In the summer of 2003 we visited South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. One very ipmressive tour was the excursion to Robben Island in South Africa. It was here, that Nelson Mandela toiled virtually every day for 13 years, digging up rock, some of which paved the road we were driving on with our bus. The sun was so relentless, the quarry so bright and dusty, that Mandela was stricken with “snow blindnes” that damaged his eyes. Robben Island (Afrikaans Robbeneiland) is an island in Table Bay, 12 km off the coast from Cape Town, South Africa and is located at 33.806734° S 18.366222° E. The name is Dutch for “seal island” (or to be strictly accurate “island of seals”, because Robben is a plural noun), although “Seal Island” is a different island near Cape Town (in False Bay).

Entrance Prison Robben Island - Cape Town - South Africa

Entrance Prison Robben Island – Cape Town – South Africa

Robben Island is roughly circular and about a kilometer wide. It is flat and only a few metres above sealevel, as a result of an ancient erosion event. The island is composed of Precambrian metamorphic rocks belonging to the Malmesbury Group. Robben Island was first inhabited thousands of years ago by stone age people, at a time when sealevels were considerably lower than they are today and people could walk to it. It was then a flat-topped hill. Towards the end of the last Ice Age the melting of the ancient ice caps caused sealevels to rise once again (they have gone up and down many times over the ages) and the land around the island was flooded by the ocean. Since the end of the 17th century, Robben Island has been used to isolate certain people — mainly prisoners — and amongst its first permanent inhabitants were political leaders from various Dutch colonies, including Indonesia. The most powerful part of the tour is a visit to Mandela’s cell, a 7-by-9-foot room where a bulb burned day and night over his head for the 18 years he was jailed here, beginning in 1964. As Mandela recalled in Long Walk to Freedom, “I could walk the length of my cell in three paces. When I lay down, I could feel the wall with my feet and my head grazed the concrete at the other side.”

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Dassie on Table Mountain
Dassie on Table Mountain

On one of oure trips we where on the Table Mountain in Cape Town in South Africa. There we met a very nice little animal called “Dassie”. It was a sad thing to see that this animal was very socialized and during the years got used to human. Have a look at the video below, we made from dassie in august 2003 on Table Mountain. Dassie or rock dassie (Procavia capensis), have the size and the figure of a rabbit. The Dassie Rat, Petromus typicus, is an African rodent found among rocky outcroppings. It is the only living member of its genus, Petromus, and family, Petromuridae. The name “dassie” means “badger” in both German and Afrikaans, but the term may be a reference to hyraxes, which are found in similar habitats. Petromus means “rock mouse” and dassie rats are one of many rodents that are sometimes called rock rats. The family and genus names are sometimes misspelled as Petromyidae and Petromys. Dassie rats are squirrel-like in appearance. Their tails are hairy, but not bushy whereas the soles of their feet are distinctly bare and have pads. Their heads are noticeably flattened. The overall coloration can be a range oy browns, greys, or almost black. The nose is yellowish and tends to stand out. They have no underfur. The teats are located on the sides of the torso, which allows the young to feed from the side when crammed in a narrow rock crevice.

Above Cape town lies Table Mountain, named “Hoeri Kwaggo”, by the KhoiKhoi, is one of the oldest mountains on earth, and watches over Cape Town, one of the most spectacular cities of the world. At the front lies the Victoria and the Alfred Waterfront. Table Mountain (Afrikaans Tafelberg) is a flat-topped mountain in the Western Cape, South Africa. The main face is approximately three kilometres from side to side. The shape of the rear of the mountain is much more complex than one might imagine when looking at it from the front. The view shown in the photograph to the right is from the city of Cape Town, looking roughly south-south-west. The main face of Table Mountain is flanked on the left (east) by the triangular Devil’s Peak (1,000 m) and on the right (north) by the rounded Lion’s Head (669 m) and Signal Hill. (None of these can be see in the photo). Table Mountain is the northern end of a range of mountains that stretches south down the entire length of the Cape Peninsula and ends in a sheer drop into the ocean at Cape Point. The mountain top is often covered by cloud, which forms the famous “table cloth.” The mountain’s highest point at Maclear’s Beacon is 1,086 m (3,563 ft) above sea level. This point is named for a stone cairn (beacon) built there in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrical survey. Maclear’s Beacon is not a peak, being merely the highest point of the plateau at the summit and is only 19 metres above the cable car station at 1067 m. Most of the major features of the mountain are named. For example, the cliff immediately below the cable car station at the right is called Arrow Buttress and the area at the extreme left of the main cliff is called “Ledges”. About a third of the way along from Arrow Buttress is a deep and partially hidden ravine called Platteklip (lit. “Flat stone”) Gorge. This provides an easy ascent to the summit plateau and was the route taken by Antonio de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain (see History). A famous and dangerous feature is Carrell’s ledge, which winds it narrow way across the face of a vast and sheer drop on a large cliff to the south of Devil’s Peak. At one point the ledge is less than 200 mm wide but the drop below is hundreds of metres.