Exploring the sights of Joburg

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Today was a day off and me and another intern headed off to be tourists for the day in Joburg. The first experience of the day was getting the brand new Gautrain into the city from the picturesque town of Hatfield, just a short drive from where we were staying.

After buying our ‘Gold’ cards and loading them with credit, we headed to platform B and headed towards Park station. Just 40 minutes later we were touching out from the station and our next mission was to locate the red citysightseeing bus. After a walk around the block (literally!) the familiar branding came into sight and we headed towards it.

There was no way we could cover everything in one day. As the guide said, Johannesburg is a melting point of cultures. I also found out that it is the highest city in the world and a city that wasn’t even supposed to be there. After the discovering of gold and the introduction of the mining, Joburg just evolved and being just 135 years old, it is still a relatively young city. Constantly changing and developing, you are bound to see something new each time you visit.

Our first stop was ‘Top of Africa’ a bold claim to make, but 15 Rand down and 50 floors up we were viewing a 360 panorama across Johannesburg and further afield –  north, south, east and west. Not quite the Empire State of New York or the CN Tower of Toronto, but it is the largest building in Africa and I can say I’ve been to the top!

Unfortunately the area that it is built in is not the nicest of neighbourhoods, so two guides accompanied us there and back, which I was glad of as I wouldn’t have known how safe the area was, or wasn’t as the case may be.

The bus took us on to our lunch spot at Gold Reef city – a casino and theme park resort – where we grabbed a burger and soaked up some afternoon sunshine. Hopping back on the bus, we just had time to whizz around the Apartheid Museum, before catching the bus back to Park.

The museum was a particularly moving experience. I have heard and read about the apartheid but there is something very sobering about seeing images and videos about real people to tell the story. What really brought it home for me was at the entrance when there were two entrances – white and non-white. Every ticket was randomly assigned one category and as it turned out I was white and my companion was non-white.

We made our separate journeys through the first stretch of the museum, viewing different exhibits either side, before being reunited outside again. A very good way to demonstrate the reality of apartheid and included signs from that time, such as bar signs for ‘non-europeans only’ or bathrooms for ‘whites only’. I only wish we’d had more time to take it all in, definitely worth a second visit.

Having delved into South Africa’s history, we were promptly brought back into the present when we arrived back at the station and topped up our cards for our journey back home. A couple of stops on the Gautrain brought us to Sandton, centre for Joburg commuters and the perfect place for business people. A nice looking area, with a completely different feel to Joburg.

The S5 bus took us towards Fourways where we stopped at Epsom Downs Shopping Centre to catch our lift to the farm.  More like a rollercoaster of a ride home. Our host had a hire car and was really pushing the pedal for most of the journey. A particular highlight for me was when he was doing 100km/h in a 40km/h limit on a sand track road at night! The less said the better.

I saw my second South African sunset today, no less impressive than the first, and still succeeded in making me stop and stare. Stunning.

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