Tribute to Madiba

There was an urgent wind tugging off of Table Mountain. We'd just had some of the best and hottest dried chili beef I've ever had, at a restaurant called Saigon. Mouthwatering. Eyes, too. We closed the place and hiked back up the steep hill to our guest house. In our room we popped on the TV. We were barely paying attention when I looked up from my New Yorker, drawn by the silence of the screen. An urgent message scrolled at the bottom, but Geri had already cried out. "Mandela!"

Capetown is what Madiba stared out at for 27 years, a mere few kilometers across the bay from his prison cell on Robben Island. By remarkable coincidence, I had booked two tickets for the ferry over, scant hours before Mandela passed away. We were the first people on the island on the day South Africa lowered its flags to half mast. Here are some memories from that week.

The news was as jolting as the stark compound we wandered. Unlike most US tourist sites, I had little problem lingering behind and finding myself alone in the prison courtyard. The feeling was palpable.

We ended our trip at Camp's Bay, a spot blessed by nature and embraced by many. The main drag celebrated Capetown's version of cafe life, but the real action was down by the shore. Kids played a long jump game on the grassy hillside while others took to the pounding surf. There's plenty of concern about post-Mandela South Africa, but at least on this pretty Saturday, it was just another day at the beach.