South Africa metropolises are more western than a lot of European cities. It was not what I was looking for. Taking advantage of Africa is to sense the wild life. You can read it as kingdom of animals but not only. Wildness of human nature was even more astonishing; I found ghettos for non-white people in Soweto, suburbs of Johannesburg, really disturbing heritage of Apartheid era.
Mid November is late Autumn in Europe. In south hemisphere it is late Spring reach in afternoon’s heavy rains. Such a weather effectively stopped me from any sightseeing for first few late afternoons of my deployment in Sandton, business district next to Johannesburg. Last day of my stay however was different. I managed to jump around right before departing home. The weather also surprised me that day. Full sun and warmth paid off for the whole wet week. I decided to hire trusted guide, get a ride to Rhino and Lion reserve and Maropeng just 45 minutes away from Johannesburg (called Jo’burg or Jozi if you will), then back to Soweto slums, and at the end straight to the airport.
The small animals reserve could be only the foretaste of real safari. Far larger then zoo, yet noticeable small because surrounded by visible fence on horizon. Looking at variety of animals leaving in almost freedom is different experience. Especially if you are given a chance to play with small lion cubs size of large dogs. Fifteen minutes spent with these cute playful fluffy creatures was in fact best experience of that day. Half an hour later I could imagine myself being played in turn by adult version of these cats (unless you are lions whisperer from Jo’burg). It was thrilling to look at lions laying down along the road, paying no attention to your car passing them by in a distance of a meter or two.
Near to the reserve, I did half an hour stop at Maropeng, the cradle of humankind. I knew that our specie has roots in Africa but did not realize so close to my stay, call me ignorant even my excuse is I am techie. More archeology-oriented tourists can choose Sterkfontein caves visit tour, the place where MrPles skeleton was found. For families there is museum to understand importance of discoveries, full of reconstructions and young visitor attractions. I had to pay for my ignorance choosing the latter, and having fast-food like journey between gadgets for teenagers. Hopefully I recognized my pre-pre-pre…-decessor so it was not that lame.
On the way back I noticed snowy-looking mountain on the horizon. It was massive slag heap made up in process of gold mining. As you can easily google for, Johannesburg has its root in gold and diamonds mining. Driving south landscape of such heaps is overwhelming, if you imagine that this area has most reach gold reef in the world.
Finally I get to the “south west town”, which sources acronym to Soweto if you choose first two letters of each word. That place was set up by Apartheid to keep black people away from the main city. Today you can find there 3 million black people living theirs lifes in conditions not acceptable in modern civilizations. Standard varies from mid class and poor households to hard to describe slums. For most of them sanitary conditions are defying: outdoor toilets shared by many families and no current water. In most extreme, buildings were made up of curved metal sheets, stones and tires keeping roof in place. Disturbing in all aspects, Soweto was a place where shots to “District 9” SF-movie has been made. More real however was the fight for equality with the iconic person Nelson Mandela. I could sense not that past history visiting tiniest museum I have been to, the house of Mandela, no more than 40 square meters.
Small accent of my homeland in Soweto is the stained glass gift from Jolanta Kwasniewska, first lady of president in late 90’s, to the Regina Mundi church in Soweto, the place of violence of police against students supporting upraise.
I hope next time I will land either more to south-east and see the Cape Town, the pearl of South Africa, or I will have more time to reach Kruger park and have real safari.