A Johannesburg Walkabout – There are scads of noteworthy and sometimes dangerous enclaves in the city of Johannesburg that are worth experiencing. After a week on the road, we were ready for some city life and motored towards Gauteng with subdued relish.
As we approached the mighty city it was unclear where Greater Johannesburg starts, or terminates. The roads and motorway infrastructure (like wireless toll roads) rival any developed area in the rest of the world. South African highways are suitable for any type of vehicle, especially the over-priced luxury cars that dart about at lethal speeds, or the behemoth commercial trucks that attest to Gauteng’s stature as the hub of industry in Southern Africa. All images © rwandatrek.com
After resting at a Garden Court Hotel for one day, it was time to launch a few expeditions into the city center, and elsewhere. Of interest, and on our short list of places to explore, were the neighborhood of Maboneng, the weekend Juta Street scene (Neighborhood Goods Market), and the leafy expanses of Greenside. New urban areas are being “discovered” regularly as the traditional property owners attempt to breathe new life and purpose into many areas that have experienced a tough patch over the years. Some of these areas are over-hyped, but when real people begin to invest their funds and imagination into creative businesses, the hype becomes a reality.
We drove through several dodgy areas on our way to Maboneng. Some of these areas were clearly lawless badlands with depraved humanity to match. We parked a couple of blocks away from such an area. The walk over to tree-lined streets where the shops, hotel and cafes are located was without worry. To be honest, if this place looked like New Hampshire we would have little or no interest. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast, strolled the streets, and were encouraged by everyone we met to come back on a weekend night. Maybe. The shopping is already an attraction for this little neighborhood. African fashion blended with that sophisticated South African chic, curios, fabrics, bead art, hats, sandals and even industrial enterprises. There were many offerings to delve into.
After departing the Maboneng Precinct we braved cross-town traffic to arrive at 70 Juta Street at just the right time. Not too early, and not so late as to be forced to park several blocks away. The city controls the parking slots, so parking was expensive. Upstairs in a large, converted parking bay we found the Neighborhood Goods Market. The scene resembled an old school flee market, but with more interesting people. This particular flee market featured an almost boundless variety of food, food products, drink, African delicacies, clothing, killer jewelry (mostly for the ladies) and live entertainment. We were tempted with endless morsels of artisanal cheese, bread, cake, homemade jam, yogurt, ice cream and meat.
The highlight of our visit was meeting a crew of young Rastas preparing what could easily be categorized as the healthiest ital meals on offer. These men appeared to be straight out of Halfway Tree, Kingston, but in retrospect Africa will always be the root and not a branch of the Rasta countercultures. We purchased a take-away meal wrapped in cabbage skin and chugged a few cups of lush fruit juice of unknown origin. I think one of the Rastas was mildly offended when I ask for a splash of rum in my last cup. The juice beverage was earthy and tasty even without the spirits and ice. Old sailors looking for the next breeze, I guess.
And we finally rolled into the Greenside neighborhood around 15:30 PM. Greenside has been transmuted into a desirable terminus for locals and visitors looking for an afternoon’s diversion. The area is close to the Emmarentia Dam and is noted for featuring many jacaranda trees and agreeable foliage. Greenside is also known for its many restaurants and cafes, but since breakfast and lunch were recent memories, and it was too early for dinner, shopping was a suitable exertion. Maybe. An area called Green Square appears to be the plaza central, or hub. There was plenty of pedestrian activity as we breezed through the neighborhood. Although there are notable attractions nearby like the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, we were hoping to have enough time to see the Dam and water activity before heading back to the barn.
We did manage to see the Dam, inviting water areas, and even a few watercraft. We stayed in the Dam area long enough to appreciate this high-altitude water mass, and the natural beauty of the surrounding area. Intent on not wasting too much of our day in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we reluctantly headed back to the hotel using the Garmin GPS to route us clear of some of the emerging afternoon traffic. Please review the RwandaTrek.com photos taken on an agreeable walkabout through these standout parts of Johannesburg, South Africa.