Day tour in Jo’burg – Soweto, Apartheid museum and more
Johannesburg Travel Blog› entry 2 of 25 › view all entries
When first planning our arrival in Africa we had always made sure we had a few days up our sleeve before the Intrepid tour began, so now it was just a case of figuring out what to do with them J
While sitting around the braii fire in our dazed state the previous evening, the lodge owner Christina had described a day tour we could do that took in Soweto and the Apartheid museum, and I knew friends had always described a trip to Soweto as a very worthwhile, if confronting, thing to do.
So this had all been organised overnight and we were greeted in the morning by our incredibly friendly driver Zak. His friendliness and passion really took this tour leaps and bounds beyond what we’d expected so a big thanks to Zak!
The initial stages of the tour saw us drive out between these big piles of dirt that Zak referred to as ‘mine-dumps’. Apparently this big piles were the dirt that had been taken out of gold mines when this area was dominated by gold mining. Now there were going to the trouble of reprocessing this dirt to try to get everything they could out of it, they really want some gold don’t they!
After not too long we saw the ‘Welcome to Soweto’ sign and had our first glimpses of the extent of the poverty, just rows and rows of tin shacks as far as the eye can see, with either no electricity or cables strung up to get electricity from one point in the camp.
Zak had some fascinating stories though, indicating that the presence of some of the suburban houses could be explained by the choice people had made, having managed to get away from Soweto, they then decided to come back because they missed the sense of community spirit. He indicated that one of the religions common around here involved ancestor ceremonies and an occasional animal sacrifice. He said that people knew that in Soweto they could do this and people would understand.
Next Zak took us to an area of Soweto where we were essentially in amongst the shacks. Admittedly it seems strange, and not quite right, to be treating this area where people live as a tourist attraction however the guides stressed that this was being encouraged as it provided a source of income that would help the people.
We certainly felt that we had been given a real experience seeing Soweto, but we piled back in to the van and headed on to the Hector Pietersen memorial At age 13, Hector Pieterson, was one of the first students to be killed during the 1976 Student Uprising in Soweto.
Following this it was on to the Regina Mundu church. Apparently protesting students were fired at by police on their way to Orlando Stadium in 1976, which is when Hector Pietersen (and many others were killed). They went for sanctuary in Regina Mundi church, but then police stormed the church, firing live ammunition and injuring many. The broken marble alter, the bullet holes in the ceilings and the damaged figure of Christ all show signs of the lack of restraint shown by police that day. On a lighter note, the guide also stopped at the front of the church asking one of the girls on the tour to step forward on the stairs to this particular spot, at which point he told her “you’ve just walked in Mandela’s footsteps” J He actually referred to him as Madiba, the name commonly used for Mandela in South Africa, and described some old footage of Mandela basically doing a ‘chicken dance’ which has come to be known as the “Madiba shuffle” J We were quite taken by a few of the souvenirs (or curios) available here so we bought a great tiled mosaic photo frame, and Laura bought a Zulu coloured bracelet (which we decided must have anti-malarial properties)
We felt like we’d already seen quite a lot but the afternoon was young and we were dropped at the Apartheid museum to spend a few hours.
The tour was finishing up, the last stop wasn’t really a stop at all, but rather a slow drive through the centre of Jo’burg (since you don’t really want to get out and walk on your own). Apparently, if something is looking suspicious it’s not unheard of to keep your car rolling as you approach a red light, and just run through it if you think things are too dodgy!
On the drive back from the tour we met Mark, a doctor from Dunedin in New Zealand, who had worked in Zambia for around 3 months.
Back at camp we met the always busy Lodge manager Terry and had our first taste of delicious potjie (pronounced Poykey) for dinner.