Gauteng (Johannesburg, South Africa)
30.07.2011 - 31.07.2011
I am writing this blog from my room in a hostel in Johannesburg. The temperature displayed on my travel alarm clock shows is 11C in here! Blurrrr…… Outside is probably only ~5C! That’s winter in Johannesburg. During the day it does go up to ~18C.
Johannesburg is often simply known as Joburg. It is the business center of South Africa. It’s where gold was discovered back in the late 1800’s, hence making it the wealthiest province in Africa, and according to a brochure, it is the source of 40% of all the gold ever mined from the planet (really!?!) It is a city that is very spread out (I didn’t see many high rise buildings), made up of many neighbourhoods/districts with each having its own unique characters. It is unfortunately also a city that you can witness the huge disparity between the very poor and the rich in South Africa, and ironically they live within eyesight of one another in the neighbourhood of Soweto (read on below to find out more).
view of city from Top of Africa, tallest building in Africa
It is always great meeting people from around the world as I travel. There is someone staying here at the hostel who will be travelling to Toronto in a couple of weeks, and someone else who has been to Toronto commented on how clean Toronto is! (so to all those living in Toronto, you should be proud that we live in a *clean* city!) Yesterday I went on a city tour with two people from Amsterdam. We were driven around by a local guide (Joburg is definitely not a city that you could wander and explore independently. I saw many tourists who were similarly driven by local guides at many of the attractions that we visited.)
It was a very interesting day. There were many highlights:
-we went to the Top of Africa, tallest building in Africa, to get a view of the city (there are only 50 floors, so cannot be compared to the CN Tower)
-spent a couple of hours in the Apartheid Museum (excellent excellent museum! Must go if you ever visit Joburg.) It outlines the history of the system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race that was the law in South Africa from 1948-1991. Only 20 years ago since this was lifted (1991 was the year after when Nelson Mandela was officially released from prison.) Racial classification was the foundation of all apartheid laws. Individuals were placed under one of four groups: African, ‘coloured’, ‘Asian’, or ‘white’. The ‘white’ had all the privileges over the other groups. It was definitely an eye opener for me. In the museum, there is currently a Nelson Mandela exhibition outlining his life and his accomplishments. Excellent as well!
entrance to the Apartheid Museum illustrating the racial classification at the time
“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela
We spent the afternoon in Soweto, a very diverse neighborhood of roughly 4 million people. This is the place where a lot of the ‘non white’ was placed during Apartheid (there is even a partial wall built from leftover mine materials to block them from seeing into downtown Joburg). Now it is an area where the rich and the poor collide. We did a brief visit to the Motsoaledi camp (aka the “slum”) where the poor live in small shacks. We were able to tour through the camp because they have volunteer guides who live in the camp themselves that want to share their stories. In return, we give a small donation that goes back to the community. Our guide spoke English very well. There were small children that followed us asking for candies and money. The experience was unforgettable.
I wish I have time to write more. It is a fascinating place, definitely worth a visit.
Goodbye Joburg. See you again in early December (in much warmer weather!)