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My Post-Apatheid Visit To South Africa- You Should Go Too

Welcome to my blog number 2 and this is a sequel to my previous tittled “Seeking a Vacation Location? Beware of Johannesburg” I promised to do a summary about the beautiful side to South Africa. Let me start with a little confession. When Nelson Mandela was ill and finally passed a few months ago, and there such a media buzz, although I knew who he was, I didn’t care as much as I should. In fact at some point when people kept rumoring about his death, I was fed up, enough already and just wanted to hear something else.  Now that I am a few months older and “centuries” wiser, I can certainly relate to what makes South Africa stand out. Please take some time to Journey with me to the Rainbow nation and partake in my newly acquired wisdom. Hahahaha.

Cape Town:

Also known as the mother city, is super-lovely. Surrounded by hills, mountains and water, the locals are mostly proud of the table mountain which they consider to be one of the wonders of the world.

DSC00251A visit to the CBD/downtown district summarizes the last 500years. You will see the judiciary and high courts where the racial classification was being held. Several tests were carried out to determine what race one belonged to either white, colored, black, and the most amusing is the honorary white race-this is for people who although do not have white features, say Asians, possess certain powers/connections that were useful to the white masters of the time. This category enables these non-white people to enjoy the privileges that would otherwise belong to the whites alone.

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Within the same vicinity is the Grand parade, remarkable for having held 250,000 people in 1990, when Nelson Mandela gave his first speech after 27 years in prison which he centered on forgiveness.. It is said that majority of the whites locked themselves up in fear as the crowd seemed dangerous and intimidating. The end of apartheid did more than just liberate blacks from bondage but also whites were liberated from fear.

Castle of good hope the oldest surviving building in SA housed the Dutch soldiers and according to stories, it suffered attacks from the Cape mountain lions who predated on most of the soldiers. The Dutch were successful in extincting this species of lions.

The Waterfront district is a must-visit. Located not far from green point, it offers a very impressive shopping mall and ferries to Robben Island amongst others. Actually I took a boat cruise and just a few meters from the shore, I could see penguins, dolphins, seals, and even a few whales all doing their normal activities. They were close and so many that I could have held them in my hands if that were my goal.

Talking about animals, Capetown has the boldest animals in Africa.  I saw several Baboons on my way to Cape Point, standing by the roadside looking on our bus. They are notorious for grabbing foods from people and you don’t want to fight back normally because they might harm you. Also the squirrels in the historic garden in CBD are known for climbing on people in order to collect food as well.

For the hipsters or hipster-wanna-be, Kloof street, that’s where I stayed, boasts of a billion (hyperbole, lol) young European tourists and you will be making friends even before you realize it. Long Street which is an extension of Kloof Street has a wonderful night life and Green Point also has several classy and affordable accommodation and entertainment.

Wine/Beer tasting is also one of the big cultures of the people of this region since wine farming is a major occupation here. Shark-diving for the bold and don’t forget the beaches as well including Camps Bay which is also considered an up-market beach.

Actually the whole of Cape Town will appeal more to you if you tend to like fancy stuff.

Johannesburg:

I tell you, if there were no crime in Johannesburg, it would be such a great and fun-filled place to live in. Such exciting places as the Apartheid Museum an architectural consortium depicting the rise and fall of apartheid and presenting Mandela as a leader, comrade, negotiator, prisoner and statesman. A visit is fundamental for all Joburg tourists.DSC00215

Next to the museum is Gold Reef City Casino. Actually on the other side of town is another World class casino MonteCasino that attracts over 9million visitors annually I found it’s  fake sky concept to be very phenomenal. Its Sandton location is also famous for Sandton City mall, one of the most prestigious western-style shopping centers in Africa and also adjoins the Nelson Mandela Square. Also Melrose is a developing high end suburb of Joburg.

There is a lot more to see in Jobrug including the zoo, fourth venue Parkhurst and 7th street Melville for nice restaurants and bars.

Newtown Precinct:

Although Newtown is situated in Johannesburg’s inner city, I decided to give it a segment of its own because to me, it could represent a mini-Johannesburg.

The precinct offers a cheaper alternative for people who do not wish to spend much cash-Museum Africa which has no entrance fee is well outfitted similar to other standard museums and tells the apartheid story as well as, if not better than the apartheid museum itself.DSC00148

Housed in the same Victorian-style building is the Market theatre where several performances are held year round.

Across the street is a historic workers’ museum/library. This used to be a hostel for black immigrant workers who worked in the mines and has been preserved as a tourist attraction. Admission is also free.

If you are looking for something for the kids, then visit the Sci-bono discovery Center. A fun science museum that has lots of cool scientific stuff and games that appeal to both kids and grown-ups alike. Thirty-five rands will get you in there ( as of August/Sep 2014).

