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.
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).
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.