PICS: Trip to Cape Town – Feb 2012

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.







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.