I published my first blog post on 26 June 2010, six weeks before I moved to Joburg. I didn’t have a plan for 2Summers back then. Almost no one read my blog. I didn’t publicize it or put photos in it. I didn’t read other blogs so I had nothing to model mine after. I didn’t even know what my blog would be about. I did know, however, that I was embarking on an extraordinary journey. I figured I should write about it.

And here I am, 28 months, 300 posts, and a few lifetimes later.

I could be profound and write deep, meaningful reflections and ruminations on this milestone. But that would be sort of lame. Instead I will show you a series of photos of my two favorite Johannesburg landmarks: Hillbrow Tower (also known as the Telkom Tower) and Ponte City.

View of the two towers from the grounds of Marymount Hospital (now an old age home) in Troyeville. Ponte City is on the left, Hillbrow Tower is on the right.

Hillbrow Tower is the tallest structure/tower in Africa, and Ponte City is the tallest residential building on the continent. The Carlton Centre, which is the tallest building in Africa (shorter than Hillbrow Tower but taller than Ponte), is also in Joburg. But the Carlton Centre doesn’t have the same visual gravitas as the Hillbrow Tower and Ponte. The Carlton Centre is on the other side of town, at a lower elevation. Hillbrow Tower and Ponte are both in Hillbrow, on higher ground and just a few blocks apart. These two buildings define the now-famous Jozi skyline.

Hillbrow Tower and Ponte, located in what many people consider to be the most dangerous neighborhood in Jozi, share a sad but interesting history. Hillbrow Tower, completed in 1971, used to be a popular Joburg tourist attraction. The top floors were open to the public and there was a revolving restaurant at the top. But the tower was closed in 1981 for security reasons and never opened again.

Hillbrow Tower and its surrounding highrises, seen from the streets of Troyeville. The Tower is owned by Telkom, the major telecommunications company in South Africa. That ugly pink ball at the top used to be a soccer ball, which was added to the tower for the 2010 World Cup. After the World Cup, Telkom painted the ball pink and turned the tower into an ad for 8•ta, Telkom’s mobile communications subsidiary. 

Ponte City, whose cylindrical design was groundbreaking when the highrise was built in 1975, used to be one of the most desirable places to live in Joburg. In the 1980s and 90s, Ponte was engulfed by crime. Gangs took over the building and Ponte’s open “core” filled with heaps of garbage, up to five stories high. (That’s the rumor at least.) There have been a couple of efforts to redevelop Ponte over the last few years, and I’ve seen photos of at least one renovated penthouse. But Ponte is still considered dodgy, mainly because of the neighborhood around it. I’ve been talking forever about getting into Ponte to check things out and take photos. Someday I’ll stop talking and actually do it.

Ponte through the trees. The top of Ponte is an ad for Vodacom, South Africa’s biggest mobile communications company.

Yesterday I took a walking tour of artists’ studios in Troyeville, which is just southeast of Hillbrow. (I’ll have more to say about the tour in a future post.) As I walked, I was struck by the many ways of seeing the two towers of Hillbrow. Troyeville is a sprawling neighborhood with varying elevations. The different vantage points provide a multitude of takes on this pair.

Hence, my 300th blog post was born.

All the photos were taken on yesterday’s walking tour.

Vertical shot of the two towers from Marymount Hospital.

View from the roof of the Troyeville Hotel. After our epic walk, I enjoyed a feast of grilled calamari and chips in the Troyeville Hotel restaurant. 

The two towers, seen from the garden of painter Rosemary Joynt.

This image is a little too busy. I love the story it tells though.

In the background, the two towers. In the foreground, a larger-than-life cement statue by Troyeville artist Winston Luthuli.

Wide-angle shot of a funky piece of public art on Bezuidenhout St. You can barely see the top of Hillbrow Tower behind another building.

In closing, a few meaningful reflections and ruminations. (I can’t resist.)

I didn’t have any special plans for my 300th post before yesterday afternoon. But then the Troyeville walk happened. Slowly, as the day wore on, an idea inserted itself into my brain. And then the idea consumed me.

In a way, this post is a metaphor for my entire blog, and for my whole life here in Joburg. I started it with no specific plan in mind, but gradually, almost without my noticing, it became purposeful and special. Life-changing, in fact.

My best “Two Towers” shot.

I’m grateful.

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