Today is rainy. Cold and wet! I have to say though; I always think that inclement weather is appropriate for destinations like this. Today I ventured over to Robben Island, an Ex-Political Prison used to house the likes of Nelson Mandela, Kgamena Motlanthe, and Jacob Zuma (South Africa’s Current President). It took only about 25 minutes on the ferry, but I think I felt every wave as we went. I am not good on boats.
Whenever I visit a place like this I try to really focus on what happened there. It is not enough to see it, I believe you should internalize the situations that unfolded and have compassion for the people who actually had to endure, in this case imprisonment, so for me, the rain seemed okay. I am sure the prisoners had worse days, and they certainly didn’t have the luxury of knowing they would be inside where it was warm, dry and comfortable in a matter of hours.
The Island is set up to host tours led by previous prisoners. Experiencing this place through the eyes of someone who actually stayed there was incredible. It is obviously not a joyous day; you listen to stories depicting hardships, years of wanting, forced labor, and the squashing of opinions and communication.
I was shocked at the behavior of some of my co-tourists. People were complaining about the weather, about our guide’s accent, about the rain… One gentleman even got up and left part way through one of the presentations. This is a gentle reminder that you do not visit a prison for entertainment; this is a place you come to learn, have moments of self-reflection, and grow, so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Respect the people who lived through it, take something away from it, and share your experiences.
Your Friendly Travel Expert,