South Africa
Cape Town to Port Elisabeth
Johannesburg and Kruger
March -April 2014
Part III - Johannesburg

If you want to skip directly to the other parts, then just hit
Part I -   Cape Town or
Part II -  Garden Route or
Part IV - Kruger National Park .


Johannesburg is not the capital of South Africa but only of the province of Gauteng with around 1 million inhabitants. However, the population of the greater metropolitan municipality is around 5 million. And it's a very young city. Founded in the year 1886. And why? Because gold was found. Look up the internet to learn more.

Arriving in Johannesburg

The plane was delayed. Instead of 2:30 p.m. I arrived at around 3:30 p.m. I called my hostel right away, which was the
Musafa Backpackers
21 Fourth Road
Benoni 1513
Tel.:+27 73 6003185,
and asked them to pick me up. I had made reservation by telephone three days before, not only for the accommodation but more for the " 4 Days Kruger National Park Safari". I have chosen this hostel, because you do not have to pay for two nights if you book a tour for at least three days. Actually, free two nights in a dormitory, which I didn't want. I asked for a double room for myself and I was lucky, because the lady, Juan, gave me that double for two nights for free. The four days tour I booked was also one of the cheapest for 387.00 Euro. More about it later on.

In addition, the pick-up from the airport was also free of charge. Only for the airport drop-off at the end of my stay I paid 20.00 Euro. Now I want to mention that after coming back from the safari I did pay 34.00 Euro per night for a double room ensuite, which was ok. The room with shared bathroom would have cost 25.00 Euro as shown on All accommodations included a simple breakfast with coffee, toast, butter, jam, corn flakes and milk. The place was nice in some kind of country style with a nice garden, a swimming pool, a Braii place and a bar, and a lot of dogs always trying to jump on your lap.

The only set-back was that this place was a little bit out of the way. The next shopping center was a mile away. That center was very small but with an ATM (Musafa only accepts cash). To walk there was safe, though, I was told. But Juan can bring you there with her car. Also, there was no restaurant close by. If there was no Braii scheduled then ordering a pizza from a catering service was the only choice, but it was very cheap. I had once a Braii and it did cost 4.00 Euro.

But if you want a lift to the nearest big shopping mall , which was the Lakeside Mall, then you had to pay 14.00 Euro for the round trip (pick-up after calling). So actually no problem to go anywhere.

There is also no problem to book a tour to many touristy places, except if there are not enough tourists to join. So I had the bad luck that I was the only one who wanted to go on a Johannesburg and Soweto tour the next day. But then I still was lucky that I "only" had to pay the price, as if there would have been another guy. And the price was still 60.00 Euro, but for the whole day.

And it was worth it. The driver and tour guide was a nice black guy who showed me the good but also the bad sides of Johannesburg while explaining the bad history (mostly bad for the blacks) but also the good and bad recent past and present, like the drive through Hillbrow, of which my guide announced as the area where only the fittest survives. He didn't say whether he meant the people who can just stand the miserable living condition or the people who are strong enough to fight, either way: To attack or run away.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

On the way to Hillbrow Out of Hillbrow later on
A street in Hillbrow with old buildings
Hillbrow was once a white neighborhood with nice buildings. When more and more black people moved in, the more white people moved out. And the nice buildings began to decay because of lacking maintenance. That already started during the eighties at a time when it was still Apartheid.

An article in the GEO magazine of the year 2002 was titled: "The last whites of Hillbrow". And these last very few whites were already old people, especially ladies, who couldn't afford to move away. They may have died out by now. As a matter of fact: I didn't see any white people while we were driving around there.

For many years it has been a no-go area for tourists, because it was too dangerous. It has a little bit improved according to my guide. He told me that walking in the streets may be ok during day light. This means a small upgrade to the level of the CBD (Central Business District) took place in the meantime, where the same applies, still.

