I’m back in Joburg, recovering from jet lag. Since I had to leave for the U.S. in such a rush last month, I didn’t get the chance to share all the stories from my road trip around South Africa. So even though it’s technically old news, I hope you’ll enjoy this post about my recent visit to the magical village of Hogsback. A slightly edited version of the post appeared on TravelWrite.co.za – you’ll notice it has more of a travel-magazine-y feel than my other posts. Thanks to TravelWrite editor Caroline Hurry for coming up with this clever headline. ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ It’s a chilly morning in Hogsback. Joe and I just finished a pre-breakfast hike to a majestic waterfall at the top of a mountain. We’re hungry. We are the only customers in the quirky Butterfly Bistro, sitting at a cozy table next to a clay fireplace.
Joe and I woke up ridiculously early one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Joe had an idea for an outing but wouldn’t tell me what it was. He ushered me into the car and we headed up the M1 toward Pretoria. When I saw this granite monolith staring down at us, I realized Joe was taking me to the Voortrekker Monument. Die Voortrekkermonument. (It’s all one word in Afrikaans.) Voortrekker, which means ‘pioneer’, is pronounced ‘FOUR-trecker’, with a rolled R that I can’t replicate.
I moved to Joburg a year ago yesterday. Exactly 365 days ago at exactly this time, I was sitting in the sun on my new back porch, publishing my first post from South Africa. (Here’s that post, if you’re curious.) Sitting (and sleeping) on that porch has since become one of my favorite pastimes. Yesterday afternoon, catching a snooze. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
Pretoria, which sits just north of Joburg, is smaller and tamer than its neighbor to the south. Some Joburgers consider Pretoria to be a boring backwater, while many Pretorians see Joburg as a crowded, wild place that’s best avoided. (I grew up near Baltimore, Washington D.C.’s northern neighbor. A similar rivalry exists between those two cities.) Pretoria City Hall, one of many historic buildings in Pretoria. Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. Well, sort of. The country actually has three capitals: Pretoria, where the president is; Cape Town, where the Parliament is; and Bloemfontein, where the courts are. Sort of. South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, actually sits in Joburg. But Joburg isn’t one of the capitals. Go figure.
Periodically, “awards” (otherwise known as chain letters) circulate through the blogosphere. One blogger nominates another for, say, “The Most Fabulous Blogger” award. That blogger writes a post accepting the award, says a few witty things about how honored she is to be considered fabulous, then nominates a number of other bloggers for the same award. The nominees are “encouraged” to respond, usually with threats of low traffic and bad juju for those who abstain (all in good fun, of course). I’ve been nominated for such awards a couple of times, but never formally accepted my nominations. I certainly appreciated the recognition, but felt that my acceptance posts would be boring and incomprehensible to my non-blogging readers.
My fascination with Hillbrow — a former middle-class inner suburb that is now the toughest neighborhood in Joburg — began in February when I explored Hillbrow on a Joburg Photowalk. When I heard there would be another Hillbrow Photowalk this past weekend, exploring the grounds of the old Johannesburg General Hospital, I signed up, stat. Saturday afternoon in Hillbrow.
Welcome to the final blog post about my hike through the Kruger Park’s Pafuri Triangle: the mineral installment. Most of the facts in this post were gleaned from Brian, our Pafuri wilderness guide, and Wikipedia. If you’ve read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you know that the Pafuri Triangle is chock-full of majestic African wildlife and awe-inspiring trees. But Pafuri also has rocks. And water. And an amazing geological and archaeological history. Geology and archaeology aren’t my specialties, but this post is an excuse to show you some of my favorite pics from the trip that don’t feature animals or plants. Water is a mineral, right? Either way, I really like this picture.
A big thank you to travelgurus.co.za and Wilderness Adventures for making this blog post possible. Last weekend I visited Kruger National Park, the largest park in South Africa. This wasn’t just any old Kruger safari, either. I went to the remotest and most beautiful section of the park — the Pafuri Triangle. A view of the Limpopo River, just before my plane landed at Pafuri Camp. The Pafuri Triangle is in the far northern corner of the Kruger Park, wedged between the Limpopo and Luvuvu Rivers and the borders of Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Yeoville, much like Hillbrow and other inner-city suburbs in Jozi, has transformed over the last three decades. Once an artsy, mixed-race (but primarily white) neighborhood, similar to Melville, Yeoville is now a chaotic, pan-African cocktail-shaker. (I almost said “melting pot” but that’s too cliché for words.) Most of Yeoville‘s residential buildings are crumbling and occupied by squatters. The main drag, Raleigh St., is crammed with pedestrians, loiterers, tiny shops, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving home-cooked dishes from across the continent. Yeoville is noisy, dirty, colorful, and a little dangerous. In other words, my kind of place.
I still remember my first taste of Indian food — chicken tikka masala from the Bombay Peacock Grill in Columbia, Maryland, sometime in the late 1990s. It was love at first bite. Years later, my passion for Indian cuisine soared when I spent two weeks volunteering in Chennai, India. I got terribly sick halfway through the trip, but an upset stomach couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for eating curry, briyani, and chapati at every opportunity. I hit the jackpot when I moved to South Africa. There are well over a million ethnic Indians here; Indian food, clothing, and culture pervade society. Since most South African Indians come from families that have been here for many generations, a specialized South African Indian cuisine has developed that you can’t find anywhere else.
Johannesburg is a new city by human standards, having been founded 125 years ago in 1886. But just a short drive from Joburg lie the remains of some of the oldest human descendants on earth. The Cradle of Humankind, 20 kilometers from town, is a 47,000-hectare World Heritage Site that produced the first adult australopithecine fossil, “Mrs. Ples,” discovered in 1947. Mrs. Ples is believed to be between 2.8 and 2.6 million years old. To date, more than 850 hominid fossils have been discovered in a series of dolomitic limestone caves scattered throughout the Cradle.
A few months ago, I promised to write periodic posts about Melville guesthouses, restaurants, and shops. I’ve strayed from that commitment — the majority of my posts these days are about the Joburg city centre or more far-flung places outside of town. So today I’m getting back to my roots. Melville is one of Joburg’s wackiest neighborhoods; it straddles a divide between tree-lined suburbia and urban grittiness. Melville is constantly changing — there are always quirky new places to visit, along with well-loved old standbys. I’m not a Melville tourist, but I’ve just spent a few days wandering around pretending I am. Here is a recommended itinerary for a one-day visit to the place I call home in Jozi.