UIB Travels: Johannesburg, ZA

Before I Die

“It’s Jozi Baby!”

In my previous post, UIB Travels: South Africa Logistics (https://unicorninbrooklyn.com/2015/05/17/uib-travels-south-africa-logistics/), I talked about planning my very first trip to the African continent.  I touched on a few of my experiences in South Africa (ZA) and promised you that I’d elaborate in subsequent posts.  Welp, here I am with the deets fo’ that ass!

“Jozi”, a nickname for Johannesburg, was the first city that I visited when I touched down in this beautiful country.  I visited Jozi first for two reasons: (1) the discounted roundtrip ticket that I purchased flew directly into Jozi (airport code, JNB) and (2) I was advised to visit Jozi before going to Capetown because of the rich history there.  After visiting both Capetown & Jozi, I can see why I was advised to visit the latter first – here’s why.  Aside from it’s beauty and being the birthplace of anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela, South Africa is well-known for Apartheid – a system that separated people according to color and ethnicity (to read more about apartheid click here –> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apartheid).

It was in Jozi that I first learned about how apartheid impacted the indigenous people of ZA.  I visited the Apartheid Museum and the house of Mandela (I will elaborate on both excursions momentarily).  During my time in in this region, I learned firsthand about the devastating segregation system and was moved to tears.  Flying to Capetown after my time in Jozi really made apartheid hit home for me because I was able to see where native South Africans were displaced and relegated to live.  The Dutch and British moved into the country and took over without caring about the native people of this country – how sad!

Now, with that being said – Jozi wasn’t all sad.  I took in art, danced, enjoyed cocktails, visited shops, explored caves, and learned about some of the rich history of ZA.

Before venturing out to all of these fun places, I had to put my luggage somewhere right?  I called a certain area “home” for my brief time there…

Accommodations

Instead of staying in a hotel, my girlfriends and I decided to do the Air BnB thing.  It was my first time using it and I loved it!  Before I continue you, you may very well have zero idea what the hell I’m talmbout.  What’s an Air BnB (you may ask)?  Air BnB is basically a house/apartment/flat rental system.  The host (and owner/primary renter of the space) offers their living space to the visitor/renter/tourist for a fee.  The advantages (1) it’s often significantly cheaper than a hotel, (2) you’re given a lot more space than a single hotel room, and (3) it’s more of a homely feel (because you’re in someone’s home – duh).

The flat that my three girlfriends and I stayed in was located in the artsy suburb known as Melville.  This area is known for it’s famous hip strip, 7th street – a strip full of restaurants, quaint cafes, vintage/antique shops, and nightclubs.  I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and would highly recommend giving Air BnB a try during your next trip.

Outside view of the 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom flat that my friends and I stayed in
Outside view of the 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom flat that my friends and I stayed in
Pool. We didn't get a chance to indulge because the chilly evening weather didn't permit
Pool. We didn’t get a chance to indulge because the chilly evening weather didn’t permit

For additional information on this beautiful flat in Melville, click the link –> https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2284046?checkin=05%2F02%2F2015&checkout=05%2F08%2F2015&s=96-R

Weather

Little did I know that early May is the beginning of winter in South Africa.  Jozi days were hot enough to walk around in a cute summer dress and sandals (high 70’s to low 80’s), however, the minute the sun starts to set your ass gets hit with reality REAL QUICK.  Temperatures go from mid to upper 70’s (or even low 80’s) to low to mid 50’s (real quick).  Let this be lesson to you.  When you step out, be sure to carry a sweater or jacket with you to prepare for the shift in weather.

Getting Around

Initially my friends and I used the driver that our Air BnB suggested.  Come to find out, we were being over charged.  A friend of mine (also in Jozi at the time) suggested that I start using Uber, so I did.  Uber is an app that you download onto your smart phone that allows you to order a cab (typically a sedan).  Once you order, you are given your driver’s license plate number, his name, and his ETA to your destination.  It typically takes less than 5 minutes for a car to arrive to you.  The best part about it is all transactions are made through your credit card so there is no need to deal with cash.   My experience was very pleasant and I save so much cash!

5 Things to Do While in Jozi

There are so many “must do’s/see’s” here, but I only had a limited time to do/see them all.  Needless to say, I wasn’t able to visit every place on my list,  but in my 5 days/4 nights (arrived the evening of  Saturday, 5/2, and departing the morning of Wednesday 5/6) in Jozi my friends and I were able to squeeze in quite a bit.

