Three Day Tour in Jo'burg

November 18, 2013
Day 1:

After our two week study tour in Cape Town ended, four of us decided to extend our stay and visit Johannesburg for a few days.  Since we had only a limited amount of time and no form of transportation, we decided the best way to do this would be to book a tour with a local.  One of the gals on our trip knew someone who highly recommended our guide, Boise.  We arrived to Jo'burg on a Sunday and had enough time to make a trip out to the Apartheid museum, which was good to do first considering it is closed on Monday.  On our way to the museum, we drove through the city and got a few glimpses of Jo'burg.

When you walk into the museum you are classified by your race and are supposed to go into the museum using the either the white or non-white entrance, as would have been done under Apartheid.  I felt so strange doing this, and it would have been even more so if there had been others entering the museum at the same time as us.  On the way in, there are paintings of some of the diverse people that make up South Africa.  Once inside the museum, one can explore the sobering history of Apartheid and learn about what it was like for different groups of South Africans during this dark time.  The history of resistance is also detailed.  The museum contains many photographs, documents, interviews, and artifacts that help to explain this important part of South African history.

After the museum, we checked into our pension.  The one we picked was called Pension Idube which was located in Melville, a trendy suburb that is supposed to be safer than some of the other areas in the city.  The pension was under new management and we arrived on the manager's first week.  The pension was affordable and comfortable, though on our first night we were freezing cold.  We didn't complain, but heaters were installed while we were out the next day, so we didn't have to suffer anymore.

For dinner, we headed to The Lucky Bean.  I was still feeling a bit sick, so I got a basic dish of noodles in broth.  The other three students I went with all raved about their food, so if you're in the area it is worth a try.  The menu includes dishes such as prawns in a pita, springbok pie, and ostrich burgers.

Day 2:

We started off with a driving tour of Johannesburg.  It was just so much different than Cape Town was in many ways.  One noticeable differences was in demographics.  In Johannesburg, there are more blacks and a large portion of them are young, as in under 24.   In Cape Town there is a much larger population of those who self-identify as coloured (mixed races.)  The city center in Jo'burg also was more crowded, bustling, and one could see evidence of the effects of Apartheid just by looking at the vacant buildings from businesses that closed when the Apartheid era ended.  A lot of these buildings have since become occupied by those who do not have anywhere else to go.  Boise told us that the living conditions were horrible inside of those buildings because there was no running water or electricity and that they are not safe places to live since it's not like the buildings are secure from outsiders.  Another big difference between Jo'burg and Cape Town was the weather.  When we left Cape Town at the beginning of June, it was the start of the rainy season there, but in Jo'burg the weather was sunny and dry.

After our driving tour of the city center, we stopped at the First National Bank Stadium, which was where the 2010 World Cup took place.  It was also where Nelson Mandela gave his first speech in Jo'burg after he left Robben Island where he was imprisoned.

Next, we toured Soweto, which was where Boise was born and raised.  I'm so glad we had an insider with us to tell us all about the township.  Soweto has over a million people living there and it is the largest township in South Africa.  It is an important place in South African history, because it is where the famous 1976 uprisings took place.  When black students learned that they were going to be forced to be instructed in Afrikaans, the language of the oppressor, they made plans to protest.  For the most part this was done in secret, not only from whites, but also from the students' own parents.  The demonstration quickly turned violent, and Hector Pieterson, a 12 year old boy, was shot and killed by the police.  A famous photograph of a boy carrying Hector's body circulated the world and made those in other countries more aware of what was going on in South Africa at the time.  The Soweto uprising was the first of many more to follow before Apartheid finally ended in the early 1990's.

