The Walk to Freedom


©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 13 February 2012: 5 years 5 months on … Advantage CBD

Last Saturday morning, Sean and I left Stellenbosch, crossing Sir Lowry’s Pass in the rain. Behind us, False Bay and the Hottentots-Holland basin lay basking in the sun.

The weather mirrored my mood.

It had been another trip of sunshine and rain.

It took a while to convince myself that I was able to do another long trip by car. Travelling is just becoming that much more difficult for me. It’s far easier and less frustrating just to stay at home. But I have to guard against becoming a couch potato, and I really have been nowhere since the last trip to Nieu-Bethesda in December.

A last-minute decision on the previous Thursday saw us deciding to make a trip to the Western Cape and the Cape of Good Hope. Sean had not yet started his second year at university and I am retired – so we had the time! Sean was keen to see his mates in Stellenbosch. Did I have the will?

I was keen to attend the Il Divo concert in Cape Town – I have enjoyed their music for a few years now. Once I had ascertained that there were still tickets available, I booked and the decision was made. Cape Town – here we were coming!

We left on Monday morning, heading westwards along the N2, stopping at the Storms River Bridge and in George and arriving in Stellenbosch (my birthplace and centre of learning) at 18h00. The temperature peaked at 43 degrees Celsius somewhere near Riversdale – we were grateful for auto air-conditioning and the car seemed the best place to be!

Straight on to the Danie Craven Stadium to watch Maties play in the Varsity Cup against TUT (Tshwane University of Technology) and then on to The Akker and the pizzeria next door for pizza supper with Sean’s friends David and Graham Clarke, David Bryant,  Neil Wessels and others.

Then we went on to Durbanville to the Wüsts where we would be staying for the week.  It was from their home five years ago to the week that I proceeded to theTygerberg Hospital to be informed of the diagnosis of CBD. This was the birthday week that I was supposed not to have seen!

Tuesday saw us heading for the Cape Town docks and Robben Island (Rob = seal in Afrikaans). We had tried so many times before to view the Museum there and each time the trip had been cancelled because of poor weather or a malfunctioning boat! So it was with a bit of apprehension that we headed for the docks.

But this time it happened, and we were joined for the trip by my nephew-in-law Sebastian Ridgway.

(As a student, I had previously visited the Island, when it was still a prison, for a dinner-dance one Saturday evening. We had gone across on the ferry in the dark, danced the night away, drunk copious volumes of alcohol, eaten the best of sea-foods garnered from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean that surround the Island, and returned on the ferry at 3in the morning, with many passengers returning their sea-food to the self-same place from whence it had come!)

This day-time ferry trip crossing the some 14 km took some thirty minutes. Although it was quite hazy, the trip reveals a magnificent view of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. In fact, you see Table Bay as you have never seen it before. Indeed, the “fairest Cape in all the world”!

Once on the Island we were bussed to the Robben Island village (where the prison warders and now the museum staff live – and where we had previously partied) and to  the various prisons (that one for criminals, the one for low-level political prisoners and then that maximum prison that was reserved for “The Leaders”  – Nelson Mandela and the rest!)

If the view from the boat is spectacular, then the backdrop of Table Mountain from the Island is something to see to believe. The history of the Island, as told to us by the guide, from penal dump to leper colony, through prisons, to the museum of today makes for interesting listening. It is almost a summary of the history of our country – something not to be missed if you are visiting Cape Town!

 

Too soon we were walking from Madiba’s cell back down the road to the boat in the Island harbour and back to the Mother City.

The time spent on the Island is not nearly enough to take in all the history and the scenery. I felt quite guilty when I realised that I had partied the night away way back in the seventies in a hall just a few hundred yards away from prisoner 46664, Nelson Mandela, then “terrorist” and now our beloved Madiba and retired first president of the democratic New South Africa.

How the world has changed in less than thirty years. Last Saturday when we drove back to PE, 11 February, was the 22nd anniversary of Nelson’s release from prison, and we still remember those pictures when we saw him for the first time leaving prison in Paarl with Winnie, his then wife, clenched fists in the air and part of his long walk to freedom!

Anyway back to Cape Town. Sean spent the evening with friends, I collected him the next morning, we visited the Waterfront, found a sushi spectacular and then headed off to the Grand West Arena for the Il Divo concert. It was the opening evening of their current world tour. What a privilege to see them in person and to hear such big voices.

Thursday was visiting day in the Hottentots-Holland basin – first my high school in Somerset West* which takes its name from the basin and where I matriculated in 1974 with, as the Honours Board now tells you, one of the two A aggregates of that year; then my sister, Lyn in Strand and then my Aunty Doreen and Uncle Peter at Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay.

Then we head back to Durbanville to have dinner with my neurologist, Franclo Henning and his wife Helen. Five years and one day to the date after my diagnosis – we joke about the prognosis I was given and jokingly discuss the law suit regarding the timeline that I should not have made five years!    

This is my long walk to freedom …  how long will I be imprisoned in this decaying body and who knows when I will experience my day with that clenched fist in the air and cross the divide into the unknown that lies ahead?

Thursday was my day – I think Sean must have found it quite boring – so Friday was his day! We went to Stellenbosch, had lunch in the Neelsie (the Student Union), then left him with his friends for the day and night, and visited some of my student friends at Helshoogte (my ex-residence of six years).

Then, for me, back to Durbanville for a farewell braai with Gretel and Willem.

It was the end of another very busy week … early Saturday morning, we left Stellenbosch headed eastwards to Plettenberg Bay for a quick visit to the Bryants, and then back to Port Elizabeth (to the news that Whitney Houston had died at the age of 48! Her walk to freedom, like Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse before her, was also at an end.)

I was exhausted but excited and elated that I had once again gone home to The Cape of Good Hope.

Dare I hope for another visit?  In the meantime, I’ll just keep on walking …

 * My grateful thanks are extended to Sunette Fourie for inviting me back to the school and for being such an excellent hostess and tour guide. She is the only teacher still at HHH who was there when I was there as a pupil. The only other person from my era still there is Kevin Dockrall who was in class with me and is now a teacher at the school. It was great catching up with him too in the staffroom at break time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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