Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of South Africa  , Gauteng,
Thursday, February 19, 2009

We originally had Joburg on the itinery as a neccesity rather than a choice after hearing time and time again that it was the evil lovechild of the Bronx and Hell. Turns out, it's alright, better actually. We stayed in In Africa Lodge which is a lovely little hostel that's more like a B&B, it's also in a gated community (good for keeping baddies away). As we only had one day to explore we booked on a combined tour of the Apartheid Museum and Soweto. En route to the museum we drove through central Joburg and found a forgotten city, it's literally been left behind, everyone (most importantly business') have gone to Sandton due to the level of crime in the centre. Row after row of high-rise office blocks are now home to squatters. Certain parts are on the mend but I wouldn't recommend anyone get out the car, although we did ......

The tour guide told us that we could get out if we wanted to browse around an alternative medicine shop strangely named 'Museum of Man and Science'. Inside I was confronted by the most foul smell there is, turns out it was the baboon corpse hanging from the ceiling. We were told not to take photos of anyone in the shop as this branch of traditional medicine is getting a very bad press in SA because it so strongly conflicts with standard medical practice. It's not hard to see why these methods are not thought highly of, traditional medicine claims that one way of curing aids is to have sex with a virgin which has led to incidents of rape. This is probably one of the key reasons SA can't shake its massive aids epidemic.

The Apartheid museum is one of the best museums i've been to. It's thoughtfully designed to make you think very carefully about Apatheid and its long lasting effects. On entry you are randomly allocated a race. I got to be black for the day and entered through the appropriate turnstile. Inside the images were graphic and pulled no punches. The reconstruction of solitary confinement cells was excellent and really highlighted the tragic lost years of Nelson Mandela and many more. As you walked through the mood changed rapidly from anger to happiness, despair to hope, by the end you're exhausted mentally and physically (it's a big place). Above all, the museum wonderfully showed the real apartheid, bloody and unfair, yet by the end gave a positive view for the future in a united SA. Next we travelled to Soweto (SOuth WEst TOwnships). One particular street is home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners (Mandela and Tutu), no other street can boast that. Soweto has a loaded political past and much of what we saw was shaped by these events. First we went to the Hector Pieterson Museum. On June 16th 1976 the residents of Soweto marched against Bantu education, an apartheid law that forced black students to learn in Afrikaans, the language of the oppressor. What started as a peaceful protest (as most were) quickly turned into a massacre at the hands of the police who fired unprovoced shots into the crowd. The image of Hector Pieterson, the massacre's youngest victim, being carried dead by his brother through the streets, dominates the imagery of the museum which pays tribute to those lost on that day. Hector's sister who is shown in that picture, still works at the museum, we saw her. How she can work there and have to face that image everyday i'll never know.

Soweto is different to the other townships we've seen. Many houses have been refurbished and now look rather posh. However, the area sadly still has an approx. 50% rate of unemployment. Despite that it has an amazing sense of community, when we toured one street with a local guide who we paid a small gesture, we came face to face with friendly people who helped each other out in unbelievably poor conditions (one street has one tap). People were happy to let you nose around their house and see how they live, it's admirable beyond belief.

Many advise you to stay away from Joburg, I say go, explore, but be careful.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: