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Published: November 11th 2015
So we had returned to Johannesburg. This time we were a little more apprehensive as we had left in such an interesting way. Again we arrived in the dark so didn't really get to see what the place was like.
We awoke the next morning and David and Beatrix took us into the city. They had a specific destination in mind and we weaved through the streets in what seemed to me a very complex route, to get there. As we got close to where we were going I noticed the streets had become a lot more run-down. There was much more graffiti on the walls, more posters for Penis Enlargements and Abortions (in Johannesburg they are printed in glorious technicolor, in contrast to Cape Town where they are in black), and more people begging at the side of the streets. We found a parking space and got out into the blazing heat wondering where we were being taken to. We were still wondering when we came to the dark entrance to an old warehouse.
Inside, as our eyes adjusted, we could see there were dozens of food stalls and throngs of people. The first stall I saw allayed
all my fears; it was the local pastry school selling their products. We were in the Maboneng area of the city at Arts on Main. This market takes place every weekend and has all different kinds of food to try. The atmosphere is laid-back and it has a really youthful vibe. Here David introduced me to his favourite brewery - finally demonstrating to me that South Africa CAN produce a good beer. We also had a roti with butter chicken and a small pizza between us. One of the more unusual things I tried was a gin and tonic lollipop - the theory is good but I wouldn't recommend it.
Upstairs there was an arts and crafts section. Here there were rails of clothes, leather products, jewellery, paintings and a line of photographic products called "I was shot in Johannesburg". The atmosphere up here was so chilled out it made downstairs seem frenetic. We had a great time at Arts on Main, it was definitely the highlight of the trip to Jo'burg.
Looking out of the window on the way home I got an understanding of what Johannesburg is like. Basically, it is urban sprawl... there are main
roads connecting shopping malls and between these are office blocks. It is quite homogenous, nothing really stands out. The architecture all looks like it was designed at the same time by the same uninspired architect. There is little attractive about the city, there is no focal point, no Central Business District, no historical quarter, nothing at all to differentiate it from any suburb on the edge of any city anywhere in the world. Also, it goes on forever. Look from any vantage point and there will be more Johannesburg as far as the eye can see.
We got home and relaxed throughout the afternoon. In the evening we wanted to have a braai. This meant we had to go and buy meat. Unfortunately, as we left the house I discovered what a prickly pear tree is. It looks innocuous enough, with pretty yellow flowers making it almost attractive. As I was opening the gate I just slightly backed into the one David has planted to prevent his wall being scaled. My skin itched instantly. For days afterwards I was finding hair-like spikes stuck into my back or trapped in my clothing. As well as the sharp hairs, a prickly
pear has large spikes but I was fortunate not to impale myself on one of these. The braai was a great opportunity to catch up in a relaxed way.
Next day we went to Pretoria, which will be the subject of my next blog. At the end of our time in Pretoria I started getting stomach cramps. I hardly slept that night as I had come down with an extreme bout of food poisoning. Whilst this was expected somewhere on our travels I certainly wasn't expecting Johannesburg to be the place which first struck me down. Lindsey and I spent the next day watching Pixar films as I had no ability to move. Sadly, this meant that we didn't get to go to the Cradle of Humankind or the Magaliesberg Mountains which was what we had planned to do that day.
We were quite glad to leave Johannesburg. Negotiating the car return at the airport was much easier than getting it in the firstplace. The airport isn't the best signed transport hub in the world and we went to the wrong terminal. By the time we discovered this we were running late for our flight. We got to
our gate and the staff were frantically telling us they were waiting for us. We rushed through and found our seats - really great seats with loads of leg room. The flight was comfortable and went quite quickly. We whiled away a good two hours watching Inside Out which I found absolutely delightful. Before we knew it we were emerging in the humidity of Hong Kong airport.
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