Second in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. Have you ever gone to a place where you feel like an alien, even though you’re surrounded by fellow human beings? This is how Ang and I felt at the Rock Raceway. We journeyed out to the Rock, which is in the East Rand town of Brakpan, to watch the SA National Hot Rod Championships. Ang was attending the race as part of a journalism project and I tagged along to take photos. Neither of us are “car people” and we’d never attended an auto-racing event before. I’ve done a lot of unusual things around Joburg but this felt more unusual than average. Brakpan feels like a remote, foreign place to me. It’s far from downtown Joburg in an area my boyfriend (who comes from the East Rand) calls “Deep East”. A sign welcomes fans to the Rock Raceway. The raceway is located on a barren, scrubby piece of land with nothing much around it. Nearly everyone attending the event was Afrikaans; I hardly heard a word of English, which made me feel like more of a foreigner than usual. Cars cruising around […]
There I was, minding my own business at a red robot (robot means “traffic light” in South African). Suddenly — crash! — a sickening crunch from behind, and I sat helplessly as my car slid into the Jaguar in front of me. Car accident. Aaaarrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh. My beloved little car, Henrike, with a very sad dent. The guy who hit me probably sustained the worst damage, although he was able to drive away and I wasn’t. Incidentally, the front of my car had no damage and Jaguar guy’s car had only a tiny scratch. I collected myself and got out of the car. Jaguar Guy was already berating Nissan Guy. “Really, boet?” said Jaguar Guy to Nissan Guy. (Boet means “dude” in South African.) “Do you have insurance?” Nissan Guy looked sheepish and shook his head. And thus began my journey through the maze of South African car insurance and auto body repair. Things I Learned When I Had a Car Accident Although I’d had a couple of minor dings before, this was my first time dealing with a multi-car accident and South African car insurance. I learned a few things that I think are worth passing on. 1. Don’t expect the police to show up. Cops […]
If you read 2Summers regularly, you know I have transport issues. I’ve been living in car-centric Joburg for two years and have never owned a car. I get around by walking, cycling, begging rides, and borrowing cars from friends. When I get really desperate, I call Rent-a-Wreck. Rent-a-Wreck is exactly what is sounds like: a place where you can rent old cars for cheap. I’ve written about Rent-a-Wreck before so I won’t go into detail. I’m one of Rent-a-Wreck’s best customers. I’ve got a new (old) Wreck this week — a fire-engine-red Ford Laser. Let’s call him Flash. Meet Flash. For some reason, Rent-a-Wrecks look nicer in photos than they do in real life. Flash’s interior light is broken. His radio barely works. He takes several tries to start in the morning. In other words, Flash is pretty much the same as all the other Wrecks I’ve rented. Except for one notable difference. Flash is a MANUAL. That’s a stick-shift to you Americans. You Americans might not be aware of this, but the rest of the world still drives manual. In South Africa, automatic-transmission cars are nearly impossible to come by. People often look at me as if I have two […]
Life is hard for a Jozi car. Parking spaces are small here. Street lanes are narrow and sometimes unpaved. Potholes are ubiquitous. Road rage rules. Cars share the road with minibus taxis – mighty behemoths with inconsiderate drivers, which hem cars in from all sides. Jozi summers bring heavy rain and hail; winters bring dust and pollution. Fortunately Jozi has the Car Spa, a sparkling oasis for downtrodden cars (and their owners). The Car Spa.
I put it off for as long as I could. I let my boyfriend chauffeur me everywhere, even though it didn’t feel right. I bought a bicycle. I called taxis. I accepted rides from friends. I walked. Sometimes, when I really wanted to go somewhere, I just stayed home instead and pretended it didn’t bother me. If you want to be independent in Joburg, you have to drive. And I had developed a serious Joburg-driving phobia.