Robben Island – Blood, Tears and Grape Juice


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The stench of guano hits you like a fist as you step off the boat. The quayside is covered with the stuff and the cormorants squat along the piers like endless lines of Grim Reapers. From there, it is only a short walk to the maximum security prison.
The little garden Nelson Mandela tended sits in the far corner of Section B courtyard, the lush green of the withered old vine on its arbor, an oasis of tranquility against the stark, bleached concrete. For the first time this year, there was enough fruit to make a small amount of wine – a Methodé Clap Classique Brut named Manuscript (Nelson Mandela buried the original handwritten manuscript of the Long Walk To Freedom in the tiny garden) and a few half bottles of Parable , a fortified dessert wine. The wines, made by Weltevrede, are to be auctioned for charity and no doubt, will soon become prized collectors items.
You don’t get to the prison first. Robben Island has been a leper colony and a place of confinement for those who opposed the will of their political masters since the seventeenth century. A fleet of buses take you on a guided tour of the island before you are deposited at the entrance to the prison complex. The guide paints a vivid picture of man’s cruelty to man. Table Mountain looms as a dark shadow, an impossible seven miles away across Table Bay and Chukar Partridges, the national bird of Pakistan introduced to the island in 1964, scratch around in the fierce heat. On your way back, make sure you don’t linger watching the Jackass Penguins. The boat back to Cape Town will not wait for you!
Section B courtyard with the garden

Section B courtyard with the garden

Nelson Mandela's cell in which he spent 18 years

Nelson Mandela’s cell in which he spent 18 years

Maximum Security prison block

Maximum Security prison block

Robben Island from top of Table Mountain

Robben Island from top of Table Mountain

Table Mountain and Cape Town from Robben Island

Table Mountain and Cape Town from Robben Island

Entrance to Robben Island complex

Entrance to Robben Island complex

Chalk pits where the prisoners toiled, damaging their sight from intense glare

Chalk pits where the prisoners toiled, damaging their sight from intense glare

Leper church

Leper church

Leper graveyard

Leper graveyard

Robben Island lighthouse

Robben Island lighthouse

Old church

Old church

The boat that took Nelson Mandela to freedom from Robben Island

The boat that took Nelson Mandela to freedom from Robben Island

Ferry to Cape Town

Ferry to Cape TownRelated articles

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