This was the first time I had flown by myself, the hubby flew a week or so before for work, and I joined him later in Johannesburg. Hubby stayed in Limpopo, saw monkeys, impalas, and giraffes. He was there for research and managed to see quite a bit.
I didn’t manage to get much sleep on the flight, so got to the hotel and crashed out. After a bit, we explored the nearby Zone and Rosebank Mall. There was a great vibe in the market on the top floor car park, definitely worth a look.
Our first cultural experience on this holiday was Constitution Hill. We had a two hour tour with a very well informed tour guide, showing us the prison that Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were kept and the Constitutional Court. We walked through the women’s jail, non white and white sections, reading the stories of political prisoners and the power struggles of the white and non white guards.
The men’s section took a darker turn, being a larger part of the jail, and generally more violent. We walked through the footsteps of men who had entered the prison, men entered with a name and left with a number. It was sad to hear, and clearly see, that back when the prison was still open nearby inhabitants could clearly see what was happening in the prison but did nothing. It was shocking to read the reasons why so many were imprisoned: politics or simply not possessing a pass whilst walking through the city centre.
It was an enlightening tour that ended in Constitutional Court, quite apt really, showing that the darkness of the past can lead into something positive for the future.
Next was the Apartheid Museum. Before you enter you’re given a ticket, white or non white, and you enter different doors depending on your ticket, an interesting way to enter a museum. As you walk through it was clear that South Africa was the place where signs were literally everywhere.
We spent a good three hours walking around the exhibits, and there was a temporary Mandela exhibition charting his life. I really got the sense of how much of an influential man he was.
The historical exhibition was much darker, with video footage, photographs, and witness accounts describing life during apartheid. The rest of the world was moving on from segregation, civil rights movements were at play, such a contrast from what was happening in South Africa at exactly the same time. A true eye opening experience.
Next day was a whistle stop tour of various tourist spots: Mandela Square, Mandela Bridge, Top of Africa, SNB Stadium, and Soweto. We were 50 stories high on the Top of Africa and saw some amazing views.
We ended the day at Soweto, short for South West Township, where we visited the Hector Pieterson memorial and Nelson Mandela’s house. We all know who Mandela is, but Pieterson was a young boy who was shot during the Soweto uprisings in the 1970’s. Many young students died that day, but Hector Pieterson was the only death that was photographed. The image was made famous across the world, and we were told there was a hunt to find the photographer who took it.
We didn’t manage to go to a safari, but did end up at the Lion Park, which was fantasic. We had a one hour guided tour seeing antelopes, wildebeests, zebras, lions, wild dogs, cheetahs, giraffes, ostriches, meerkats, and cats. We saw the ‘movie star’ from the film White Lion, heard some roars, and saw lions watching lions watching wild dogs.
The guided tour was really good, we had a very well informed guide, who was also quite funny. He said the reward for the ‘movie star’ white lion was to give him five wives, as they couldn’t give him cars or money. Some of the other highlights were stroking lion cubs and feeding giraffes and ostriches. We had a very friendly and greedy giraffe come and take all the food! He was also very bristly.
On our last day we had a more relaxing time in the botanical gardens. It was ok. I think the time of year didn’t help, going in September meant everything was a little dry. We still managed to see some pretty flowers and there were a couple of cool fountains. Worth a look if you have an hour to spare, but it was definitely a lot smaller than we expected.
So, Johannesburg is definitely worth a visit. We were there for a week, but took things quite slowly, so it can be easily visited in a few days. Here are a few more photos we took during our trip: