After traveling for nearly 24 hours and then being hidden away for a day ahead of surprising my sister, it was time to get out and about and enjoy being in Johannesburg for a day. It started off pretty chilled with a late start and brunch at Fourways Farmers Market (check out my last post) and then we were off to find out what exactly this free-falling business was all about.
From Fourways we hit the freeway and headed out to Soweto, to the Chaf Pozi which is home to Orlando Towers which are old cooling towers which are now a “vertical adventure centre” where you can free fall, bungee jump, abseil and more.
After meeting the weight requirement, paying and signing a waiver after which it’s non-refundable it was time to get our helmets on. We then climbed up a metal ladder into the cooling tower, across a catwalk and into the center where the lift that would take up up 70 meters and the net we’d be dropped 40 meters into was waiting. I must confess that the climb nearly did me in! I think i found it scarier than the actual fall!
As we went up in the lift the nerves were definitely rising. I volunteered to go first ( and get it over with!) but our operator determined our friend N. was too afraid and made her go first. It was something to watch her be dangled and let go off and while I stayed outwardly calm I did find myself telling the operator I was nervous! He reassured me, got me into position and then… whoosh! I was falling and then landing on the mat! It knocked the air out of me but was totally exhilarating and I felt like I’d really accomplished something! I definitely recommend this for a little thrill and will most definitely be going back!!
We saw someone bungee (and my sister screamed like she was the one falling) and don’t know if I’m quite brave enough for that! Unfortunately there was an issue with the Go Pro recoding our falls so only one of us got an official video but you can get an idea from this little snippet.
After a few minutes to recover we made our way into Soweto to the Nelson Mandela National Museum, commonly referred to as Mandela House, on Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto. I honestly didn’t know what to expect but I hoping for a memorable experience and wasn’t disappointed and found it a moving one to be in the house he returned to after his years of incarceration.
The first thing I noticed is that the house is very much part of the community, not at all separate from the everyday life going on around. parking was on a side street and when we were approach by a man insistently performing for money, others around firmly discouraged him so we wouldn’t be disturbed.
Right outside we joined the people posing for pictures and waiting their turn to tour the historical property.
Inside the gate where we got our tickets, and met our guide, I was struck by how small a space we were looking at, an impression that really hit home inside. Lines on the floor indicate where rooms were divided and show just how cramped their quarters were.
While not everything is in their original place, there is enough to see and enough information from the guide to give you a very real feeling about what they dealt with. Bullet holes in the walls and a bin lid in the tiny kitchen and the line where a wall was that they would take shelter behind when the shooting started make for a scary reality.
Display cabinets show of its from around the world, touching letters Mandela wrote home and memorabilia like shoes. It’s an informative and poignant display of the history of not just Mandela but a reflection of the different times he lived through.
I felt a little silly posing for this picture before we went on the tour, but after seeing the house I was glad I did. It made me think about what it means to be free, what it means to believe in something and be true to it without compromise.
After the thrilling fall and an emotional tour we were all ready for a drink before heading back into Jo’burg so we just walked down the street to a local restaurant and only wish we’d had time to try out the delicious looking dishes flying around.
We headed back to hit up the mall for some last minute shopping then it would be time to get some dinner, pack up the last little bits and head to the airport, me heading to Houston via Amsterdam and my sister heading home to Lagos with a rock on her finger!
If you’re visiting Jo’burg and want to do some shopping I’d be hardpressed to think why you wouldn’t go to Sandton City. The universal mall mix of international high street brands and high end labels as well as local fashion, accessories, beauty, gifts, electronics etc, a decent offering of places to eat for every budget, a cinema and Nelson Mandela Square means you shouldn’t be disappointed.
We got our shop on (Zara everywhere is must!) and then food was the goal and RocoMamas the destination. I’d never been to a Rocomamas before and was instantly won over by their order process and then very satisfied by my burger washed down with a beer. After the day we had, it was the perfect way to finish it off, full and happy. There are a bunch of them dotted around so if you’re craving a burger made the way you like stop in.
Two nights and two days in Johannesburg couldn’t have been any more fun! Despite having been before this was definitely the trip trip I got the most out of interns of seeing what the city has to offer, though to be fair I was working the other times, and I’d say having people who actually live there playing guide definitely tipped the scales. I had a great time ( shout out and many many thanks to E, C and N!!) and it’s made me excited for visiting SA again all over again.