Thursday, 15 June 2017

TIA - This is Africa!


I squeezed my stiff and slightly altitude swollen body out from between the two rather plump, hijab wearing, non-english speaking ladies I had just shared a rather intimate 10 hours with, and began to make my way down the chaotic aisle of the plane. I had arrived in Lome (West Africa), and expected a two hour wait for my next flight to Johannesburg. This was an opportunity to stretch my legs and I looked forward to doing so as soon as possible.

Not everyone was getting off it seemed. This plane was dropping some passengers off here and picking more up before continuing to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. My two companions were staying, and so I waved my goodbyes. They smiled and waved back as they appeared to breath out and fill the space I had just occupied!

As I was alighting the plane, one of the young and predictably beautiful air stewardess' asked me where I was going. I showed her my ticket and said I had a connecting flight to Joburg from here. She told me I was to stay on the plane as this flight would go on from Addis Abba to Joburg. I was not expecting that but after much discussion and checking of the ticket once more, I was assured that I should stay put. I double checked later with another member of the crew and it was confirmed I was in the the right place. I found a bigger space to settle back into as I couldn't bring myself the give these lovely ladies I had just left, the bad news!


To cut a long story short - this was NOT my plane!  I was now heading 5 hours in the wrong direction
with my luggage now supposedly heading to Joburg without me! I ended up in an Ethiopian airport with no luggage and staff who didn't seem to want to help sort this mess out. The flight they were supposed to put me on after the mix-up, came and went with everyone still ignoring my pleas, and eventually, I was put in a hotel until they could get me on a flight in the morning!

It was a slightly frustrating arrival in Africa I must admit but on the bright side, I got a glimpse of Ethiopia a lot sooner than expected and finally made it to Joburg just one day late.

Aside from my detour, and an extra 24 hours travel, my arrival in Joberg could not have been easier. Francis, my host, met me at a surprisingly quiet and organised airport, where I found my bag waiting for me. No stress, no hassle, no rushing around trying to find a place to stay - easy! It was all laid out for me thanks to Francis and his lovely wife Cathy, who had offered me a place to stay through my blog several weeks previously. Within half an hour I found myself enjoying a braai (BBQ) in the garden of my new temporary home.

Since my arrival nearly two weeks ago, I've been checking out the city in bite size chunks. Sitting at 2000 meters above sea level, Joburg is the second largest city in Africa, and so I expected a lot more hustle and bustle. Strangely, it is also the  worlds largest man-made forest - so you don't get the same feel of say Mumbai or Bogota. It's very easy to get around, and made even more so thanks to Steve, another helpful soul, and blog follower who lent me his bike - a CRF250L (Rhonda is still making her way here by ship).

Without the support of these guys, my time here would have taken quite a bit more bedding-in!. With a bike on hand and a gated community to sleep in - I have found it extremely easy.

So my first thoughts on Joburg? It's complicated!

After so much travelling, I have not found anything shocking or particularly surprising about the place. It has a reputation for being the most dangerous city in the world, and it's not a place you'd want to go out at night on your own. It most certainly does have its fair share of gun crime, rape and street robberies, but believe it or not, statistically there are far worse places.  There is certainly enough fear here though, to make those who can, live behind high walls, with 24 hour security, while the less fortunate live in townships or shanty towns.

The thing I find the most striking is the divide between cultures. Apartheid is history, but people are still very much divided into blacks, whites, coloureds (which apparently is anything other than black or white!), Afrikaners, British South Africans, and of course many different tribes to boot. South Africa has a mere ELEVEN official languages! A lot has happened in many people's living memories and so the cracks run deep in some cases. I don't get the feeling the politicians are doing much to help bring people together either. Perhaps, they are doing quite the opposite. I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of such a complicated situation after just 2 weeks here, and so I listen and learn without trying to give my opinion.

The sun shines here in the winter at the perfect temperature for me. It's what I call my 'wellbeing temperature'! Not too hot, not too cold! Wonderful. The surrounding countryside has many off-road trails to play on, the variety of birds here is spectacular, and the museums are exceptionally well done.

Many people here do seem extremely worried about me crossing Africa alone, and express it in many different ways, from giving friendly advice, to 'You're going to get raped!' South Africans talk about the violence and corruption almost as much as the Brits talk about the weather, but as someone pointed out to me the other day, I am 'just going to have to get used to it! That's what we do!' - and so I shall!

As for me? Am I truly the master of my fate? I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I certainly CHOOSE to believe that all will be OK through Africa (Trust me. This takes some energy to maintain with a constant drip of horror stories), and I still believe my last leg is going to be truly magical - with interesting people, wildlife, beauty and perhaps the odd scrape along the way! This is an adventure after all, and whatever will be will be (I've had six continents worth of practice!).

Like MANY others before me - I choose to take my chances! I choose freedom. I choose life!

So, now we have that out of the way - let's talk no more about it! Lets crack on and have some fun! I can't tell you how excited I am! I hope you'll join me!

* I'd just like to say a massive thanks to Jason and John from Ayres Adventures. I met the owner, John, a couple of years ago, and then again last year, at the Baltimore show. We have stayed in touch since then and on arrival in Joburg, John put me in touch with Jason, one of his tour guides. 

Jason took me riding last week and offered up so much historic information, that I found myself learning, riding and experiencing some of the best of Joburgs surrounding countryside all at the same time. He was also good fun and a great rider (did I mention dishy?). Truly - the perfect guide! (and he didn't even laugh when I ran into a glass door minutes after we met, fracturing my nose (I think) and spilling blood all over my hosts lovely house (they took it well and thankfully the door just came out of the frame rather than smashing)! - Oh yes! I am truly the master of my fate, the captain of my soul!!





8 comments:

  1. Lovely writeup Steph. Thanks for sharing. :-)

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    1. Thanks mate! Hope the sun is shinning in Winnipeg :0) xxx

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  2. I have to say Steph you are unstoppable! Great write up! Looking forward to your African Adventure!

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    1. Let the adventures continue :) - Phase 7 - Mission Africa has begun! :)

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  3. I've also done the "breaking my nose by trying to walk through a plate of glass", so I can sympathize. Just make sure it's straight before 7 days or it'll be a nightmare to fix later. Keep having fun and we'll all look forward to the next installment.

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  5. great posts steph!... as always, a pleasure ... welcome to my former city/country..... its a bit of a mess im sure but there`s beauty there too.... dont let the naysayers git ye down... onwards and upwards !.... pedro

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