Now have a look with me while we are cruising through the Hillbrow streets. Just for information: Campaigns were going on for the election on May 25th, 2014 (more about politics at the end of my report).
Whom will you vote for? Are they discussing politics?
Maybe we should vote for Helen Zille, the grand niece of Heinrich Zille If she would become president then she can better clean up the mess than the ANC
Nothing to do? Then please clean up the garbage He holds a key, but for what
What's on the board? Any new job offers?
Girls on the go. No Go for whites Couple on the go. No Go for whites
Pretty woman walking down the street Prostitute women sitting in the street
Next we visited the Constitution Hill and it was our first stop to get out of the car. This place is the most infamous historical and famous contemporary site in Johannesburg. First, it was a fort built by the Boers against the British. Then it was changed to a prison, where political activists, like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, were held.

Now this place has become the symbol of the new freedom after Apartheid had been abolished. Firstly with the newly built Constitutional Court, secondly with the stairwell remnants of the ATB (Awaiting Trial Block) as a haunting reminder and thirdly with the old prison as a memorial.
The entrance to the Constitutional Court Inside the Constitutional Court
Sculpture in front of the Constitutional Court (masters and slave?) The remnants of the stairwells of the ATB with a glass construction on top
Close up of a stairwell of the ATB Description about the ATB (Awaiting Trial Block)
The jail complex surrounded by a mound The jail of Nelson Mandela in the middle
Looking down to the jail administration One of the four watch towers
View from the prison tower to the east to Hillbrow with the Hillbrow Tower View to the south from another prison tower
After looking around and reading all the plaques I was trying to put myself into the plight of the accused and what they have endured. It seems, though, that Nelson Mandela was not so badly treated like Steve Biko, for example (did you see the movie "Cry Freedom" with Denzel Washington?).

