South Africa is an amazing country of contrasts. I had no idea how big it is and how far the journey was that I had planned for our 3 week stay along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay!

Cape Town is a truly beautiful city by the sea, with open space around and towered over by Table Mountain.

In “doing the sights” I am struck by the contrasts. Everywhere is clean. There are strong signs of caring for the environment.

Having been responsible for local Authority provision of public conveniences I am struck by the number provided and appropriateness of location. UK cities are closing all but a few. Here they are just where you want them – on lay bys, near the beach, around the town. and they are clean and well maintained.

On TV and radio the speech switches seamlessly between English & Afrikaans. And the local people seem to do the same.

There is a stark contrast between the opulence of accommodation in the cities and beach front properties and the apparent squalor of townships.

Beside the N2 near Cape Town airport the township spreads for miles. Local people catch “golden tours” buses to work – “The bus for us” as train fares are too dear. Petrol went up 30% just before we arrived putting pressure on the budgets of those on low wages.

We are told there is 43% unemployment and it seems clear that this will be impacting more on the black citizens who have started to benefit from post – apartheid education. With education but no opportunity!

The most impactive impression was that made by the former political prisoner who was our guide on Robben Island. With quiet dignity he explained Mandela’s principle of Reconciliation. It’s forgiveness on a national basis. And it seems to be holding the community of haves and have-nots together on their vision for a better future.

Here the “I- culture” of materialism is ephemeral. There seems to be a quiet acceptance that change happens slowly.

In the farming areas farms lie empty.

Tourists are welcomed

The vast beaches are empty but for a handful of people,

At traffic lights the poor sell meagre offerings and wheelchair bound people (black and white) beg.

State parliament opened on 9th and the town was gridlocked. The presidents opening speech received a mixed reception, with promises of infrastructure investment and employment opportunity. But when?

In 3 weeks we are just scratching the surface of the country, what an experience though, what beauty!


An ex prisoner guide shows us around Robben island and shares his experiences.

Find out more from Judith Sunley at and check out my facebook page at


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