Arriving in Pretoria then a day tour to Soweto
After a fabulous time seeing lots of animals in Africa, I arrived in South Africa to stay a few days with two Aussie friends who are living in Pretoria. My friends organised a private driver to collect me at the railway station (after my trip on Rovos Rail). It was a pretty confronting part of town and even though I was in a car I still didn’t feel all that safe. My friends told me later that is why they don’t come into that part of town ie it’s unsafe and nor do a lot of taxi drivers hence the private driver.
On my day of arrival, my friends drove me a couple of kilometres to the top of the local mountain to see fabulous views across Pretoria. And they were…But before we reached the top, we were so lucky to see a couple of zebra and some other animals – photos not so good as took them from a moving car.It was amazing to see the zebra with a backdrop of the city just standing there next to the road…Geoff who was driving pulled up very close to the zebra and as we were quiet they didn’t move for quite some time. This allowed me to take some photos close up; it makes you realise how stunning [and unique] these animals really are.That evening we went out to dinner at a local restaurant – a fun night where we enjoyed pizza and some great South African white wine. Geoff told me that he and his wife Sue regularly go out early for dinner but he is very careful on the roads especially when stopped at traffic lights – the chance of carjacking is very high both during the day and evening!
Home invasions are a possibility too. My friend’s home as I previously mentioned in another post, is enclosed by a five-metre brick fence with razor wire at the top and an armed guard response. The bedrooms are located at one end of their home and at night we locked ourselves in with a steel security door. People call them escape or panic rooms, a concept made famous by the movie of the same name with Jodie Foster as the lead. But it’s a good solution to the growing threat of crime and associated violence in South Africa. My friends told me that all the homes around their area have these safe areas within.
The next day, Sue organised me a day tour to Soweto and I was picked up outside their home around 8am. There were six of us on the tour including the tour guide/bus driver. We drove to Soweto which is located in the city of Johannesburg and stopped just outside the township to take photos of the welcome sign…Driving from Pretoria I saw many shanty towns along the way and our driver explained that some are connected to electricity and water but many others do not have any electricity or running water and I dread to think how hot these homes are in summer as the majority are made from corrugated metal and sheets of plastic and others are made from plywood and cardboard boxes.(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
We then visited two museums. The first was the Apartheid Museum which I found very sad to learn more of the history of apartheid but at the same time incredibly interesting. So much I didn’t know! There are twenty-two individual exhibitions in the museum including the several about the life of Nelson Mandela; his original car and replicas of his cell (wow so small). And a great photo display at the entry of Mandela’s face throughout his life.The second was the Hector Pieterson Museum. Hector was a student at a local high school in 1976 who was marching with 10,000 other students from his high school to the Orlando Stadium. This was a result of what is known as the Soweto Uprising. Mass protests erupted over the government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than their native language.
Police opened fire in Orlando West on the 10,000 students and rioting ensued. Twenty-three people died on the first day in Soweto, twenty one were black, including Hector and two were white people including a lifelong humanitarian. Again it was dreadfully sad to read the accounts from people who were there and relatives of the deceased including the sister of Hector.
Our next stop was the street in Soweto where both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived; actually Desmond Tutu still visits his home and our guide told us his daughter still lived there. Mandela’s home is located at 8115 Vilikazi Street, Orlando West and is now a museum as it was donated to the Soweto Museum Trust by Mandela in 1997. Once there we were able to go inside and see Mandela’s bedroom, study, lounge and tiny kitchenette all with many photos and posters on the walls. It was so incredibly small and this is where Mandela was held under house arrest for all those years.
We were also shown the bullet hole in the wall above a red framed window and told this came from one of the many attacks on Mandela and his family by the Apartheid Police…And an interesting fact from our tour guide…the name Soweto comes from South West Townships of which Orlando is part of…a huge day of learning for me.
This is definitely a tour to take if you are either in Johannesburg or Pretoria.