When Nelson Mandela was finally released after 27 Years in prison he had no desire for revenge. Many blacks were against his reconciliation policy with the whites. But he prevailed and most South Africans admired him for that, even if he didn't meet their expectations when he became president. He is gone now and there is nobody available who has his personality to follow him. He will never be forgotten. Also because there are always reminders everywhere you go.
Nelson Mandela Bridge Nelson Mandela Billboard
After crossing the Nelson Mandela Bridge (over many railway tracks) we drove through the Central Business District (CBD), which was also a no-go area like Hillbrow. But things have changed a little to the better, but there is still a lot of little littering around. And walking in the streets during the night is still not recommended.
Drive through CBD Not much different from Hillbrow
In the good old days some of the hotels, like the Carlton, have seen many celebrity guests, like Michael Jackson, for example. But now the Carlton is still empty after it has been closed down twenty years ago, because of the crime-ridden area around. The adjacent Carlton Center with its "Top of Africa" has not been hit by the same fate. But still, it was a no-go for tourists for many years. Now, things have approved a bit, so that tourists are coming here, like me, to get on the 50th floor platform to enjoy the view over Johannesburg all around.
The famous Carlton Hotel from below Looking down to the Carlton Hotel from above
A beautiful view of Johannesburg from "Top of Africa" with the Carlton Center Mall at the bottom
Next stop was the Apartheid Museum. It's a must to see. Unfortunately it is not allowed to make photographs except of some displays at the entrance walk-up way. So I do not want to narrate anything without pictures. Look up the internet to learn all about it. If you want to know, who's Mrs. Ples then wait until the "Cradle of Human Kind".
At the entrance of the Apartheid Museum: A skull replica of Mrs. Ples and a stone age painting replica
After around 2 hours in the Apartheid Museum (actually not enough to see, read and hear all) we continued our tour to Soweto now while passing some sights like the stadium, where one of the Football World Champion matches took place.
Passing the stadium On the way to Soweto
We just entered Soweto when we came across the first real historic location where one of the worst incidents during Apartheid took place: The spot where Hector Pieterson was shot. He was not the only one. Several hundred teenagers were killed because they joined a march to protest against the introduction of Africaans (the language of the Boers) as a medium of instruction at all schools. Nobody expected that during such a peaceful demonstration, actually not jeopardizing the rule of the whites, the police would open fire. Read the following plaques to learn more about it.
The museum to commemorate the killing of Hector Pieterson
Here the pupils came up the road and the police started to shoot at them
Many souvenir and handicraft vendors settled down around the museum. But there was no other tourist around except me. It's no good business anymore, also because the competition of so many ones will reduce the share of profits from the few tourists anyway. I encountered this everywhere: The more touristy the spot, the more vendors selling the same stuff with the same price. They cannot get rich with that.
Waiting for tourists Business as usual
But there are many rich black people living in Soweto now. They have nice houses and cars in front in a better neighborhood than the squatters but sometimes very close to them. I will write more about the rich and how most became rich at the end of my report.
The road to the rich part of Soweto where Mandela lived many years ago
Mandela actually was not rich when he lived here in the sixties before he went to jail for 27 years. Anyway, it's not comparable with today. His house has been refurbished and has become a museum now (I didn't get in). But still, he must have had enough income from his job as a lawyer and a leading figure in the ANC. That Mr. Tutu as an archbishop had and still has enough money to build a house here is clear. No way to get in if you are not invited.
Mandela's family house is a museum now Mr. Tutu's house is not a museum, because he still lives there
The houses of the two Nobel Prize winners are in the Vilakazi Street in the wealthy part of Soweto, named Orlando West, or unofficially Beverly Hills. It was Sunday and many people filled the restaurants. It was lunchtime and we went to the famous Sakhumzi restaurant. The buffet did cost 9.50 Euro and the coke 1.90 Euro. That was comparatively expensive, maybe because of this wealthy place in Southwest-Township.
Folklore on Vilakazi Street in Soweto Waitress of the Sakhumzi in Soweto
Best restaurant in Soweto: the Sakhumzi Frequented by many affluent blacks
It was not easy to find a parking lot. There were too many cars. All new, mostly expensive cars, like Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Then we drove through "Beverly Hills" where many rich black people had a nice house in a nice neighborhood.
Blacks driving cars like that Blacks living in houses like that
Nice playgrounds for their children Shopping malls for the affluent parents
After the rich we did get now to the poor part of Soweto. I only could see the roofs of the shacks down below from the car because my guide didn't let me out to take a better look not to mention to walk down there. He probably didn't have friends there nor was he from there as was the case in other townships I have visited with a guide. Some people may think that this is no good to watch the poor people living in such a misery to make you feel better. I think it is just the opposite.
Here are still living the poorest of the poor Not far away from the old power plant
Now came the last thing of the tour: Two former power plant towers used as a bungy jumpers paradise. That's the last thing I would do. So I only watched it when a lady fell down.
Old powerplant towers Now used for bungy jumpers
A bungy jumper still hanging Who will be next?
That was the full day Johannesburg sight-seeing tour. My guide brought me back to my Musafa Backpackers lodge unharmed. If I would have done it on my own with a taxi and public transport maybe I would have been robbed and maybe killed. That you may think if you would have read all the terrible things in the media and the internet.

Kruger National Park

The following photos are just a few to give you an idea about some of the animals I have seen in the Kruger National Park (with names in case you don't know what they are, lol). If you want to see more and the whole story about it right now then just hit Kruger. Or you better wait until the end of Johannesburg and then go to "Part IV - Kruger National Park".
This is a giraffe This is a zebra
These are two elephants These are two monkeys
That' a hippo with baby That's a lion

Back in Johannesburg

After coming back from the Kruger National Park Safari I had two days left before flying back to Germany. I always plan a buffer at the end just in case something happened or is delayed on the way coming back to the place of my departure airport.

What to do during these two days? If I would have had another 7 days then I could have joined a bunch of travelers going on a safari to the Victoria Falls through Botswana and Zimbabwe while visiting the Chobe National Park and some other sanctuaries. This tour was offered by for 660.00 Euro, which actually is very cheap.

