“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…
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.
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
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.
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!
(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.
(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!)
(4) Mandela’s House
“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.
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
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.
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.
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.