Around this time last year, I got an idea. In 2017, I would publish one blog post per week about a place in Joburg where I’d never been before. I mentioned the idea to a friend, who suggested I expand the project to all of Gauteng Province rather than just Joburg. And just like that, #Gauteng52 was born.
The nifty map I made of all my #Gauteng52 destinations. You can zoom in and click on the numbers to see the post I wrote about each place.
Some of my friends wondered why I would create such a significant challenge for myself for no particular reason. Others said there was no way I could find 52 interesting places I’d never been to before. I knew that wouldn’t be a problem, but in hindsight I’m also not sure why I decided to do this.
I’m so glad I did though, for a few reasons. First, #Gauteng52 gave me a sense of purpose during a year that turned out to be one of the toughest of my life. There were a few weeks when I was in total despair, and #Gauteng52 was the only thing pushing me to get out of bed and go do something. There were some weeks when I didn’t even feel like blogging, which had literally never happened to me before. But I had to keep going because of #Gauteng52.
Second, #Gauteng52 motivated me to finally visit some far-flung places in Gauteng that had been on my list for years — the Hennops hiking trail, for example, and Cullinan and the Marievale Bird Sanctuary.
Third, #Gauteng52 brought me new readers. I’ve met some of you at parties, during walking tours and on the street. Lots of you have told me you visited new places because of #Gauteng52. This makes me really happy.
#Gauteng52 in Review
I thought it would be fun to recap the year with a few #Gauteng52 facts and figures.
Over the course of this challenge I visited:
- 15 restaurants/bakeries/cafés;
- 6 parks/nature reserves;
- 4 art galleries/studios;
- 4 religious institutions;
- 4 towns/neighborhoods;
- 4 shops;
- 3 factories/showrooms;
- 3 museums;
- 2 printers;
- 2 farms;
- 1 racecourse, 1 swimming pool, 1 steam train, and 1 barbershop.
The geographic spread of #Gauteng52 came out more or less like this:
- 26 places in greater Johannesburg;
- 6 places in the far-flung Gauteng countryside;
- 5 places in the East Rand;
- 5 places in Joburg South;
- 4 places in Pretoria;
- 3 places in the West Rand;
- 1 place in Soweto, 1 place in Midrand, and 1 place in the Vaal.
My five most popular #Gauteng52 posts, according to the total number of page views, were:
This post received more than double the traffic of any other post I wrote this year. I think it found its way into a mysterious Fordsburg foodie vortex on Facebook.
My readers clearly love Basotho blankets as much as I do.
No surprise this one was popular — the Melrose Temple’s Kavady celebration is mind-blowing, and this post was shared widely within the Tamil community.
Raspberry-picking is apparently a wildly sought-after activity around here.
Because everyone loves a brand-new, kick-ass neighborhood coffeeshop.
Some of the other most popular #Gauteng52 places included the Little Sheep hot pot restaurant in Rivonia, the Marabastad neighborhood in Pretoria, Chocoloza in Milpark, and the Blue Door Studio in Richmond.
I’ve thought a lot about which #Gauteng52 posts were my own favorites but I’ve decided I can’t choose. I loved every one.
Where to From Here?
Some of you have asked what my next challenge will be. I’ve decided not to do another yearlong challenge like this in 2018. But I’m going to publish a series of overflow #Gauteng52 posts, covering places I didn’t manage to fit into the original 52-week series. I’ve also got some new, smaller series in mind.
I’ve also got plans to publish a #Gauteng52 book, and maybe even a #Gauteng52 exhibition in the first few months of 2018. Keep an eye out for updates.
Thanks so much to all of you for following along, and thanks to everyone who provided suggestions for places to visit. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Happy New Year.