There were more daily tours on offer but no more tourists have booked any of them, again. This means I would have had to pay a much higher price as a single person. And the two most interesting places I would have liked to visit would have come up to 210.00 Euro.

Next day, a Friday, I decided to visit the nearest big shopping mall, the Lakeside Mall. Juan brought me there and picked me up after I called her a couple of hours later. She charged 14.00 Euro for that as I have already mentioned before. But what to do the next following day, a Saturday?

Fortunately, I met a guy just in time at the bar at Musafa the same evening of my arrival from the Kruger National Park, who offered me to show me the places I'd like to go. His name is Robin Denton. He was like Robin Hood for me: not for founding the Sherwood gang and taking the money from the rich and give it to the poor, but founding the "Africa Unite" party and suing the corrupted politicians and try to use their money for the good of the country, or better for the whole of Africa. Look up his internet homepage or his linkedin profile or his whoswho.
Couldn't join the overland safari But this guy Robin became my guide
Robin is fantastic but also a fantast. I do not believe that he will achieve what he envisages: A "United States of Africa", without despots and politicians who only enrich themselves. The human race must first become more advanced, not in technical achievements but in human kindness, and that of all human beings. Is this the next step in our evolution? Will kindness of all prevail? I doubt it. For the time being I am more interested in the question: Where do we come from? And where can I get some of the answers? In the "Cradle of Human Kind", not the "Cradle of Human Kindness".

Cradle of Human Kind

In the morning of a Saturday Robin picked me up at the Musafa Backpackers Lodge with his old Indian Mahindra SUV. We had to drive from the east-end to the north-west-end of Johannesburg. Quite a distance. It even became longer, because Robin wanted to get around his imagined traffic jam in the city and so he drove on a highway almost to Pretoria to take the turn to the south-west. Finally we reached the Cradle of Humankind, the world's most important palaeontological zone according to the Lonely Planet.

In the middle of it are the Sterkfontein Caves. We parked the car and walked up to the entrance where we were told that the caves are closed. What a pity. So we drove around and tried to get a glimpse through the fence of the cave's entrance.
Up there are the caves of Sterkfontein where Mrs. Ples has been found
But that was not all, fortunately. Sterkfontein was the real excavation site, but most finds can be seen in the Maropeng Museum, which is 12km away from Sterkfontein. One of the most famous finds is a scull of an Australopithecus Africanus, who did get the nickname Mrs. Ples which is derived from Plesianthropus (almost human). But maybe she was not a lady but a young man what has been found out later. She or he lived between 2.0 and 2.5 MYA (million years ago) and is supposedly one of our ancestors.

There was also another guy found in the caves. He was named "Little Foot", because the first thing found were four little foot bones, which the antropologists interpreted as belonging to a half human and half ape, because he supposedly was able to walk up-right like a human being but could still climb a tree like a monkey, or better ape. Wow, what a few bones can tell. Later on they found more bones and even a skull and determined that he must have lived 4.0 MYA. If you want to know more then look up the internet or go directly to the I can already tell you that the entrance fee is 10.00 Euro, for pensioners even only 6.00 Euro. Now you can follow me through the exhibition.
The Cradle of Humankind Museum from the front The Cradle of Humankind Museum from the back
This guard was standing at the entrance
Robin and I are travelling back in time In the beginning there was fire
Our earth 135 MYA Our earth 65 MYA
This is the reconstructed site where the rest of Little Foot was found This is another Mrs. Ples replica. The original is in the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria
There were so many skulls I couldn't keep track of it. I also was so lazy to write it all down and there was no brochure to buy with all the explanations. So please excuse my ignorance and some of my sloppy descriptions. But the photos may just give you an idea.
Friend of Mrs. Ples? Or ancestor of Mrs. Ples?
Maybe one of these guys looked like him
How may they have looked like in the old days?
How may they have lived in the old days?
What about the other finds put together like a puzzle?
From homo erectus to modern man
From Australopithecus to Homo Erectus
From Homo Heidelbergensis to modern woman
Evolution has created many different homo sapiens Cloning would have been the end of it all
But one of them has not advanced as you can see And some did get a bigger skull but not necessarily enough brain
At the exit of the exhibition you are faced with the incapabilities of some representatives of the human race when you read the statements of the then president Mr. Mbeki. Like most politicians they can only talk about problems but are unable to solve them (the problems in the education system, for example), what they are actually elected for.
Because few use their brain and many don't. There will always be rich people, who have just been lucky, but the poor should be provided the means for a decent life through good education provided by good governance. Use the brain as a natural resource to solve this dilemma. Many countries already do. Enhance the brains of the people by providing a better education with better schools and colleges.
When we finally did get out of the Cradle we met some middle class families who made it out of poverty. One family was even so kind to help us holding the flag for a "Unite Africa". Maybe they will become a member of Robin's party.
A middle class family Another family having problems holding the flag
Finally they did get it straight for Robin's "Africa Unite" campaign

