guide from Geometric Tours unveiled the plans by the South African Tourism to take the crew on a special tour of Cape Town’s attractions; we all jumped at it.
With its majestic Table Mountain backdrop, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A harmonious blend of architectural styles reflects the tastes of the past as well as today’s more functional requirements. Between the high-rise office blocks, Edwardian and Victorian buildings have been meticulously preserved, and many outstanding examples of Cape Dutch architecture are found. Narrow, cobble stone streets and the strongly Islamic ambience of the Bo-Kaap enhance the cosmopolitan visage of the city.
Cape Town’s attractions are plentiful and varied. While the Western Cape made up of 10 district regions, three popular tourist routes and offers many ‘must-see’ attractions, remains one of South Africa’s premier tourism destinations for good reasons, The Cape Province is renowned for the world-famous Table Mountain, its vast Cape Winelands and the most exquisite coastline.

Our first port of call was the Cape Peninsula, with visits to Table Mountain, with a boat cruise from the picturesque village of Hout Bay to Duker Island to spot the Cape Fur seals and coastal birds. It was really fun, driving along the dramatic Chapmans Peak onto the historical Cape Point Nature Reserve, via the lighthouse of Kommetjie, before landing at the Boulder’s beach, where the rare African penguins could be viewed on a white sandy beach.
After a seafood lunch at Fish Hoek, the tour bus rolled back to town via the False Bay coastline, through scenic villages such as the historical Naval Base of Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay fishing village and Muizenberg with its stretched golden beaches; this truly surfers paradise. The day ended with an evening of leisure on the popular Long Street, known for its many bars and entertainment venues.
As at 7am the following day, the tour guide
was already at the Mandela Rhodes, with the tour bus steaming outside, ready to cruise to the Cape Town Winelands.
The fertile green valleys of the Cape Winelands are surrounded by proud mountain ranges. It is the Mediterranean climate and winter rainfall of the south-western Cape that produces some of the best wines in the country. We encountered the country’s interesting wine farms, with a walk about in the village of Franshhoek, the gournment capital of Western Cape. There was also a brief stop at the historical Village of Stellenbosch, second oldest town in South Africa.

Thehighpoint of the tour was a visit to the famous Robben Island, through the Gateway Terminal in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The Waterfront evokes images of the early activities of the harbour. Much of its charm lies in the fact that this busy commercial harbour is set in the midst of a huge entertainment venue with pubs, restaurants, specialty shops, craft markets, theatres and movies.
However, the ferry cruise to the Island lasted for about 30 minutes, before the ferry made a final stop at the harbour.
For nearly 400 years, Robben Island, 12 kilometres from Cape Town, was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here at Robben Island that rulers sent those regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of the society.
The duty of those who ran Robben Island and its prison was to isolate opponents of apartheid and to crush their morale. Some freedom fighters spent more than a quarter of a century in prison for their beliefs. Those imprisoned on the Island succeeded on a psychological and political level in turning a prison ‘hell-hole’ into a symbol of freedom and personal liberation.
People lived on Robben Island many thousands of years ago, when the sea channel between the Island and the Cape mainland was not covered with water. Since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-1600s, Robben Island has been used primarily as a prison.
Indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British settler soldiers and civilians, women, and anti-apartheid activists.
Perhaps its famous prisoner yet is Nelson Rolihaha Mandela, who was kept there for nearly two decades of the 27 years he spent in incaceration for leading fierce opposition to the then apartheid regime. Others included the founding leader of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, were all imprisoned on Robben Island

Today, Robben Island tells a story victory over Apartheid and other human rights abuses. Overcoming opposition from the prison authorities, prisoners on Robben Island after the 1960s were able to organise sporting events, political debates and educational programmes, and to assert their right to be treated as human beings, with dignity and equality. They were able to help the country establish the foundations of its modern democracy. The image of Robben Island today is as a place of oppression, as well as a place of triumph. The Island remains a must visit for any tourist to Madiba’s territory.

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