(1) Arts On Main

My first full day in Jozi was all about the art!  My friends and I were told (by our host) to visit Arts on Main in the Maboneng section of Jozi.  This strip is known for it’s ecclectic art, cool vibes, funky people, drinks, and food.  Truth be told, I felt like I was at a day party in Brooklyn full of fashion forward, attractive, young and hip individuals.

Arts on Main is good for solo wandering, groups of friends, couples and the family.  When visiting, I’d say Saturday or Sunday are most ideal days because the vibes are mellow and relaxed.  No pretentiousness here – come as you are and have a good time taking in the sights, music, art, food, and drinks!

Where the cool kids go!
Where the cool kids go!
Local artist making a beaded rooster sculpture
Local artist making a beaded rooster sculpture
The popular (hopes & dreams) “Before I Die” mural on Arts on Main
Here I am crouched down ifo the wall - can you see some of the hopes & dreams written in chalk?  My two favorites were "Before I Die I want to - be a child of the revolution" (so powerful) and "Before I Die I want to - make love to a cow" (this can either be perceived as funny as shit or disturbing.  Either someone had a big sense of humor or an insane love for bestiality - yikes!)
Here I am crouched down ifo the wall – can you see some of the hopes & dreams written in chalk? My two favorites were “Before I Die I want to – be a child of the revolution” (so powerful) and “Before I Die I want to – make love to a cow” (this can either be perceived as funny as shit or disturbing. Either someone had a big sense of humor or an insane love for bestiality – yikes!)
 Fancy hairdo' on the strip. Look at the intricacy and ingenuity!
Fancy hairdo’ (she said she’d been wearing this for about two months) on the strip. Look at the intricacy and ingenuity!
We enjoyed this veggie platter (composed of various cheeses, avocado paste, pita bread, tomatoes, olives, and spring rolls) with our cocktails
We enjoyed this veggie platter (composed of various cheeses, avocado paste, pita bread, tomatoes, olives, and spring rolls) with our cocktails
Just about all of the cocktails are served with a cool and refreshing cucumber slice
Just about all of the cocktails are served with a cool and refreshing cucumber slice

(2) Cradle of Humankind Museum

Onto some of the more educational excursions that I enjoyed.  The Cradle of Humankind museum provides visitors with the history/origin of humankind.  South Africa is believe to be the region in which the first known human fossils were discovered.   One monumental thing that I learned in this museum is that Charles Darwin NEVER said that humans evolved from monkeys.  He stated that humans and monkeys shared a common ancestor.  Aside from that, I learned about human’s adaptability to nature, how we’ve matured over the years, and the possible future of humankind.

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Cradle of Humankind entrance, Maropeng

(3) Sterkfontein Caves

After visiting the Cradle of Humankind museum, you can have your driver (trust me, you’ll need a ride because the walk is on the far side) take you on a short ride to the Sterkfontein Caves.  Here, you walk several hundred feet below the earth’s surface, explore countless rock formations, and see where fossils of early humankind were discovered.  When visiting, I strongly advise wearing something comfortable (i.e. – loose fitting clothing and shoes with traction) unlike what I did – I was dressed for a leisurely stroll through the park, not an exploration in a damn cave – #FAIL!)

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Entering the caves...
Entering the caves…
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One of the formations in the cave (that looked like an elephant)
After exiting the cave, there is a statue of Dr. Robert Broom (one of the scientists that discovered human fossils in ZA) You can rub his hands for wisdom or his nose for luck - I chose wisdom
After exiting the cave, there is a statue of Dr. Robert Broom (one of the scientists that discovered human fossils in ZA) You can rub his hands for wisdom or his nose for luck – I chose wisdom

  (4) Mandela’s House

Mandela

“Soweto, welcome to soweto – ayyyyyyyyyyye”. I was rather excited to get to this part of Jozi because I knew that I would be in the not so touristy side of Johannesburg.  It was here that I saw some of the impoverished areas and had the privilege of stepping into the very first home that Nelson Mandela purchased.