Lesedi Cultural Village

After the Cradle of Humankind we drove to the Cradle of Living African Culture, the Lesedi Cultural Village, to see some of the direct descendants of Mrs. Ples. They also advertise it as an experience of the five different African Cultures. Another Big Five: the Zulu, the Xhosa, the Pedi, the Basotho and the Ndebele. Look up their internet homepage to learn more.
Lesedi Cultural Experience reception but don't be scared by the masks
The people here are very nice Maybe Robin can recruit some party members
The guys are prepared for the tribal folklore show
Practising what? Talking about what?
Laughing about what?
The band is rehearsing for the tribal folklore show
Handycraft dolls for sale Traditional bras for sale
This woman is working This woman is modeling
I like to photograph nice houses But Robin mostly gets in the way
I like to photograph a nice design But Robin mostly shows his African Unite sign
I like to photograph girls But this time I am part of it
Finally, the entrance to the second part But Robin thinks it is again his part
We didn't attend the Cultural Show starting at 4:30 p.m., because we still had a long way to drive home and I didn't want to arrive at the Musafa for "dinner" too late. People staying longer could have dinner after the show and could even stay overnight in the village. Look up their internet homepage for that. One thing I can already tell you: The full Cultural Experience Show with a meal costs 31.00 Euro, without a meal 19.00 Euro.
Then we reached the place for the cultural experience And further on the restaurant with the local food experience
Robin feels like the king of Zulu And I feel like sitting on a loo

The loo was just around the corner
On the way back we passed through Sandton, an affluent town north of Johannesburg (but part of the greater metropolitan municipality), where I had Robin's car filled up with gasoline again (it was my obligation) and I bought a big chicken meal at KFC for the dinner back at the Musafa Backpackers Lodge, where we continued having a good time together at the bar with a lot of talking and a couple of drinks for a good night's sleep.

Next morning I left the lodge at six and arrived half an hour later at the Tambo International Airport of Johannesburg. Plenty of time to buy some presents and souvenirs with the rest of my Rands. Departure time was 9:25 and shortly after that we were in the air.

The duration of the stopover at Abu Dhabi was around 6 hours, which was ok for the cheap fare. I already needed almost one hour to get from my arrival gate to the middle round-about hub and later on another hour to get to the departure gate, always with another body check in between. Terrible airport. In the meantime I needed something to eat and bought a little turkey-cheese sandwich, which did cost 5 Euro. What a difference to the prices in South Africa. Next morning at 7 a.m. I safely arrived in Berlin, where my driver was already waiting for me. Two days later I picked up Joy coming from the Philippines.

Ok, that was the third part of my trip to South Africa, If you want to go to the other parts from here then just click on
Part I -   Cape Town or
Part II -  Garden Route or
Part IV - Kruger National Park .

As it was said before and will be said again: There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or the internet. But if you also want to know my humble opinion based on what I have read about South Africa, then hit Epilog.

Created July 2014

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