The time has come to say goodbye. Again, this has been a wonderful adventure. My morning was going to be spent resting until we headed to the Winelands but our awesome guide, Desmond, who had taken the group shopping and to Table Mountain, phoned to say his friend, Edgar, a guard at Drakenstein, where Madiba spent his last 18 months under house arrest; would again arrange for us to go inside the house. What a special treat. This was Edgar’s day off but he would do this for us. This house is now a South African National Heritage Site and the prison is still a working prison with 4 prisons on the entire property.
Edgar met our bus at the entrance to the prison. It was Saturday and lots of families were making their way to visit their loved ones. Last year due to politricks no one was allowed inside the Madiba House so the group listened to Edgar at the statue. I’m so thankful we had favor this day. My own personal experience this time was totally unlike the last, which was exciting just having an opportunity that others don’t get. Today was an awesome spiritual experience.
This time, Edgar who was not in uniform this time, was more vocal, more animated with a very powerful delivery. It was quite moving. As we entered the house I could feel the spirit of Madiba moving about. As I sat at the dining room table where negotiations were held to end apartheid, as I sat on his bed, as I walked into the pantry, the only room in the house that was not wiretaped during his 18 month stay, where he and his personal chef could speak freely, as I walked by the pool where he would sit for hours reflecting on his life in the struggle for all people and the hardships he suffered on Robben Island…..it was like an out of body experience and 2 of his quotes continued to resonate through my mind: “In my country we go to prison first, then become President” and in a Feb 1975 letter to Winnie, he said, “Difficulties break some men but make others”. When he first got to the prison, he was already 70 and a racist guard told him he would never leave alive. When they wanted to release Mandela on Feb 9, 1990, he said, “No, not when you say, it’s when I say. My people know nothing of this arrangement”. He was released 2 days later when he and Winnie walked the “Long Walk to Freedom”, from Madiba House to the prison entrance.
I’ve had a connection with Mandela for 47 years. I doubt if anyone else in the group experienced what I did today in the house but it was quite apparent they were all very, very thankful for this rare opportunity. We said our goodbyes to Edgar, hoping to one day see him again.
Next stop was wine tasting and a fabulous lunch at the Mont Rochelle Wine Estate which is now under the umbrella of Sir Richard Branson’s holdings.
This day was a beautiful finale to our 2014 South Africa tour. We wrapped it up with dinner at the Signal Restaurant located on the Waterfront at the lovely Cape Grace Hotel.
If you care to join me next time in South Africa for the trip of a lifetime, it will be September 2015. Inbox me. Thanks for flying with me. You may move about the aircraft once the seatbelt light has been switched off.