Friday, 12 August 2016

A weekend in Johannesburg

We all have different perceptions and opinions and views about places, whether it be in our own home country or areas across the world. Even if we believe that we don't, it's practically impossible to not have certain assumptions about places, particularly those abroad, and you know the only way to rid of the perceptions you've gradually formed? To go out and actually see for yourself what a country or city or town is like.

And that's exactly what we did with Johannesburg.

Prior to arriving in Cape Town for the first leg of our trip, we received a few quizzical glances when we told people that we were going to South Africa for two months. 'But...isn't it really dangerous?' 'Aren't you scared?' 'What even is there to do there?'

To be honest, because y'know, we're all friends here, the only thing I knew was that I really, really wanted to go to Cape Town but had no expectations, and perhaps that's one of the reasons I fell so head over heels completely in love with the place. When it came to Johannesburg though, I'll admit that prior to getting on the plane from Port Elizabeth to there, I was...a little nervous. 

We've all heard the stories, and let's face it, none of them are nice so I was hesitant but at the same time, I wanted to see it for myself. I wanted to see it for myself and if, after four days, I wasn't a fan, then I would accept it and know that at least I'd witnessed the city through my own eyes and not relied on scare stories. 

On arrival at Johannesburg Domestic Airport, the words of a local we met on the plane rang in my head... 'good luck'. 

And so our adventure began.

We were driven from the airport by possibly the funniest guy we'd had the pleasure of meeting so far on our trip, who constantly apologised for being all of two minutes late to meet us but 'as you can see I'm a chubby guy and I need my full fat coffee'. I feel ya, my friend, I feel ya.

Where we stayed

We were staying at the only inner city hostel in Johannesburg, that of Curiosity Backpackers, which is situated in up and coming neighbourhood, Maboneng.  By this point in our trip, we'd stayed in a fair few hostels, some were great, some were not so and yet on arrival at this place, on the first step in, we knew this was it. This was the one. It's difficult to put into words, exactly what makes it so great, what makes the vibe so incredible and what makes you never want to leave but it really, truly is a hostel you could never be unhappy in. 

The facilities are fabulous, with an outdoor jacuzzi, a clean and spacious kitchen, comfy bean bags on the balcony which are perfect for chilling out with a beer or two and a lively bar which is open to both hostel guests and locals. Perhaps what makes this place so special though, are the staff members. I really do defy you to find a friendlier bunch of people, who are all so passionate about both the hostel and their city. They love it, and they make you love it, they care and they make you care.

For a little background, one of the co-founders, Bheki Dube, set up the hostel in 2013 when he was just 21 years old. His aim was to give both locals and tourists a truly authentic experience of Johannesburg and try to show that there is more to this city than what first meets the eye. 

It's safe to say Curiocity are doing a pretty fabulous job of doing just that and they really did make our trip to Joburg unforgettable - I really, truly couldn't recommend it more. 

What we did

On our first full day in the city, we went on an inner city walking tour, organised by Curiocity. Lasting four hours, we were taken around some of the city's most infamous areas, taken to some of the city's most unique street art and taken up South Africa's tallest skyscraper, the Carlton Centre, giving us panoramic views of the economic hub of the country.

We ended the tour at the Neighbourhoods Market and oh boy, if you look food and drink as much as I do, this place is so you it hurts. The place is buzzing and with live music all afternoon, it's the perfect space to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Based in Maboneng, we spent quite a lot of time exploring the area. Maboneng is described as 'an urban neighbourhood where residents, businesses and visitors are part of a growing tribe connecting the heart and essence of the city of Joburg'. Patrolled by security, it is perfectly safe to walk around freely and in it, you will find bars, cafes, restaurants, markets, shops, art, music and much much more.


Johannesburg has bad connotations overhanging it. After years of being named the most dangerous city in the world, and listed in the top 7 most unsafe cities around the globe, it's difficult to shift those perceptions. Prior to leaving for South Africa, my friend and I were 'warned' about Johannesburg ad whilst in Cape Town we were asked why the flipping heck would you leave here for 'dirty Joburg'. Before arriving in Johannesburg, I asked myself that too but now? Now it's one of the best places I've visited on this trip.

I remember a few months ago, a photo of a wild lion walking down a street in the inner city with the caption 'Joburg' went viral on Twitter with people marvelling at how dangerous that place must really be. Now I'm not for one second saying it's the safest place in the entire world and you can walk anywhere at any time of day waving your gadgets round but what I am saying is that a little more perspective is needed.

That photo was in fact taken on a movie set. Because actually, Johannesburg doesn't have wild animals aimlessly strolling down the city's streets but how wildly unhelpful are tweets like that, what message is that sending.

Just as you wouldn't stroll around areas of London or New York or Sydney with your gadgets flying everywhere, you exert that same caution in Johannesburg. Of course there are certain areas that you don't go, but there are also areas, aka Maboneng, where you can go, and you can eat and drink and laugh and dance and have a really fabulous time.

I'm so glad I gave Johannesburg a chance because I truly had the best time there, I really did love it.

It's something I never thought I'd say but hey, it's somewhere I never thought I'd go and now? Well now, I'm planning a return visit...

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1 comment:

  1. I did not know about such an amazing place like Johannesburg.Johannesburg is now in my bucket list! I will visit it even though it's the most dangerous city!


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