So-We-To:

In South Western Townships, the most exciting place is Mandela’s house on Vilakasi Street which has been preserved almost in its original form for tourists.DSC00089

I also visited the Hector Pieterson Museum which remembers the students who lost their lives in 1976 while protesting against the mandate that every pupil to be taught certain subjects in Afrikaans. Hector was only 12 or 13 years old.DSC00192

I must conclude by saying that South Africa has a very rich cultural heritage, history, characteristic uniqueness and beauty compared to other African nations and sensational relaxing scenery that tourists usually enjoy. The temperate African nation has cashed in on its troubled past and has become for all, the rainbow nation indeed. Until my next blog, Nkosi sikeleli Africa.

Author

Ogo Le Roi.

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SEEKING A VACATION LOCATION? BEWARE OF JOHANNESBURG

When I was leaving Boston on Aug 21, 2014 en route to Johannesburg, I was very convinced that I would have wonderful stories to tell about my adventures both in both Joburg and Cape Town. Who gets three weeks off? Oh my God, it was my plan to rub it in, any chance I had, that I was having a straight 3-week vacation. And of course, when I arrived Friday night, the first thing that caught my attention was the steering wheels were in the right(ie South Africa drives on the left). I did not expect to see any differently than the driving system that I was used to and yes, I was going to make a Facebook roar out of it.

Oh well, it seemed like I was looking for exciting stuff to talk about. You know, cool stuff that people brag about when on vacation. However, the next day during my first outing, I already got a big story, beyond and nothing like what I wished for. Literarily the first time I left the apartment. Oh my horrible experience!

It all started when I asked my childhood friend and host, that I wanted to take a walk around to buy a few stuff. And immediately before leaving the house, he warned, “drop your wallet; take only what you absolutely need.” Well, I needed my debit cards so I took those along with me and of course my cell phone.

A few steps away, he warned that the outline of my phone was visible from my sweat pants and at this point, I was beginning to find it all ridiculous. I asked how bad the crime situation was and he said he had been mugged twice in 2 years. First in Cape Town by 5 teenagers, a story which I found really amusing and the second time, he was robbed by a guy in Johannesburg who he was trying to get directions from because he heard him talk in his native language.

Well, we walked to the mall, grabbed an early dinner, withdrew a little cash, went to a nearby pub and hung out a bit and left for home at about 9.00PM. Right before leaving, a text came into my phone from my mom asking how my first day was going but I was too scared to have my phone out for long enough to compose a reply, so I decided to hold off till I got home. Now this was in Melville area of town which is regarded to be pretty busy and safe.

As we were just a few blocks from home and it was only 9PM, we decided to walk back. Unfortunately, it happened so fast. Two men alighted from a parked car on a side street and started walking towards us. I quickly asked my host if there was any need to be concerned as I could tell that he too was troubled by the appearance of the 2 men. Well, before we could figure it all out, the hoodlums were upon us.   They pulled out their daggers and quickly started demanding that we gave them everything.  As for me, I had absolutely nothing since I had given my phone and ATM cards to my host for safe keeping in his jeans as opposed to my sweat pants’ pocket. The hoodlum who was working me found it unbelievable that I had nothing. He kept cursing, asking me to strip.

I was robbed of my Cazal eye-wear, probably the most expensive accessory I ever purchased. So sad but I happen to always travel with spare glasses just as a backup as I cannot function without my glasses. He also took my Leatherman jacket, cardigan and my workout shoes which I had brought on this trip with the intention of working out hard in order to lose some pounds. Obviously, they just gave my lazy ass additional excuse not to exercise.

From my friend, they took both our phones- My Samsung Galaxy s5 which I never really liked anyway but of course I mourn the dollar amount for which it was bought barely 3 months ago. They also got away with the little cash on us, our ATM cards and the keys to our apartment.

After walking jacketless and barefooted in South African post-winter cold, we found the closest hotel from where I was able to call my banks to block my debit cards. I also contacted my network provider asking them to render my smart phone useless. The IMEI number was deleted and I was promised that the hoodlums will not be able to use the phone, ever (Well, that is if they do not have their other crooked ways).

Finally, I got my family & friends particularly my mom who had just texted minutes before the unfortunate event and surprisingly she was calm about it. All she said was to hop on the next available flight back to the States if I felt unsafe and my dad just asked if I had read the book, “Cry, The Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. Apparently, he was mom’s professor in College and had written about the situation in SA even back in the early twentieth century.

What a shame! This is the eighth country I’ve been to but the first with a bad experience. It is just my fifth day here but I have become so petrified to go outdoors even in broad daylight as I do not know who to trust. Since I do not trust even the cab drivers on the streets, I have had to constantly call up the infinitesimally few friends I know in Joburg to give me ride whenever I need to do outdoor stuff.  Hahahaha. Seems like the life of a celebrity but if this is what celebrities have to go through, then their lives must suck real bad.

But you know what? I have decided to put all of this behind me and act like the grown-ass man that I am. I am open to seeing the wonderful side to South Africa. That beautiful country whose praise the whole world sings, the sites that attracted me here in the first place, my planned trip to Cape Town and all that there is to be enjoyed.

Above all, I am so thankful that we were not hurt and most thankful that I have been finally motivated to write my first blog.

I promise that my next blog will be about the South Africa, not its horrors but its beauties.