The first stop on our trip down to Southern Africa was the largest city of South Africa – Johannesburg. It is a city we had heard a lot about in advance – with stories ranging from almost lyrical to quite unflattering. However, we were certain that we had an interesting destination to look forward to!
Arriving In Johannesburg
We arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg at around 10 a.m. on a Monday. More than two hours later we finally had the chance to sit down and grab something (a very cheesy pizza) to eat. Getting through immigration was not the smoothiest experience – there was literally two hours of queuing. Fortunately Johannesburg quickly made up for the poor start. The staff at the airport were really friendly and they called our guest lodge for us. Soon we were ready to greet the gentle South African breeze.
Johannesburg & Soweto At Night
As we arrived quite late and we had a long journey behind us, we had not made any plans for our first evening in South Africa’s largest city. However, at the guest lodge we found out that they organized night tours to Johannesburg and Soweto. We mulled it over and decided to go as we knew that we’d only have a limited time in the city.
Our guide Ishmael was very talkative and knowledgeable. We learnt about history and contemporary issues in the city.
The tour started with a drive through Johannesburg. On the way to the city (our accommodation was near the aiport, at Kempton Park) we could admire the sunset while listening to stories about the gold rush and the three men named Johannes. The drive through the city center was quick and to be honest, it was fairly uninteresting. It was a big city like any other with people rushing home after a long day at work. Sadly it was very difficult to get any good photos from the car. The skyline was nice, though!
After the city center, the tour continued to Soweto. Here we had several stops. The first stop was at the Hector Pieterson Memorial. The site lies two blocks away from where Hector Pieterson was shot and killed in 1976.
From there we continued the journey to Vilakazi Street. The street is famous because Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu both once lived here. Benedict Wallet Vilakazi in turn was the first black South African to receive a Ph.D. As it was quite late during our visit, we did not enter the Mandela House.
On our way back to the city, we witnessed the aftermath of some riots in Soweto. Young children were playing with fires that someone else had probably lit up earlier that evening. We also passed one of the most prominent landmarks of Soweto: the two painted cooling towers of the now decommissioned Orlando Power Station.
Our Accommodation in Johannesburg
We stayed at the Aero Guest Lodge for two nights. This is where we spent our first night in the country, as well as the last night before returning home.
We booked the accommodation through hotels.com and the price included airport transfers and breakfast. The main reason for choosing this guest house was its proximity to the airport. We were very positively surprised by the friendliness of the staff. As we have already mentioned, the guest house also arranges tours and it is possible to eat dinner at the restaurant.
The next morning it was once more time to head to the airport. At the airport we had time to enjoy a refreshing lunch and do some “window-shopping” before it was time to catch the flight to Windhoek, Namibia.
Do you want to read more?
This post is a part of series of post about our trip to southern Africa. Click on the link below to read the previous post.