APPROACHING THE MEDIEVAL CASTLE AT MID!AFTERNOON IN THE MIDST OF A COSMOPOLITAN METROPOLIS IN ANTICIPATION OF THE TOUR OF UNDERGROUND TUNNELS BROUGHT A SLIGHT SWEAT TO MY BROW AS PREVIOUS MEMORIES OF CLAUSTROPHOBIA BEGAN ATTACKING MY MIND.
I was thinking about how It makes no sense to be stuck underground in a dark tunnel but, curiosity reaffirmed my need to discover the secret tunnels below. As I get out of the car and approach the tour company site and meeting point, which was clearly visible due to the skull on a stick, I see group of men and a woman in florescent vests and helmets. I notice that everyone also has gumboots and a headlamp. I have none of the gear. I should of read the memo properly. The tour guides are introduced as I stare blankly at my thin pair of canvass ‘Vans’ shoes that as far as I remember have never failed me before. The crew consisted of David (the leader), Wellington (the dreadlock African), Ghost (still not sure who he was), Charlie( the artist) and Eric (the doctor). The tour briefing started off with many interesting historical facts about the tunnels and the Castle of Good Hope that towered before me. The castle seems to have stood the test of time, and I’m not talking aboutthe local brew. David told us that parts of the underground canals and rivers date back to 1652. “They used to supply the gardens and the passing ships with fresh water. Later these rivers flowing through the city became pleasant walk ways shaded by oaks with bridges going over them. Cape Town had its own gentleman’s walk and was known as little Amsterdam,“explained David.
The serene beginnings changed and became went on to be used to transport sewerage until 1895 when they were all arched over and forgotten. My mind is racing with thoughts of damp canals and sewerage but David seems to sense this and started to talk about the impressive architecture and how it is now the sweet clear waters from Table Mountain that flow in the canals.
Soon after the interesting history lesson we finally make our way inside the Castle to explore torture chambers where prisoners were made to confess their crimes. The tours guide leads us into a medium sized room where no light has ever been and he explains that prisoners were placed in these dark rooms for days on end then released into direct sunlight thus making them blind. For dramatic effect he locks us in the room to be swallowed into to darkness and speaks of hauntings that are believed to have taken place, next thing a laser shines on the wall imitating what was meant to be a ghost, the silence is broken by a classic cape coloured accent from a child that shouts out ‘this is a rip off man’’ everyone bursts into hysterics and the tour guides failed attempt at scaring anyone is quickly over.