Another Stunning View of Jozi

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record. But this city has an unbelievable number of striking vantage points. Yesterday I visited another one and I think it was the best view I’ve seen yet.

I was on a drive around town with a few members of the Joburg Photowalkers. This wasn’t a photowalk; it was a scouting expedition for a photowalk planned for later this week. I’ll explain about that in a future post. But for the purposes of this post, all you need to know is that we drove to the top of a big hill in Yeoville yesterday and parked on Highlands St., across from an apartment block called Westminister Mansions. We got out of the car and saw this:

Downtown Joburg seen from Highlands St., on the border of Yeoville and Bertrams. 

This hill has a few different claims to fame. First, there are two big water towers up there — one old one and one new one.

The old water tower, built in 1913.

The new water tower. I can’t figure out when it was built. I only know this it’s newer (and less exciting-looking) than the old water tower. Perhaps someone can fill me in.

Second, the grassy area below the water towers is a popular meeting place for Zionist Christians, who go up there to pray on weekends. There were a fair number of Zionists there yesterday afternoon — you’ll see them dressed in white in the foreground of some of these photos.

Third, of course, is the view.

The building in the center is Ponte City. Ponte has a very interesting history, which you can read about here. At 54 stories it’s the tallest residential building in Africa, and it appears even taller in these photos because it’s so close to Yeoville. The Carlton Centre, the tallest building in Africa, is on the far left of this frame and appears much smaller than it actually is.

This hill tells a very succinct Joburg story. You’ve got the two water towers, each telling its own story of a bygone era. You’ve got the attractive Westminister Mansions, which appear to be recently refurbished and occupied by a diverse mix of residents.

Westminister Mansions.

The only other building on the hill, right next to Westminister Mansions, is a burned-out shell of a house. This building, which is no more than a few cement slabs and a staircase, is occupied by squatters.

The first floor of the cement shell.

From atop the cement shell, you see this.

No explanation required.

When we first arrived, I barreled up the stairs of the cement shell, paying little attention to my surroundings. I was too excited about the view that I was about to see above. Everyone else did the same. We hung out on that cement slab in the sky, shooting photos and enjoying the sun. Yesterday was an exceptionally beautiful day, even for Joburg.

Mark Straw — the leader of yesterday’s expedition, who fought a brave battle with his GPS to get us to the top of Highlands St. — shoots the view to the southeast (I think). 

 Silly self-portrait.

Later on, when  I went back down the stairs and started looking around, I noticed the squatters. There were a few mattresses and piles of blankets and belongings scattered about. At first I thought no one was there. But when I looked carefully, I saw a couple of the blankets move. There were people underneath, for sure. I never actually saw them.

This is Jozi.

A photowalker enjoys the view from above.

We hung around for quite a while, listening to the Zionists singing and praying. Their songs and prayers mixed with sounds of vuvuzelas and shouts wafting up to us from all over the city. The Pirates played the Kaiser Chiefs yesterday in the Soweto Derby — the biggest local soccer match of the year. Pretty much everyone in town was watching or listening, except for the Zionists, the sleeping squatters, and our little group of photowalkers.

Mark, I just want to reiterate that you are awesome. Thank you for taking us to this awesome place. You’ve stunned me, yet again.

If you’d like to check out this view for yourself, here’s a map. Don’t go alone.

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  • Reply Shahil March 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Im still in awe of the view. As always the pics really don’t do it justice. I really felt something amazing just staring across the city from there. Do have a great panorama though – will upload it to Facebook later.

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Cool, can’t wait to see it. Great meeting you yesterday!

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough March 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    God, the photos are amazing, Heather. What a view! Looks like a gorgeous day, as well.

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks, Kathy. Have a good Sunday.

  • Reply Howlin' Mad Heather March 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Now that is a blue sky. Stunning photos!

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      I know, the sky here is ridiculously blue. Especially the day after it rains, and we had two days of rain leading up to yesterday.

  • Reply Katie Chapman March 18, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    What beautiful pictures! They look great!

  • Reply Charles Visser (Chuckv) March 18, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I love it that you love Jozi as much as I do.

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Well, thank you Chuck. I’m glad you feel that way.

  • Reply Grahame Hall March 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Amazing pics Heather, and beautifully written, too! Great post!

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks Grahame. Nice to see you yesterday.

  • Reply shannonwalbran March 18, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    What a great view! We’ll be sure to check it out.
    Have you see Hermann Niebuhr’s show at the Everard Read Gallery in Rosebank, of Joburg skylines? It’s featured today in The Independent newspaper. You might like it.

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Hi Shannon, funny you should ask that. Mark, the guy pictured in my blog, showed me a book of Hermann Niebuhr’s work yesterday. Gorgeous! I’m definitely planning to check out the exhibit.

      • Reply shannonwalbran March 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm

        Oh, good. It’s up til the 7th of April. I know because, um, I’m his wife 🙂

        • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 5:50 pm

          Hahaha. Thanks for owning up. You must be very proud 🙂

  • Reply Joburg Photowalkers (@JhbPhotowalkers) March 18, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    A stunning post Heather. I would have got us there first time if I hadn’t turned up that wrong street from Ellis Park side – I tend to see so much more when I get lost and try to get lost at least once every trip 🙂

    The newer Yeoville Ridge tower is identical in construction as the one up Northcliff Ridge, which was built by Johannesburg Water in 1939 and suspect it must have been built at around the same time.

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks Mark. I was actually thinking it looked just like the Northcliff Tower and must be about the same age.

  • Reply Lilly Loompa March 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Wow…that’s all I can say! Stunning views of my new beloved city…hoping to check it out soon!

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Definitely get up there if you can — it’s amazing. Better than the photos.

  • Reply Jeroen March 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Never made it up there, though the Parktown association Art Deco / Yeoville walk took us near the old water tower. Must come back…

    That one photo has more highpoints than you think:
    Ponte City – tallest residential building in Africa
    Carlton Centre – the tallest office building in Africa
    Hillbrow tower – the tallest (concrete) tower in Africa
    (Several higher chimneys and masts elsewhere on the continent spoil it for Joburg.)

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Yes, I was thinking to myself that Hillbrow Tower is also the tallest of something. I was just too lazy to look it up and my caption was getting too long.

      Hope all is well in Berlin!

      • Reply Shahil Juggernath March 18, 2012 at 10:14 pm

        South Africa does have the tallest chimneys on the continent out in Witbank actually. I was going to go up one of them but we couldn’t do it that day sadly. I did blog about it in 2008 >

  • Reply Emily Cannell March 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Love that last photo Heather. Both of those water tanks are cool. Never seen any worth taking a picture of myself!

    • Reply 2summers March 19, 2012 at 9:20 am

      Blogging makes you photograph weird stuff 🙂

  • Reply neuroticgoddess1 March 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Love it! Stunning pics 🙂

  • Reply taxslave March 19, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Ye olde water has a Brighton feel to it:)

    • Reply 2summers March 20, 2012 at 11:47 am

      I went to Brighton on a day trip once, many many years ago. But I can’t remember the water towers 🙂

  • Reply Marius January 16, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    According to a 1958 photograph of old Ellis Park rugby stadium taken from the South, the concrete water tower was already there. Quite a landmark in those days!

    • Reply 2summers January 19, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks, Marius. I wrote this post three years ago but this is still one of my favorite places to go in Joburg. I appreciate the comment 🙂

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