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Front view of the Mandela House
Entering Mandela House
Entering  Mandela’s house
A very small and quaint living room. Inside there were various plaques and awards given to Mandela
The first room that you step in is the very small and quaint living room. Inside there were various plaques and awards given to Mandela
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“A partition was built here to divide the kitchen from the living room.  This was later replaced with a brick wall which served as a shield against police attacks.” – This was etched into the living room floor.
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Coal stove found in the kitchen area
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More memorabilia. Check out the shoes!
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Bedroom entrance – I felt most honored to step into this room
This great man slept on a twin-sized bed
This great man slept on a twin-sized bed
"No serious or responsible leader, gathering or organisation of the African people has ever accepted segregation, separation, or the partition of this country in any shape or form." - Mandela, 1959 - This was found on one of the back windows of Mandela's home.
“No serious or responsible leader, gathering or organisation of the African people has ever accepted segregation, separation, or the partition of this country in any shape or form.” – Mandela, 1959 – This was found on one of the back windows of Mandela’s home.

When you arrive at Mandela’s house, after paying, you have the option to walk through at your own leisure or having a tour guide escort you through and explain the significance of the house as well as interesting facts about Mandela’s life there.

(5) Apartheid Museum

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What is Apartheid? This sign is at the entrance of the museum. It is the last photo I was able to snap before walking in as cameras are not allowed inside
Apartheid Sign
Under the Apartheid Museum sign

The Apartheid Museum (on Gold Reef Road – across from a small amusement part including a big roller coaster) was my most anticipated excursion.  It is in this museum that visitors were able to see the effects of apartheid on South Africa.  I walked in with no expectations and was blown away.

You will be moved to tears after taking in the exhibit – viewing the pictures, seeing how the Dutch and British lived vs. how the indigenous people of ZA were forced to live, viewing the short videos of Mandela and other freedom fighters, viewing a short movie on the history of apartheid, and seeing videos and images of our brothers and sisters fighting for equality.  To ensure that you have ample time, I would advise a minimum of 2.5 hours for viewing this exhibit.

Entrance of the museum
Last photo op before entering the museum
After purchasing your ticket you are given an arbitrary computer generated race card. You are then to enter the museum according to your race
After purchasing your ticket (at the gate) you are given an arbitrary computer generated race card. You are then to enter the museum according to your race

Honorable Mentions

I wanted to visit Lion Park (http://www.lion-park.com/) – to walk with lions and cheetahs, as well as feed giraffes, but time wouldn’t let me be great.  If you get the time, try to squeeze this in.  I’ve heard it is an unforgettable experience from friends that have gone.

In addition to visiting animals, I wanted to take in the vast amount of street art that is all over Jozi – especially in Braamfontein.  Again, time didn’t permit.  I’d recommend you hit the streets with your camera and/or camera phone and take in some of the dope street art.

Summary

I guess that’s it.  When I wasn’t exploring, I was on 7th street grabbing a bite to eat or drink with friends or in my flat preparing for the following day’s adventure.

Visiting Jozi was such a beautiful way to start my time off in ZA.  I am pleased with the amount of time that I spent there because I feel like I was able to hit most of my “must sees” and wouldn’t have changed a thing – ok (I would’ve stayed for maybe one more day and I would’ve used Uber a lot sooner)

Although I didn’t touch on it earlier there is something else that came with me to Jozi.  It impacted me tremendously and I think it’s time I shed some light on what that “something was”.  Stay tuned, I will have full disclosure in my next post.  I promise you it’s the deepest, most heartfelt, and most vulnerable thing that I’ve EVER written about.

***

XO

~Pennie Penz

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3 thoughts on “UIB Travels: Johannesburg, ZA

  1. I’m intrigued to learn more about this “something…” As always, your posts give me life. You and this trip are actually my inspiration in deciding upon my summer travels. On another note, you’re a damn fool. I cracked up when you spoke about not having on the appropriate attire for the cave. Lml. Keep on traveling sistren and keep on writing! You have a way with words that paints the most beautiful and thought provoking pictures. #passportlife

    1. Stay tuned my dear friend, stay tuned. Awww, I appreciate your kind words – many thanks! You made me smile – I am flattered that my travels inspired your latest destination (you are going to LOVE it!!!). Pahahaha, girl yes, that was too real. I was dressed for a damn party, not for cave dwelling! Again, thanks sooo much my dear, I truly appreciate it! I look forward to following your travels as you inspire me!

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