Fourth of July in South Africa

4 July

Today was a fairly dreary day in Johannesburg. It didn’t start out to be an active day, but when Alisa went to check on future showtimes of the play that she had been wanting to see since our arrival, The Boys in The Photograph, was having its last showing while we would be in Johannesburg, she quickly bought tickets and we dressed up the best we could with the limited clothes selection we had brought and we were off. But not right away.

Garth had parked their larger bakkie in the driveway blocking the small pickup in. We had the unfortunate task then to wake him from his jet lagged induced late slumber till 1230, but we were able to get the keys and then navigate the small bakkie out. This is the typical size bakkie of what must have been the 1980s in South Africa and while it had performed well driving around the housing development yesterday, the gas tank was on E and it would still be my first time driving a stick shift in Johannesburg. I learned to drive stick on my best friends car in San Diego, an Acura RSX, and then driven a massive Toyota SUV through Blantyre, Malawi for a few hours before we realized our mistake and returned it and eventually secured a automatic 2wd sedan. However that was my extent of experience.

We got out onto the road just fine, but i realized that having no RPM gauge, like there was on the RSX, would come into play much more now that i was on the open road. We made it out of Elnas gated community just fine and onto the main road and down the hill but at the next traffic light, it was red but shortly turned to green. I had been stepping on the break and put the car in neutral, put when the light turned green I tried to put the car back into first, which it did not want to do. Not realizing that the engine was still at too high of of an rpm for first, I ended up stalling the car right at the bottom of a large dip in the road about 20 metros from the stop light. Having no gas in the car seemed to play a part in restarting the car, as it took 4 attempts to start it while I had massive SUVs flying around me.

Luckily, there was an Engen gas station just up the hill. And I finally got the bakkie restarted and up the hill. I was nearly frustrated enough to turn back, but after we got some gas, the engine started up much easier and I thought that we would now be fine to make it. For the most part we were, despite Alisa taking me onto the motorway (it was difficult to get much past 70 ams) and sending me in different directions once we were downtown to find parking. Once we found the theater there were signs that led us around the block to the theater’s own underground structure. We parked and headed up and found a 70s style theater with the gold wall decorations with the square lights adorning the gold in different designs. At it’s height it must have been a special place, and while it had been up kept, it was far from modern. All the bars and lounge areas kept to the period and we bought chocolate and Alisa got an appletizer. But strangely no Amarula.

We took our seats at the call of the bell and watched the appropriately 90 minute long play, with a 15 minute interval. You can read Alisa’s review by clicking here.

We returned without incident but decided to stay close to home, and go to the grill across the street from the entrance to Elna’s gate. Garth gave us a lift on his way out, but upon arrival, the lights were off, and we discovered it was closed all Sunday. So much for a Fourth of July meal. We returned to Elna’s to cook dinner and found there really wasn’t much on television with no soccer on this sundae for the first time in three weeks.

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Gold Reef City and Our Trip North Through Zimbabwe

After last night’s planning and booking for our overland trip through Botswana, we went to booking the rest of the journey in order to have us in Victoria Falls by the 11th of July. This meant booking a bus from Johannesburg to Bulawayo where we will then catch a train that runs from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls. Luckily Elna’s odd internet allowed us to load Computicket.com and we purchased our bus tickets of R280 on an overnight bus departing 1400 on the 7th of July, which will have us into Bulawayo at just past 0500 the next day. From there, we will catch the train that departs Bulawayo every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday to Victoria Falls. Many travel sites have talked about doing this, but it wasn’t until we stumbled across seat61 that I felt much comfortable about going this route. Tickets for the train can only be purchased day of, and the website makes it seem like this train is never full, so bookings are not difficult. Thus upon arrival (which will surely be much past the 0500 that is advertised), we shall head to the station and book a ticket for the train that departs each night just before 2100 and completes the 480 km trek north to the Falls. This also means we can save two nights of accommodation by taking the two overnight trips, however, our last overnight trip to Maputo wasn’t very restful and it wiped me out the next day (though the after effects of my food poisoning probably didn’t help). Thus we are looking for someplace in Bulawayo that we can perhaps drop our stuff off, and maybe catch a nap. Lonely Planet doesn’t have many backpackers listed, and neither does SafariNow.com. We shall do more research on possible accommodation as we get closer to departure in the case we do need to sleep the day away someplace.
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Gautrain Bus: The Calm Before the Tempest

July 1

Drove from Elna’s to the airport this morning to return our car to Tempest. The guy inspected the car and gave us a good to go, so we headed off to the Gautrain. On our walk through the airport we stopped by several shops to see if there were any sales on World Cup memorabilia. A few had French and Italian apparel on sale, but that was about it. I guess we have to wait until July 12 for the real sales.
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Sunday in Newtown

Enjoyed a lazy Sunday morning and then made our way to Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown.

The square is one of several fan parks around Joburg with large jumbo trons for public viewing, but when we arrived there were very few people walking around. We thought that it would pick up once the games started for the day but it remind quiet with only a few more people trickling in for the match. A unique art feature of the park was a giant red man made of Coca Cola boxes that toward overhead.

Next to Mary Fitzgerald square was the Museum of Africa that I had read about in Lonely Plant and was interested in check out, especially because it was FREE. The entire square was fenced off for the fan park making entrance to the museum a little more challenging. We didn’t feel comfortable walking around along the street because the area around the square is not the safest neighborhood in Joburg, so we decided to go through security for the park and cut across. The security guards could have cared less if I was caring anything illegal; one squeeze of my closed bag and I was cleared to go through. At the other side we realized that there was no exit. I was ready to just hop the fence given that it was only a little taller than waste high, but some security guards who were also looking to get out took the fence apart for us. Continue reading