The Cape of Good Hope: Day 6 (Thursday)


Monday 24 October 2011: 5 years 1 month on … Advantage CBD 

The holiday agenda for the week was penciled in as follows:

Thursday                                        Trip to Robben Island

Thursday evening                          Drinks at Forester’s Arms in Newlands (Old Greys)

Friday                                             Head off to Montagu (wine tasting)

Saturday                                         Mountain trip (Langeberg) and Potjiekos Lunch (Protea Farm)

Sunday morning                              Return to Port Elizabeth

 (Plus a list of people to see and things to do – if time allowed!)

I am busy inking in the gaps… in the meantime, look at some of the pics on the earlier blog!

Day 6 – Thursday 5 October 2011

In June 2010, when we last visited Cape Town together as a family, we booked to visit that icon of the South African apartheid era, Robben Island and its infamous prison where Nelson Mandela and many others were imprisoned – our South African version of San Francisco’s Alcatraz! (Robben, by the way, comes from the Dutch word robben meaning seal, of which there are many on the Island.)

I have visited Alacatraz (in January 1988) when Grant Lloyd and I toured the USA, and I have visited Robben Island before. In my student years at Stellenbosch, the prison authorities organised dinner dances in the prison hall, and it was a novel evening’s entertainment. We would drive from Stellies to Cape Town harbour, cross the open Table Bay waters by ferry to the Robben Island harbour, disembark there, and then be transported by bus to the Prison Hall.

Music was provided by the prisoners’ band and the prisoners also acted as waiters, serving the best of seafood that the cold waters around the island could provide. (I sometimes have wondered if we were ever served by Madiba himself, seeing of course that no-one knew what he looked like at that time. It was against the law of the land to publish pictures of that terrorist!)

Drinks could only be bought in large measure – a six-pack of beer, a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of brandy, a litre of Coke or whatever … need less to say, the trip back to Cape Town harbour on the last ferry at 02h00 was not a pleasant experience. Much alcohol and heavy seas do not make for good bed-fellows! 

One evening, on the way back to res from The Island, I had an accident with Mom’s blue Renault 16TS at the entrance of the Cloetesville Road into Stellenbosch. That was the end of her Renault and the beginning of her brand new orange Toyata Corolla 1300! 

That all is history now.

The Island is presently one of the country’s premier tourist attractions. However, the family and I have never visited the Island in its current museum form. Hence, our early booking last year at the time of the SA FIFA World Cup.

But it was not to be. The weather turned foul, the rain poured down and the westerly wind howled, all trips were cancelled and we were left disappointed.

So, this year we booked again for the Thursday. And the long-term weather forecast for the week assured us that Thursday would be a peach of a day – in fact, the best day of the week: no wind and warm temperatures. Nothing would stop us this time and the excitement was palpable.

Sean, who had gone to the Coldplay concert in Green Point on Wednesday evening and had stayed over in Cape Town, was given strict instructions of ensuring that he would meet up with us before our scheduled trip at 13h00. Either he would stay in Cape Town where we would collect him, or he would get a lift to The Strand early enough to join up with us.

Well, at 09h00, we received an sms from the Robben Island Tourist Authority advising us that, due to technical difficulties, all boat trips to The island had been cancelled! Disappointment once again! One could hardly believe that a premier tourist attraction in Cape Town, and in the middle of the school holidays, could be cancelled at sush short notice (and that there were no contingency plans to hire another boat or whatever!)

(We have subsequently heard that, like so many other things in this country, the running of this business has also deteriorated rapidly and is subject to bribery, corruption and maladministration!)

Anyway, we had to replan the day, and decided to go to Hout Bay instead. But, we had to wait for Sean, and his return got later and later. The expectation of 10h00 became midday (thanks to no fault of his own) and my next explosion resulted. So, when we eventually left for Hout Bay, the tension in the car could be felt, and it took quite a while to recover.

But the beauty of lunch at Marriner’s Wharf, the walk on the harbour wall, the drinks at the restaurant and the trip on the boat out to Seal island thawed out my anger. What started out as a day of great expectation, was almost ruined by me, but luckily, we managed to salvage it.  

The Peninsula remains the Cape of Good Hope (even for me)!

My next appointment was “Forries” in Newlands. So we returned to Cape Town around 17h00 via Llandudno, Bakoven, Clifton, Bantry Bay, Camps Bay, Sea Point and green Point. But not as quickly as you have just taken to read through the list of names. In fact, it took us an hour to travel that short distance from Hout Bay to Newlands.

It was rush-hour traffic in the Mother City and being a beautiful day, the beaches and Beach Rd cafés were crowded (despite being a Thursday afternoon!) All Cape Town’s beautiful people were out in full force – tanning, sipping, solving the world’s problems and gossiping (no doubt); but no swimming – the Atlantic Ocean and the Benquela current make the water too cold for that!

It would have been quicker to go to Newlands over Kloof Nek ( the pass between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. But the reason we took the coastal road was to find Phill a new pair of slops (beach shoes). His had broken after having been worn out by Charlie, our new Jack Russell.

So, somewhere, in High Level Road, Sea Point, waiting for the traffic to move, Phill rushed in to the shoe shop and bought new ones, and I rushed into the ATM and drew money … and the traffic just moved on slowly! (We are so spoiled in Port Elizabeth when it comes to traffic or, should I say, lack thereof!)

Foresters’ Arms is a pub and restaurant in Newlands. We frequented it as students and it serves as a meeting place for many groups of people. No visit to Cape Town is complete without a visit to Forries!  

Adrian van Westenbrugge, an Old Grey and ex-pupil of mine had organised for a few friends to meet there. It was great catching up over a cold Guiness with him and his girlfriend, Johnny Hill, Belinda Walton and her partner Neil, and Pera’s brother, Bruce, also joined us.

All this time, as kids do today, Sean (who thanks to modern technology in the form of Face Book and BBM) had been in contact with his mates. So, just when it was home-time, Sean asked if we could stay a little longer as friends of his from UCT were about to arrive, too.

So we ordered pizza’s for supper (really good ones!) and visited a while longer with, amongst others, Hugh van Niekerk (from Grey and Middleton fame) and Trilby Brown – Wayne and  Janet’s daughter.

Then, it was home-time! We headed back to The Strand for the last time on this trip, and to packing up, before we dropped into bed. Friday morning early would see us starting the trip home via the Breede River valley.

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