Right now, we aren’t free to travel as per our wish but we can definitely enjoy some virtual travels from the comforts of our couches. As a content creator, reminiscing about my past travels and contributing to arm chair tourism has been my safest bet in this pandemic. I feel I owe to this industry and thus I must not stop writing about travel. So today, I talk about how I spent my 7 weekends in Johannesburg. Four years ago, I got a chance to travel to South Africa during this time of the year. I did not go there for a week or two but for more than a month as my husband was working on a project in Jozi and I could join him. With food and accommodation being sorted, I knew I could manage the rest. And clearly it turned out to be better. I remember that I had loved the experience so much that I had even extended my trip from 5 to 7 weeks, because there was lots to see and explore and we could only head out on the weekends. Yes, it did turn out to be an epic trip and some of my best road trips did happen in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The 7 Weekends in Johannesburg were used very wisely!
1. WILDLIFE -Lets go for it!
There are no ifs and buts when it comes to game drive or Safari. South Africa and wilderness are synonymous, rather incomplete without each other. Driving through the national parks, keeping a close watch on the bushes, picturesque landscape, sudden appearance of animals and a whole new perspective on wildlife is something that you will love to do when you are in South Africa.
I had my first experience of real wildlife in South Africa, in Johannesburg. The Lion Park, the Montecasino Bird Gardens, the Jozi Zoo are great for day visits but the real feel set in only when you go in a real jungle. The game drives in the South African National Parks are a must-do.
Only 3 hours away from Johannesburg aka Jozi, Pilanesberg National Park should definitely not be missed. And of course, you must plan for Kruger too.
2. MAROPENG -Cradle of Humankind
If you are interested into exploring a cave as well as learning about fossils, you shouldn’t miss Cradle of Humankind in Johannesburg. It is one of the eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa. I had never done cave walking before and I totally loved the experience. It was thrilling to go 60 meters deep inside the earth to see the caves which were formed millions of years ago.
While you must spare a day for the cave and the museum because each of them have lots to offer. The Sterkfontein Caves alone boasts of remains of more than 500 hominids (the hominid family includes modern-day humans and their direct ancestors) that were uncovered here, lending credence to the ‘Out of Africa’ theory, which is that humans and their ancestors evolved in Africa first.’
3. HARTBEESPOORT – “Harties” definitely won my heart!!
Hartbeespoort, also called harties, is a small resort town in the North West Province of South Africa, situated on the slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain and the banks of the Hartbeespoort Dam. On one of the weekends, we decided to drive down here and it was a great experience. Some tourists as well as locals prefer to spend a night or two here.
The best part of this place is that it is extremely picturesque. There are quaint corners and you can just pick any and settle there for hours. You may also choose to do some adventure and camping activities as well. ‘Haartebeespoort’ town means “gateway of the hartbees” (a species of antelope) in Afrikaans.
4. ORLANDO TOWER, Vilakazi street, SOWETO
Ever since I knew I was going to Johannesburg, I had the urge to visit the artistic Orlando towers at Soweto. And of course, I had to go the Vilakazi Street in Soweto – one of the most unique streets in the world.
Vilakazi street in Soweto (a township of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality in Gauteng, South Africa ) is special because it has a rather unique distinction. It is the only street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners lived and were close neighbors. The two men had a very important role to play in the history of South Africa and they are His Excellency Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the most reverend Desmond Tutu. The street is very vibrant where one can visit Nelson Mandela’s house, meet Zulu tribes and be party to the local art and craft of Johannesburg.
Below is the picture of one of the twin towers. Originally, they were cooling towers for the Orlando Power Station but now they are the only one in the world where bungee jumping takes place between two cooling towers. And of course the wall art keeps changing.
This monument is unique in Gauteng. For all history lovers, this is the place to go. The Voortrekker is one of the most visited heritage sites in Tshwane and one of the popular tourist attractions in South Africa. As one drives towards Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, one can spot this colossal grey granite building from a distance.
It is built in the honor of the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) who did a great trek. The Voortrekkers were the backward people (Dutch speaking colonists) from the Cape colony who revolted against the British rule and demaned their own land. They did a great trek or migration. This great trek started in 1836 in southern Africa. Historical Frieze and the memorabilia in there is great to be inspired about the history of Africa.
6. MAHATMA GANDHI CONNECTION
Apart from India, if there is one place where you will find a lot of information about our ‘Father of the Nation‘ is South Africa, especially Johannesburg. Mr. Gandhi lived in many houses here but finally I did visit the Gandhi House too. But here I must share that there is information about him at the top of the Carlton Centre, the highest building in Johannesburg.
Gandhiji lived in Johannesburg from 1903 to 1914. He had a house in Albermarle Street. He was refused entry in the first lift at Victory House in Central Business District. He was enlightened with the ‘Philosophy of non-violence’ here. He fought for racial injustice in South Africa. He also served two terms in the Old Fort prison.
7. TURBINE ART FAIR
My trips are never complete without the art element. An while Johannesburg has great street art, I also had the privilege to cover ‘The Turbine Art Fair 2016’, one of South Africa’s most anticipated art events. Over 50 galleries from all over SA came together to showcase the best in African art. It was not only a great chance to learn about the work of some of the respected and emerging artists of the country but also experience and appreciate the artistic freedom of the country.
I am always thankful to Turbine Art Fair organizing committee for inviting me as part of media.
One thing that remained constant was that all the 7 weekends in Johannesburg were about road trips!
So this is how the ‘7 weekends in Johannesburg‘ turn out. I really hope you enjoyed learning about Jozi and if you have been there, do share some of your experiences. Even thought we cannot travel these days, arm chair travel and exchange of information should not stop.