Woke up at 6am (first time we set an alarm!) in preparation for the 7:30am boat to Robben Island. Had packed the night before (and wrote some postcards) so we were pretty streamlined. We managed to get to breakfast, but were drastically slowed down by the very laid back check out and getting to the car.
There was a giant bike race (the Cape Argus Cycle Tour www.cycletour.co.za/home.aspx) so the streets around the hotel were closed. We raced to the V&A Waterfront (actually ran from the car to the ferry terminal!) and got there exactly at 7:30am... just in time to discover that the boat was late!
There was lots of confusion around when the ferries to Robben Island would leave and we ended up being on the second boat of the day, which left around 8:15am.
The trip out to Robben Island was much longer than we had anticipated, but it was awesome. We saw dolphins! They jumped out of the water doing flips and it almost seemed like they were putting on a show. We also saw penguins swimming through the water in pods... very cool!
Once on Robben Island we went around in a school-type bus. She told us about some of the paces on the Island. The most moving was the quarry. There's a cave in the quarry, which was where political prisoners would gather for strategy meetings and to educate each other.
When we finished the Island tour, we went to the prison. Our guide was a former political prisoner named Sparks - he spent seven years as an inmate from 1983-1990. The prison conditions were unreal... appalling horrible stuff.
We saw the cell Sparks spent much of his seven years in... no glass in the windows so the winter rain blew right in, three toilets and two sinks for up to 80 men, no beds and each prisoner got only three very thin blankets (no mattresses or pillows) to lie on the hard concrete floor... just awful.
And we saw Nelson Mandela's cell - although I do wonder if the focus on Mandela trivializes the experience of the thousands of other political prisoners. But I suppose it is better to have some face on the human horrors of apartheid and a poster child is better than no awareness at all. And really, the whole terrible event is so huge and unreal and hard to conceive that there needs to be a human face to it... and Mandela's a good face.
Once we got back from Robben Island we had lunch at Hatties (a Dutch restaurant) at the Waterfront... panekoeks all around! and then headed inland to Paarl in the winelands.
We checked into our lovely B&B and then drove around looking for dinner. We went to a place called Bossa Nova. I had a fantastic blue cheese burger with french fried onions and John had pizza with asparagus and chicken. We also had a bottle of white wine - from a winery in Paarl - served with a Mason jar of ice on the side. What a fantastic idea!
I fell in love with Paarl. Gorgeous country... kind of like Sonoma Valley in California without the attitude. And people don't wear shoes... as a lifestyle choice!