Sunday, March 10, 2013

SOUTH AFRICA: Day 2 Johannesburg

March 2nd

The Apartheid Museum - Johannesburg

I wake up refreshed.  One should sleep in a tent in more often.  The fresh night air is good for the body.

After a great breakfast, there's a 4 hour bike tour of Soweto.  Dammit!  I'll have to miss that because I HAVE to go to the Apartheid Museum in Joburg - and also because the thought of being molested by a bike seat for 4 hours is revolting to me.  (Have I mentioned that I hate cycling?  I was game for the tour when I thought it was just an hour long, but 4 hours??? No can do.)

So I ask for a taxi to Joburg and once again, I'm given the Black treatment vs the White treatment.  I'm told only about the dollar van that can be hailed 3 blocks away which involves transferring at a station (that turns out to be confusing, noisy, filthy and not too friendly) while White guests are ordered a private car.  Ok.  Fine.  At least, I tell myself, I'll save cash since the dollar van literally only costs a dollar versus the $30-40 private cab ride.  So I check out, say my goodbyes and my Zulu friend kindly walks me up to catch the van.  And the new adventure begins.  I remember these vans from when I was in Kenya.  Matatus, they were called there.  They give you the real flavor of local life.  I managed the transfer at "Bara" station with some difficulty as people in the township don't speak a lot of English - or maybe they had trouble understanding my accent. Dozens of vans are lined up and the touts are shouting the destinations, but nothing sounds like "Apartheid Museum".  Finally, a woman helps me and explains that that stop isn't named after the museum but after the casino across the street from it.  Ha!  Ok.  

A half hour later, I make it to the museum (which was, in fact, across from a casino AND next to an amusement park - that seemed weird to me, I expected it to be somehow on more hallowed ground or something, surrounded by a quiet park for a contemplative environment).

And there, things got serious.  This museum gives the history of SA from thousands of years ago up to today.  The most memorable part for me was the entrance.  Guests are given a ticket that assigns them a race and they are only allowed to enter the museum via the door marked for that race.  And their initial experience in the museum is different based on that racial assignment. That's when it really hits you.  I can't really explain it.  It's an excellent multimedia exhibit that lets you walk through all the stages of politics and humanity in this country.  You really feel it.

Mandela's real names!

I took my time here because I was told that it takes a good 3 hours to see all of the exhibit - and it definitely did.  

Next up was lunch: 

I'm posting this photo to show that I do believe in drinking the local tap water. SA is a pretty developed country, so it was safe; but even in other places, my policy is that you're gonna get the sh*ts anyway at some point, no matter how much you avoid just get your body used to the local bacteria as soon as possible - might build up endurance.  Crazy?  Yes.  But it's worked for me every time.  I've never gotten sick while trekking....

I then headed to the bus station (and got cheated by a cab driver - avoid taking cabs in Joburg unless you know EXACTLY how much a fare should cost and are ready to fight for it).  Went to check in for my bus to Port Elizabeth (aka PE, a city on the coast - I needed beach time in a big way, I was done with Joburg by then), only to find out that they'd canceled my reservation. And had no other buses going anywhere else until the next day. Oh joy.  Now I'm stuck at the bus/train station.  I've got on this ridiculous outfit (black shorts, knee high boots because my sandals hurt my feet....oy) and I definitely don't want to go back out into the streets of Joburg.  Thankfully, there are several long distance bus companies there, so I ask the neighboring one what they have going to any coastal place within the next few hours.  BAM!  Intercape has a coach going to East London in 2 hours and there's a seat left. Done. So instead of the 15 hour ride to PE, I'm now taking a 12 hour ride to East London.  Whatever!  I just need to get to the beach already. Joburg, somehow wasn't my thing. I'd done what I wanted and now wanted to get to the focus of the vacation: beach time.  So I grabbed a book (I love to read local literature while I'm trekking in a country.  It adds another layer to the experience when you can read something current or historical and physically see it, visit it, touch it, ...)

Solomon's Story.  This book is the story of a young man from a township who became a martyr after being executed for participating in an ANC guerilla action after the Soweto uprising.  The government made an example out of the kid, in order to warn other young people against uprising.

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