SOUTH AFRICA PART 1: JOHANNESBURG

After two years of sitting on it, I was finally in the frame of mind to finish writing about my trip to South Africa..from the beginning of 2017. After a tumultuous two years, I feel like I can finish what I started what seems like aeons ago now. First on the list is Johannesburg, South Africa. A bustling city with an out-sized personality.

GETTING THERE

The flight to the southernmost country on the continent of Africa was something of a headache; actually, an ass ache. An arduous, semi-bed-sore inducing endurance test fraught with initial mass turbulence. Even so, the test of will provided by a 12-hour flight to Doha, Qatar, a 7-hour layover, and then another 8-hour flight to Johannesburg can shake even the most experienced traveler. An aisle seat in coach is no way to experience this trip for someone who is 6’2” with a wide shoulders. As well-intentioned and hard-working flight attendants wandered to and fro, they bumped (and on one occasion, almost tackled) me in the middle of my sleeping process preventing necessary trip-shortening sleep (I will definitely consider a premium upgrade for another trip of that length). Thank goodness for a full slate of always entertaining Marvel movies to mitigate anxiety. Despite the discomfort, Qatar Airways’ staff provided impeccable customer service during both legs of the pilgrimage and on the way back. They were friendly, attentive, and apologetic throughout. In the end, the destination was well worth the journey.

JOHANNESBURG

Joburg they call it. A city with a massive square mileage that seems endless. It is a very urban, very densely populated city with all of the visually evident contrasts of poverty and wealth that one might expect. The first thing that struck me when I stepped off the plane in this part of the world was how it felt familiar, like home away from home. As the first city I’ve ever visited on the continent, that was comforting.

In one section of the city are pristine houses and lawns with guard stations at the entrances to gated communities. Not far away from the opulence were dilapidated housing complexes with doors and walls missing

LODGING

Our Airbnb was located within a gated Randesburg community. A gorgeous hamlet away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The house itself was situated on a hill with a guest villa, garage, and pool. It was relatively clean with an all white interior. The WiFi was terrible, there weren’t enough beds, and you need special plugs beyond the normal converters to use South African electrical outlets, but we were comfortable.

PILANESBURG SAFARI

While in Joburg, going on safari was a must. We made a two hour journey away from the city to the rural countryside town of Pilanesburg. While on the journey, a massive rain system came out of nowhere and caused a deluge. There were no sewers, so the rain accumulated rapidly to flood levels.

Apparently such things are common in that part of the country. At one point we thought we might have to abort the safari, but moments later the sun emerged, and the rain disappeared fairly quickly. After that, we had a lovely afternoon exploring the National Park. At first we didn’t see much, but after a while the wildlife emerged.

MANDELA HOUSE

Probably my favorite part of the trip to Johannesburg was visiting Nelson Mandela’s house, and meeting his sister (who is also his doppelganger). The sense of history that comes to you when you enter the small corner museum hits instantly.