I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa. Ever since watching the England Cricket team tour in 2004, I’ve wanted to see the sights, experience Cape Town and Johannesburg, do the Garden Route, and go on another safari. Now as my job permits travel, encourages it really, and enables me to see so many places at a more affordable rate, I thought it was time to take advantage, and as my brother was tagging along, we went somewhere we both wanted to visit.
Unlike Victoria Falls, we had absolutely no concrete plans of what we were going to do once we arrived, so we made our way to our hotel and started thinking/ The hotel itself was really nice, and after a few days in a tent, a proper shower, and a proper bed (and no mosquito net) were hugely appreciated.
The area we were staying in was really nice. Rosebank had a modern mall and entertainment complex, and felt more like a UK city than what I imagined Johannesburg to be like. I’ve heard plenty of stories about Johannesburg as a city, and was surprised at just how the city felt. We ventured out to the mall on the first evening to get some food, and to grab some drinks and snacks to take back to the hotel. A night in with internet and TV and comfy beds and proper showers was definitely in order.
Our first full day in Johannesburg started late, as both of us fancied a lie in. We ventured out to properly explore the mall, and have a look at the African Craft market to see any souvenirs we fancied buying. We also checked out the local restaurants and cafes, and ended up in Starbucks. It’s so cheap there in comparison to the UK (for any meals and cafes). We didn’t really buy much, but we did enjoy an Italian in the mall, and Jon continued to try the local beers with one from Namibia.
We made a plan for the next full day to go and visit Constitutional Hill, and to visit Ellis park to watch the Super Rugby. Constitutional hill is a current Constitutional courthouse, and also an old prison that counts Nelson Mandela as one of it’s inmates. Visiting the prison was interesting, but finding out all about the court process for South Africa was by far the most fascinating part of the tour. Seeing the process and the inclusion of all national languages in one court, and hearing about the intricacies of South African law was pretty eye-opening.
After visiting Constitutional hill, we ventured off through the city to Ellis Park. For the first time we began to see a different side to Johannesburg. The area felt safe enough as we were walking through, but it was plain to see that we were the only white people in the area, and the types of buildings and transport had changed significantly. When we arrived at Ellis Park the area changed across the distance of one dual-carriageway, and again, we could have been anywhere.
We stopped at McDonalds for some food, and noticed that most people have BBQs in the street, and enjoy beers with their friends on the side of the road. Once we obtained our tickets, we wandered into the fan-park around the stadium, and quickly noticed the racial divide again – white people watch rugby in South Africa. The ticket salesman was horrified to hear we had walked through the area from Constitutional hill to the ground, and after talking to him, we realised we shouldn’t have been in that area at all, and that we would have to get a taxi after the game in the dark.
The match was really great to watch. It was the first time that the local team had made it to the Super cup semi-finals, and they were playing so well that the place was buzzing with excitement and expectation. I’ve never seen Rugby union live, so it was really special to go and see it, and it was great to see the home team well. We listened to advice given too and managed to get a taxi back to the station, where we spoke to some locals who managed to spot our scouse accents and were chatting to us about the football.
The following day we took off for Kruger, so we didn’t have long in the hotel that morning. After safari we returned to the same hotel for once last night in luxury before we crossed the city and went to the airport for the return flight home (after stopping by the bookshop to buy the new Harry Potter book of course!!). One thing I learnt is how great business class is to fly on, especially on long haul flights!
I can’t wait to return to South Africa, and see more of the country, and cross of more of my South African bucket list. If you ever get the chance to go, run with it!!