Clinging on to the African Continent’s bottom in Capetown waiting for our bikes to be released from Customs so we have the means to ride Up Africa. The shroud of cloud over Table Mountain is as per the “tablecloth” of the tourist brochures and the temperature at the top is as cool and sharp as a winter’s morn in Methven. Jet lag kicks in suddenly and we scramble off the top of the mountain in a daze before collapsing in bed. It’s only 6pm but we are knackered.
Next day to Robben Island, Nelson Mandela’s home for 18 of his 27 years of incarceration, reminiscent of Papillion the movie more than Alcatraz that other famous island prison – probably because its prisoners were political rather than felons. District 6, home to 65,000 people in the heart of Capetown today is just paddocks as a result of the apartheid regime’s removal programme – reminds us a bit of District 9, New Orleans similarly barren as a result of Katrina’s equally brutal removal.
Then guests in a shanty township, evidence that the pressure from 90% of South Africa’s population that would like a share of the spoils, remains this country’s largest challenge. Amongst the rats and the raw sewerage the families live in hope, albeit that they spoil the view of the electrically encased mansions across the valley that would rather see native flora than fauna.
While this European toehold of Africa’s continent feels as fragile as ever, it serves as a magnet to Africa’s unwanted who continue to flock south. What a cross to bear.