Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The joys of Johannesburg

Monday 18th July : Johannesburg
All I can say was that yesterday went from the ridiculous to the sublime!
There we were dragging ourselves dressed in dusty creased camping clothes and our even dustier baggage in the door of the Crystal Duvet Guesthouse.
I booked it from Australia and it had rave reviews and wasn't expensive but the name was a worry: what is a crystal duvet anyway?
But the decor is something else: there are chandeliers, crystal beads, silver cushions, gleaming white tiles and mirrors everywhere. But the most important thing was the huge beds, crisp white linen and fluffy pillows. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. We tried not to distribute the dust everywhere as we settled in! I had to have a shower before I slid into the sheets!

We decided to have a quiet day after the previous two days. The Guesthouse is in one of the poshest ( but safest) Jo'Burg suburbs. All of the huge houses in this estate have huge brick fences topped by electric fences or barbed wire. To get into the Sandown Estate, where the guest house is located, you have to stop at a boomgate and pass inspection by the 24 hour black security guard. When we arrived on the first night there was a second guard and he showed us the way in a car marked 'Tactical Response Unit - Security Guards'. All very intimidating which I guess is the point! The crime rate here is very high and you aren't supposed to wander the streets in a lot of areas - I think we would be considered to be easy targets.
We headed for the Nelson Mandela Square and the Sandton City Shopping Centre via a taxi. So we wouldn't have to carry all of the bits and pieces we've acquired we decided to post a box of stuff home: a task which took three visits to two post offices before completed. Found a bank and Ewan bought a new shirt and shoes: now that he had some space in his bag !
There was a huge statue of NM - known here as Mandiba - and an amazing picture of his face constructed out of cups of coffee of different strengths: very clever. It turned out to be his 93rd birthday so there had been a huge concert and celebrations the day before. He seems to be much loved by everyone here.
For dinner we went to the African Dining room, which was just great. The decor was very african : lots of wood, woven reeds and natural fibres. The food was from all parts of Africa but we had Moroccan lamb, and bypassed he crocodile!

Tuesday 19th July: Johannesburg
Having missed out on Table Mountain and Robben Island in CapeTown, I was determined to not miss seeing the new Apartheid Museum here. I was very interested because the last time I was in South Africa was in 1978 and apartheid was in full force. It was a very nasty shock for Annette and I at the time and we were always getting on the wrong buses or going into the wrong shops. We were horrified to see the beach in Durban divided into four areas for asians, coloureds, blacks ( bantu) and whites.
I never fully understood the historyof apartheid and I wanted to see how it had finally been ceased, so we ended up spending more than five hours wandering through all of the displays and a special exhibition on the life of Nelson Mandela. It was very confronting and reflects very badly on the hatred humans can feel for those they consider different. Mandela's commitment to ensuring democracy for all was an important part of the process for resolving and ceasing apartheid, but it was a very complex and divisive issue for the years it was in place (1948-1990).
I'm a bit concerned how we will survive the museums that Ewan has lined up for us in Turkey as he insists on reading every piece of information in every display! (And he is a rather slow reader, even he would admit!) But it did give Erin and I a chance to buy a Tshirt and a fridge magnet ( 10 out of 10 for being the perfect tourists! ).
your relaxed, and much cleaner, correspondent

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