While in Soweto, we visited the Hector Pieterson memorial and also the Regina Mundi, a Catholic church.  Many churches, including the Regina Mundi, supported the anti-Apartheid movement by allowing blacks to hold secret meetings at the church.  During the Soweto uprising, many fled to the church seeking sanctuary from the police.  The police entered the church, fired shots, and damaged parts of the building including a statue of Jesus.  Boise pointed out the bullet holes from the event which can still be seen today.  Another neat thing about the church is that when you look at the stained glass from the inside of the church, the people have white skin, but when you step outside, their skin is black.

Something that surprised me was the big difference in class within Soweto itself.  Some houses are very nice and look comparable to what one might find in the suburbs in the United States, yet some of South Africa's poorest residents also live in Soweto.  Boise had some friends who let us take a peek inside their home.

An iconic landmark in Soweto is the Orlando Towers.  These two cooling towers that have been transformed into works of art.  Colorful murals have been painted all over the towers and now one can go bungee jumping between the two towers.

Day 3: On our last day in Jo'burg we went to The Cradle of Humankind museum and went down in the limestone caves.  The Cradle of Humankind is the site where Mrs. Ples, a fossil over 2 million years old, was found.  Many other fossils have been discovered here as well.

Afterwards, we went to the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve.  You can just drive through and observe the animals, which we were excited to do since we didn't have enough time to go to Kruger National Park on a safari. We observed so many different animals like wildebeests, springbok, wild dogs, and of course rhinos and lions. When we went, the majority of the time, the lions were inactive and all sleeping. Finally, we saw some action between a male and female lion...and I do mean, errrr, action if you catch my drift. It was like something I would see on National Geographic.

There are also leopards at the park, but they were all caged and didn't have much space like the other animals. I don't know why that is.

I wish we could have had maybe one more day there to chill and explore on our own a bit, but at least we were able to get in most of the sites and had a lovely guide!

Linking up with This Analog Adventure for Photography Friday.

Why is or isn't Jo'burg on your list of travel destinations?
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Lulu G said...

It isn't on my list of places to go, but that's primarily because of money (there are other places I would go if I had the money) and I will be honest and say, I wouldn't want to go because I have young children and I would worry about safety. I still can't get my head around apartheid, it's so awful what used to go on.

jackie jade said...

this looks so cool. i lived in London for a bit after college and one of my flatmates was from Johannesburg and always said how beautiful it was.
-- jackie @ jade and oak

Loris Ayoub said...

I miss South Africa :-( Next time you go to Joburg there is a small restaurant called Cafe De Soul it is in Randburg in the Olive Dale wont regret it :-)

Loris Ayoub said...

now there is apartheid the other way around, blacks are literally hunting white farmers down...sadly it is very dangerous though it is so different and so beautiful...people have a great life style there, not one we can afford anymore since we left. I wish it was safe, I would have stayed there for sure.

Lisa said...

@ Lulu- Yes, I agree with you and think that there are better options for family-friendly travel. Besides the safety issue, many of the attractions are historical...I can't see young children enjoying themselves at the Apartheid museum, for example.

@Loris- We heard it was very dangerous as well, which is why we opted to go with a guide the whole time. I felt safe with the guide, but being on our own in the city center would have made me nervous.

Lisa said...

I wish we had more than three days, but we all had to go back to the real world.

Lisa said...

I just google searched it...the food looks incredible!

Biruté Sim said...

A Very interesting and unique experience Lisa! The photos with the lions are fab :)

Lisa said...

We almost missed the cubs because it was closing...thank goodness we got there just in time.

Jessica Hobin said...

you got to pet cubs! I would have died of happiness, haha. I haven't been because tickets to that side of the world are insane, but I'd go if I could! Thanks so much for linking up with us!

Samantha @ Busy Sweet Life said...

Seriously, I am SO jealous right now. I think the absolutely top thing on my to-do list is to be able to pet and spend time with big cats. It is a dream of mine!

Lisa said...

I hope you eventually get to chill with them! The cubs were so playful.

Lisa said...

Yeah, the tickets were SO pricey. If I didn't get a grant to help defray the costs, I wouldn't have been able to afford it either.

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