Friday, December 6, 2013

Thank You, Nelson Mandela, You Will Not Be Forgotten But Revered For All Time

It's not often that real news touches me in a way that makes me write about it in this blog.  This blog is about travel, and Lord knows that Nelson Mandela stands for way more than that.  It's just that the conversion of South Africa from Apartheid to a far more free country happened within my lifetime, with the culmination of events happening at the dawn of the years when I was really paying attention.  My life has been touched by music and television as anyone of my generation.  We saw the birth of cable TV and MTV.  We were the generation that began watching CNN so we were able to see the Berlin Wall come down.  We were the generation that watched the Artists United Against Apartheid on MTV performing the song "Sun City."

I remember seeing Nelson Mandela make his first public appearance after his release from Robben Island Prison.  I remember watching clips of his meetings with President F. W. DeKlerk.  I remember watching him become the President of South Africa.  Those are some amazing memories that you don't get to have many times in one lifetime.

Younger generations are growing up with the view of South Africa of a beautiful place with exotic wild animals that you can see on safari, gorgeous coastlines, towering mountains, Tabletop Mountain, Johannesburg, and so many other attractions.  That's the way it should be.  I'm glad that South Africa has left behind it's violent and racist past to become a premier destination for the exotic traveler.  Sometimes I'm very glad to see the world change.

There are so many things to see in South Africa.  The idea that the place was tainted with the legalized racism that was Apartheid seems all but nonsense in this day and age.  With the passing of Nelson Mandela, I hope that there will be enough talk about all of the pain, suffering and sacrifice that made the place what it is today.

I will take some time now, and use this blog for what it was designed, and talk about some things that you should see if you go to South Africa.  The first place that comes to mind is Robben Island.  This island that lies with a view of Tabletop Mountain right off the coast has been many things over the years.  It's been a hospital for people suffering from things that the masses didn't want to spread.  It was used as a training defense station in World War II.  Once the National Party created Apartheid, which legalized what was already going on in the country, it became a prison, and several oppositionists were housed there for a very long time.  We all know that Nelson Mandela was housed there for 27 years.

Today Robben Island is open to the public.  Never forget.  That's the motto of this place, and well it should be.  Nelson Mandela changed the world by staying there.  He won.  His protests worked.  How many single men can we remember who changed the world without violence?  I think we can all count that number on one hand.  There are many things to see at Robben Island, and you will have the chance to talk to former inmates about their time in the prison, because they are the tour guides.  It's a unique experience where you really learn something.

Robben Island is a half hour ferry ride from the cape.  That gives it an Alcatraz effect.  You can sit in the cell  that Nelson Mandela lived in.  You can feel the history of a divided nation coursing through your soul.  I believe that we should all try and understand someone so dedicated.  The resolve of Nelson Mandela is something that I can't fathom.


The Apartheid system was regarded as  hostile and unjust by everyone the world over.  I remember watching "The American President"  with Michael Douglas as the President.  I remember a line that he said in this post Apartheid movie.  He said, "A system of government that so many people were against that it doesn't exist anymore."  It said it all.  "Sun City" was the song that brought the true sense of the conflict to the young people in America.  It made many kids check into the whole thing and find out what was really going on.  I didn't fully understand the scope of Apartheid until I read "Kaffir Boy", by Mark Mathabane.

Sun City was created as a luxury resort where white South Africans and others could go and bask in their own glory.  There was gambling and strip clubs which were illegal in the rest of the country.  The South Africans called the area Boputhuswana.  It was cited by others around the world as a place where the South Africans could practice illegal activities without penalty.  It was the Las Vegas of South Africa.  Today the stigma has lifted and Sun City is one of the premier resorts for people from all over the world.  It has massive hotels, great golf courses, Vegas style casinos, and of course the Sun City Superbowl which has headline entertainment.


The world has changed and South Africa has changed immensely.  I did want to mention these two spots for your travel bucket list, because they were so tied to the fight that the world had with the white South Africans and Apartheid.  With the victory of Nelson Mandela came a whole new country.  In one lifetime, most of us don't get to see something like that happen.  Thank you Nelson Mandela for making the amazingly beautiful country of South Africa more beautiful and far more accessible.  Thank you for making us all believe that change is possible.  Thank you for never giving up on your dream.

Come to Sun City, Robben Island, and the rest of this amazing country from Johannesburg, to the Drakensburg Mountains, to Tabletop Mountain, to Kruger National Park, to the Cape of Good Hope itself and see what makes this country worth fighting against the machine to protect.


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