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Jean goes to Joburg

2009-07-15 14:58
I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Cape Town – so when I get excited about staying over in Joburg, everyone's always surprised. Even some of my Joburg friends go "Huh?"

Why would I want to sight-see a whole bunch of buildings and trees and a couple of mine dumps? Why would I want to drink in clubs where they think wine comes in three colours?

Well because when you've spent the last four years of your life staring at the endless sea views, shopping at Mediterranean delis and hanging out with people who know they live in the most beautiful city imaginable, anything different is like a breath of fresh air. Even smog smells fresher than Smug. Plus, travelling is always like learning to see and think again. The cold, tan highways flicking by. The Polaroid sunsets that you can luxuriate in because there's no mountain in the way. The speed.

I also love being in a place where, apart from a couple of million hairless trees and a park or two, surviving in winter is all about the people, and the people always rock when you love to travel. Travelling's humbling stuff - and we all know humble pie's not often on the menu in Cape Town central.

I've been away from central Joburg so long that I'd forgotten the feeling of landing there and heading out into its heartbeat. How nobody ever seriously seems to care what race or gender (I'll hold on sexual orientation) I am. What could I do for them? Ok, let's go! Want a ride to a great party with your waiter? Ask not what Jozi can do for you...

Yes, Joburg may be my "bit of rough". Unlike Antananarivo (Madagascar) or Maputo (Mozambique), it's not the kind of African city you want to be wandering around in on foot at night carrying a camera. Or so I'm told – but the only places I've ever been attacked after 34 years in South Africa (four in central Durbs and a few weeks in Jozi) were when travelling in London, England and Bavaria, Germany. And my friend Debbie who collected me from the airport says she walks to gym at night in Craighall Park and has never even seen crime happening to anyone else in three years. If you have money and a car that locks and you are careful, it seems there's a chance you'll survive the rather one-sided war on crime that all the expats tell potential tourists about.

And though the city has changed, you'll have no real trouble finding a bar where they still play Aha, or a mall with drive-in access for your meal out.

Ok, ok, I'm not saying crime isn't real, or terrible. Another friend or two have had guns held to their heads. Of course it happens, and too often, especially if you're poor or dark-skinned and the media and the police couldn't care. It's completely out of control. So my Oz London readers can hold the comments about how they hope "they teach me a lesson by raping my sister" - I don't have a sister and if I did I'd hate that to happen to her (and seriously, don't you guys have websites over there yet?)

I just can't personally report on crime because it didn't come near me when I was in Joburg; not in Craighall Park (although the electric-fenced walls are so high they block the view of the koppies), not in a beautiful digs in Brixton in 2000, not getting lost in Hillbrow in 2005 while tearing my map book in panic, not wandering the Hillcrest streets on foot at night with Debbie, not at the airport, not at the warehouse club where I drank a tequila and danced, nor in the Braamfontein apartment where I crashed at 4am, after a crazy party.

I loved waking up with a view of Nelson Mandela Bridge, with the city murmuring with a sea of humanity. I loved driving out past a skyscraper painted with a four-story soccer ball, in South Africa, 2009.

Have you?

Jean flew up to Jozi courtesy One & Only Limousine Hire, who drove her back to Cape Town overnight on Sunday AM with a really happy hangover. See pictures of the Jozi-CT trip here, and read about the route here on GoTravel24  – the best place to book package holidays in SA and Southern Africa (or hire a car). publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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