Johannesburg - Security guards and shopping malls
Apr 22, 2005
|The flight from Sydney to Johannesburg was the longest since the first journey from London to Mumbai. The thought of 14 hours in the plane was driving us crazy until we sat on our seats and saw the individual TV screens. Not only could we catch up on all the movies and programs we'd missed whilst away but we could even play games (it's the little things that you miss the most!).
We'd heard a few horror stories about Jo'burg and it seemed everyone had something they felt that they should warn us about. So it was with some intrepidation that we passed through immigration, picked up our bags and followed Heinz, our pick up from the hostel. Getting into the car, he didn't lock his doors and so neither did we despite all the promises we'd made to the S. Africans we'd met whilst traveling.
Kiran had chosen the hostel on its location in a 'nice suburb' and its name, Brown Sugar. On approaching the place, we saw that it was an old sprawling building painted lilac. There were great views over the city centre, a no-go area, and it appeared that there were more employee residents there than actual guests, only 1 of which had actually lived in Jo'burg all of his life.
On entering the building we were greeted by a group of Black Africans playing pool, dancing to R&B and downing shots. There were 2 little girls tottering around in adult high heels and all this set the scene for our stay there .... it was a fun loving madhouse!
We spent one full day in Jo'burg and that was at a shopping mall making some last minute purchases for our stay in Africa. The amount of security in and around the mall was astounding. It took a body scan each followed by passing through 2 alarmed doors, 1 at a time, before we could access the FX desk in a bank!
The rest of the day was spent attempting to plan a trip to Lesotho for the few days before we were due to meet Martin and Ali in Cape Town. Unfortunately no 2 people at Brown Sugar could agree on how to get in and out of Lesotho and each one was very definite about their suggestion. After much discussion of the various routes, we decided to sleep on it. Luckily we got up early the next day as a quick phone call revealed that the only bus going to Bloemfontein (near Lesotho) that day was at 8.30am (in 20 mins).
A mad dash followed where we packed our bags, settled our bill and grabbed a taxi to the bus station. In the rush we didn't even have time to consider that the bus station was billed as one of the most dangerous parts of town. Getting out of the taxi and buying the tickets, we attempted to look as confident as possible to conceal any fears or nerves we may have had.
We'd made it! Standing in the queue surveying the armed security guards and clutching our bags we were just in time for the bus, but in true African style it was running late anyway! It was just the start to our travels that we needed to get into the rhythm of the many such journeys ahead of us.
As to Jo'burg's reputation .... we're glad not to have seen or experienced any of the scary scenes we'd heard about but we can't help but feel it's a somewhat misunderstood city.