By RICKY DURRANCE
Remember the negative attention South Africa and in particular Johannesburg received before the 2010 football World Cup? If you believed all the scare mongering, you just like me, would be slightly apprehensive about visiting the capital of South Africa. So, where did I decide to head to for my destination? Johannesburg, of course!
Frankly, the first things that enter my head when I think of South Africa are apartheid and poverty. Not exactly the two best things in the world I admit, but it’s the truth and probably is for many other people. For these reasons I decided the best thing to do whilst in Jo’burg (as we ‘locals’ call it) was to confront these two issues.
Confronting the Past
My first stop after I had settled in was to the apartheid museum. As you might expect, this is not for the faint hearted and deals with the terrible issues of apartheid which tore this country apart for many years. The museum is full of exhibitions, some permanent and some temporary. One such exhibition focused on the life of Nelson Mandela – a fitting tribute considering his central role in developing modern, apartheid-free South Africa. This is a must-see place and I feel lucky to have experienced it.
Confronting the Present
The next stop on my whirlwind tour was the famous area of Soweto. This is the biggest and most vibrant township in Jo’burg and for me epitomises what the country is all about. Yes, it is poverty stricken. Yes, it is hard to accept that people live in such poor conditions whereas other areas of the city are so much more modern, but the love for life here is almost tangible.
I went on a guided four-hour tour of the township. I didn’t know how important it was in the struggle against apartheid. It is a real eye opener, and even if you don’t know much about the history of South Africa you will once you visit this truly unique place. My destination Johannesburg was a fantastic place to visit. Once I had ticked off the ‘must-sees’, I did the usual touristy stuff which included spending many a rand in the local restaurants (just thinking of certain South African food makes me drool). Yes, there are safety concerns here. But just be careful. Don’t walk into dodgy areas on your own. Keep your wits about you and like me, you’ll be fine apart from a little sunburn!
Ricky Durrance is a freelance copywriter and enthusiastic traveller who is always looking to write for and meet interesting people who share his passion for travel. Ricky names Cambodia and Laos on his list of favourite travel destinations.