Monday, December 23, 2013

Joberg defies stereotypes

Johannesburg, South Africa has the reputation of being rough, very dangerous and an iconic reminder of struggles and triumphs of the late Nelson Mandela. Everyone I spoke to referred to Joberg as a shithole and told me not to bother going.  I was told Joberg is where the money is, but Cape Town is where the lifestyle is.  Despite the poo-pooing of Joberg, I’m so glad I went. From the moment I landed, I knew this trip was going to be amazing when I was greeted with a rainbow.

Joberg fun fact: its the largest city in the world without a natural water source.  That's right, no river, no lake, no ocean.

I was having so much fun in Cape Town, it was a struggle to pull myself away.  The reason I was even going was because I had figured it would be a waste to go all the way to Africa and not hit up Joberg and I had met a new friend, Viva, while on a plane in Ethiopia. She was super fun and I promised I would go out so I did.  Viva was an incredible hostess.  She organized an amazing visit that included a tour of Soweto, a trip to Lion Park, a tennis match and a fun night out with her family and friends.

Emily and Viva

Soweto is a township in Joberg named after its southwest proximity to the city.  It was a township where they moved black and colored people to during the apartheid.  Viva and I took a 4-hour tour of the area, which included a walking tour of township housing, Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s house, museums and a sip of homemade beer from one of the local breweries.

Township living

Winnie and Nelson Mandela's house.  Notice the soot above the window where a fire bomb torched their bedroom

Home Made Beer

Next up, Viva took me to Lion Park.  She had boasted that we could play with baby lion cubs for a couple of minutes and do a self-guided game drive of 5 lion habitats.  Oh boy, did she undersell this adventure!  It was incredible.  We arrived a little late, so we had to start with the game drive even though we were really only in it for the cub handling.  However, while we were driving through the parking lot, A GIANT GIRAFFE walked out of the safari park and into the parking lot. 

A Freakin’ giraffe!  It walked across the grates and into the parking lot and stuck its head in toward our sunroof.  I squealed like a pig when I saw the giraffe walking toward us.  The parking guard just laughed and laughed.  As the giraffe came closer, the guard said, “Carefull, sometimes she likes to kick cars.” At which point Viva took off like a lightening bolt.

The self-drive was good.  There were 5 prides of lions, 1 enclosure of wild dogs and another with Cheetahs.  We drove around for about 40 minutes then headed into the interaction part of the park.

Upon walking in, there was a group of 14 people that had arrived before us and got to go into the lion cub enclosure.  As they were doing so, a staff member walked out with bowls of meat, which distracted the lion cubs and made for a less-than-stimulating experience for the tourists.  Seeing this, Viva and I decided to wait until after they were done eating and went to pet and feed the giraffes. 

Long ass black tongues

The teeth look scarier than they are.  They are not sharp at all.

The 1-month old baby giraffe was still 5 feet tall

Next were the cubs.  They were adorable.  We played with 4 male cubs that were 3-4 months old.  They were fully fed which made me feel better.  The cubs were so playful, that it was ridiculous.  They pawed at us and let us pet them, they swatted at Viva’s shirt strings and wrestled and bit each other.  It was so fun.


Simba looks fake

Look at the camera, dummy

After Lion Park, I put on my tennis gear and was ready for the match Viva had arranged for me.  Nick was a 14-year old prodigy.  He kicked my ass, but I loved every moment of it.  Thank goodness the rain ended our rally early and saved my ego.

Beaten by a child…again

We finished out the evening with a pasta dinner party and a night at the bar with friends.  I was fortunate to have found such an amazing friend to show me Joberg and defy all of the stereotypes that I had heard.  Viva, you’re amazing.  Your family is amazing and your friends are absolutely lovely.  Thank you for inviting me out and showing me the best of Joberg.

Emily and Viva

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