Last weekend I was invited to attend Honest Travel‘s inaugural “Organic Vegan Experience” tour in downtown Joburg. We met in the afternoon at the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow and meandered around town until nightfall, visiting various urban gardens and greenhouses. Then we enjoyed a vegan meal at a surprise location overlooking the city skyline.

It was idyllic — one of those Joburg summer days that gives me hope for the world again.

Windybrow theatre
The Windybrow Theatre, where Honest Travel is based, is one of Joburg’s most historic buildings. I just did a search and was shocked to discover I have never blogged about the Windybrow. Here’s a short history of the building (written in 2015) from the Heritage Portal. Follow the Windybrow on Facebook for updates on what’s happening there now.

We visited the Greenhouse in Joubert Park, another historic city landmark that I blogged about briefly in 2018. We headed to Berea and checked out a hydroponic garden a dozen floors above street level. We went to Victoria Yards, which has literally exploded into a giant edible forest over the past couple of years, and stopped to say hello to Mama Refiloe at the Bertrams Inner City Garden. Then we took a slow, glorious stroll up Appolonia Street in Troyeville, admiring interesting buildings and graffiti murals as the sun went down.

This was one of the most visually beautiful Joburg tours I’ve taken in a while, especially because it happened during the best light of the day/evening. Here are some of my favorite shots.

Zweli from the Greenhouse and his son Zulu
Zweli, the manager of the Greenhouse Project in Joubert Park, and his son Zulu. Although you can’t tell by looking at this particular section there are a multitude of urban farming projects happening in and around the Greenhouse: Vegetable-growing, beekeeping, biogas production, feeding schemes, etc.
Garden on O'Reilly Road, Berea
A modest guerrilla garden in front of Aintree Apartments on O’Reilly Road, Berea.
Spring onions growing on the rooftop of Coronioa Gardens in Berea
Hydroponic spring onions growing on the Coronia Gardens rooftop, also on O’Reilly Road.
Looking down from Coronia Gardens.
One of my rooftop playmates.
Sunflower at Victoria Yards
Sunflower at Victoria Yards. I also have never blogged properly about Victoria Yards (although I’ve referenced it many times, and here’s an article I wrote about it for Lonely Planet). I can’t believe how this complex has come alive — quite literally — over the past year or so.
Mama Refiloe at Bertrams Inner City Farm
You may remember Mama Refiloe from my previous post about Bertrams Inner City Farm. The vegetables have come a long way since I was last there in August.
View of the skyline from Ellis Park/Troyeville.
Building in Troyeville
I love this building at the corner of Albertina Sisulu and Appolonia Street.
Painted houses in Troyeville
I had been seeing pictures of these houses online for a few months but didn’t know where they were until now: Corner of Bellevue and Appolonia Street, Troyeville.

A Vegan Feast at Troyeville House

Our final destination was Troyeville House, yet another beautiful Victorian landmark, built in 1902. The house was once owned by Hollard, a South African insurance company, but it’s now a “changemakers’ residence” — a creative commune of sorts — where all kinds of interesting, creative people live and host activities.

Troyeville House
Troyeville House.

Nonhlanhla “Noni” Godole is one of the changemakers living at Troyeville House. Noni is a mostly vegan chef, a retired pharmacist, and a traditional healer, among other things.

Noni, vegan chef, in front of Troyeville House
Noni vegan chef
Noni also wins the prize for best dressed.

Noni prepared us a vegan feast foraged entirely from urban gardens and local markets around the city. She cooks by feel, asking the ancestors which ingredients belong in each dish as she goes along. The results are pretty astonishing.

Noni's vegan feast
Noni’s astonishing vegan feast.

I asked Noni to text me with a list of all the things she made. Here’s what she sent — her words are more evocative than mine could ever be:

I served Chai poached pear and plantain egusi. This dish is inspired by my love for West African dishes and I enjoy bringing in a healthy feel or even vegan side of this melon seed dish.

Amaranth and pumpkin leaf. Childhood memories, lightly cooked in oil garlic and herb seasoning and that’s it. I always want to keep that authentic taste and smell which reminds me of my great grandmother.

Mabele sorghum and black bean salad. Sorghum has become a massive part of my journey considering the role it plays in authentic southern African tradition, connecting me deep with my ancestors. It’s indigenous and amazingly good for you.

Then I went into wild Congo… The Yeoville Market is also my home. I buy most of my dried goods from out of the country, here I made a creamy black wild mushroom, baby potatoes cooked In coriander and fennel pesto.

Lastly,
I balanced things out with a tangy and spicy raw beet, raw green mango, red beans and a drizzle of olive oil and mint for garnish.

We started and ended the meal with locally made wine from Ebukhosini. I wish I could say more about this super interesting wine — made mostly from fruit other than grapes — and Ntombi Gama, the super interesting woman who makes it. But Ntombi’s story requires a full blog post so you’ll have to wait for that.

I loved this tour. Note that it requires quite a bit of riding around in a van with other people, which could be an issue for those concerned about social distancing. Please wear a mask.

Thanks so much to Honest Travel for hosting me on the tour. Follow Noni on Instagram at @nonis_homedish and @zulustarr.

Troyeville House bathroom selfie
A Troyeville House bathroom selfie, just because.
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