Read here about my other South African adventures:
I finally have time to write more about Johannesburg, just before I choose the destinations for the month of June.
Moscow was my top destination for many years and I even missed one planned trip because of my final university exam. However, for some kind of reason, I cannot get over the Johannesburg trip, which was absolutely perfect from all points of view.
If my last post was more about the safari experience and all the animals I saw, this post shall concentrate more on what I like most – food.
I have to mention mouthwatering food, because South Africa has qualified butchers, amazing meat and a huge variety of wines. So, what can you do rather than explore all the tastes and flavors?
A restaurant that you have to go to if you are ever in Johannesburg is The Grillhouse. I would say it is better that The BullRun, but the staff is not as friendly as the one at the latter. A day before I had ordered a Ribeye of 500g, but I still craved for the ribs. Of course, now I had these huge ribs with a baked potato in front of me since I was thinking about them for one day.
Before this dinner, however, I walked to see the Nelson Mandela Square and take some pictures.
Flying means working for each flight in a team with people you have never seen in your life and will probably never talk to ever again. It is tough, it is a challenge in itself when it comes to work, because in the company I work for there are over 100 nationalities: all colors, shapes and sizes, mentalities and beliefs. Also, when it comes to staying at a destination for a few days, it is a challenge because you want to visit, go out, eat and you do not want to do it alone or with not very pleasant people.
However, it my three trips until now, I found extraordinary people to share with my travelling around the world. The dream. It is the same with this colleague I shared most of my time in Joburg.
So, even though we knew we were going for a big dinner we decided to have some Asian “bites”. We chose Wonton chili soup, pork dumplings, crispy prawn dumplings and other things I had no clue what they were, but tasted good.
I think I forgot to show you the white lion. King of the jungle. Lazy as hell around noon.
So, I told you that I got to find out that Johannesburg is not the safest place on earth.
I love to stand out of the crowd, but when standing out means being the only two white persons in a bad neighborhood in Johannesburg where everybody tells you it is not safe, it is not very fun. Carlton Center is the tallest building in Africa and has an observation deck at the last store. I love rooftop gardens, bars, views, skylines, whatever it is, so I said I cannot leave South Africa without seeing it. It was in a skyscraper, so I thought we are going to a sort of economic center or financial district. It was the day of the flight back so I checked the opening hours and decided to be there first. Who know we would be first and only persons (!!!) in there.
So, let’s go to Top of Africa. We arrange a car from the hotel and the driver drops us in the middle of some streets with almost nobody walking. He gives us the number and says he will be back after us and advises us not to take a taxi and to talk only to security from the tower. Great, now I feel safe! My friend and I feel the eyes of the people looking at us as we are walking through a mall, trying to find the entrance to the observation deck. We find security guy and he shows us the way. We are at 50th floor with the security guy and nobody else. No cafe, no person, no cashier, no visitors, no administrator, no cleaners. Nothing! He is following us as we admire the view.
At one point he left and we were alone. In Africa. At 50th floor, tallest point in the continent. He asked me if there were any cameras here. Obviously there weren’t. I asked if he means in case someone kills us if it stays on tape? Yes. I said I will be the witness. I love black humor, but it was not funny.
I don’t know what this mark is. Bullet?
Surprise, surprise, we cannot contact him. Then we find another security and he gives us his phone to call him, but apparently it will take him more than one hour to be there and not 20 minutes, as he promised. And we have a flight to catch. And operate.
We asked about taxis and security guy started laughing. Ok, no taxi! But we find out there is a bus that takes us to another bus that takes us to close to the hotel. And besides, he adds, taxis are dangerous for light skin like us. He shows us the bus and we get in. The streets are straight, like the ones in New York, but everything seems frozen somewhere 30-40 years ago. Old and grey. There are people over people, all moving, working, carrying something, bringing stuff, the place looks like a Turkish bazaar, but very dirty, with people dressed in colorful sporty clothes. There is dirt on the floor and dirty water in some canals by the pedestrian area. The pedestrian area is wide but you can barely walk by someone’s side as it is full of tables with stuff to sell from clothes to apples by bag and bananas by plate.
Everybody is looking at us and we are obviously the ONLY light skin around. The second bus was far away from where first one dropped us off so, we find a kid who shows us the second bus. He leaves after asking for some tip. We comply, of course. The bus driver asked us for a charge which was probably much higher than the real one, but yet more than ten times cheaper that the hotel fare. So, if there was a risk of robbery, it was to late, because the hotel had already done it. In a civilized and organized environment. But, let’s go back to where we were, namely in this bus, where they put us in front, next to the driver. The bus…oh my Gosh! It had everything in it, maybe sheep and hens were there.
The lady with the child in the back gives me some money, I don’t understant what she wants, then the driver takes it then he gives me some money. I send it back. Then we stop to refuel and the driver goes out of the car. The lady taps my back really hard, gives me the look and say simple and assertive: “Money!”. I’m thinking, you know, when you think many thoughts in one second: Oh my God, is she robbing us, is this ok, she has a kid on her lap, where is the driver, is this how she thought it, does she want her change, is it the money she initially gave me, what is she talking about, where is the driver, what is happening. Then she says: “Money! You did not pay!”. Then I realize…oooh, the bus ticket. Ok, she wants to give the money to the driver outside through the opened window. Over all, another story to tell to my grandchildren!
Right before leaving, we entered The Butcher Shop & Grill – The original and only as the call themselves where I got some ostrich sausage and dried beef.
The store is right in Nelson Mandela Square.
On out way back, we stopped in a local market selling handcraft. My favorite, a book support in the shape of a hippo. But I don’t want to gather things, I want to gather memories, feelings, experiences. Spending money on these is much more rewarding.
One last look at the white orchids, keeping the purity of day and secret of the sin and off to the airport.
My favorite picture from this trip:
So here’s my South African experience in which I tried everything (colleagues asked me what I want to do in Johannesburg and I answered everything, so, so I did) from safari, hugging the lion cubs, being blocked under a wild cheetah, amazing steaks and ribs, quality wine, ostrich meat, bad neighborhood scare, local buses, clubbing, great people. This is life, forever young. In this lifetime, I could not ask for more!
As I was climbing in the bus a leaf fell in front of my feet. I followed it with my eyes and then I saw 2 more eyes following the same leaf…
About each country I visit I read something about their history, geography, interesting facts. Please discover with me the wonders of the world!
Official Language: there are 11 official languages, amongst which English and Afrikaans
Type of government: constitutional democracy with a three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary
Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)/ 100 ZAR is about 8.5 US Dollars.
Population: 54 million