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Egoli: The City of Gold

Striking Gold

Until relatively recently, South Africa was the largest producer of Gold. When gold purchases went up, South African’s smiled and the South African currency, the ‘Rand’ would do well in the markets. However, the historical legacy behind the building of this city, lies entirely on the Gold Rush. In the past South Africa’s economy was built focusing on the mining industry. Now which cities would they mine these materials in? The answer lies in the story.

The City Of Gold

My high school geography teacher asked the class: “Do you know which is the only city in the world, which was not built next to a source of water?” “Do you know which city is home to the largest man-made forest on earth with over ten million trees?” Believe it or not, this city is one and the same. Tree’s need water and yet, it’s a city that was not built near to a water source? He stared at our intrigued faces, daring us to give the right answer. When no one responded, he smiled and declared: “Johannesburg. Egoli, the City of Gold, was built solely for gold, in man’s pursuit of a fortune.” He explained that after people flocked to South Africa to seek their fortune, during the Gold Rush. The modern age, “El Dorado” as some called it, the city quickly developed and grew. Today it is the largest city in South Africa and the wealthiest. The whole region is home to just over twelve million people. The New York of Africa, if you will, that thousands of Europeans and African’s flocked to in search of fortune, has many an interesting story to tell. These stories range from employing innovative engineers to solve its water issues to solve a potential crisis to being home to Soweto, the forefront of the Apartheid struggle, to present day Johannesburg, a city home to individuals no longer in pursuit of gold, but nevertheless in pursuit of money, all head offices being located here for many organisations in Africa.

Mining Gold And Apartheid

Now, these mines needed workers.  Cheap labour. Who better to exploit than the unassuming local black people of Southern Africa? The lured them to Johannesburg, away from their remote villages in the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu Natal or the Northern Cape, with the promises of being able to feed and clothe their families. These migrant workers were housed in Soweto, which stands for South West Township. This came to be South Africa’s largest township. Many well-known South African’s hail from Soweto, from Nelson Mandela to Trevor Noah to Cyril Ramaposa, the current president of South Africa. Soweto was home to the struggle for freedom, here you can view the Hector Pieterson memorial, which commemorates Hector Pieterson and students like him around South Africa who were killed or imprisoned during a peaceful protest against the government’s implementation of laws which stated that all South African students should receive educational instruction in Afrikaans. This being their third or fourth language, they felt that they were not able to complete final examinations in, as they would not be able to answer the examination questions in this language. These students wanted instruction in their local languages and English, the international language which would best prepare them for the workforce and for university should they wish to head in that direction. Soweto is the city where the countries future politicians were living, working and campaigning for equal rights and opportunities for all South Africans.

Travel Tips

Soweto Tour

If you would like to see Soweto and learn more about its history from a local guide, I would encourage you to take the City Sightseeing Bus tour. They do a township tour of Soweto. You will ride in a local mini bus which is known as a taxi, just like the ones you will have seen in Johannesburg.  You will visit the main sights in Soweto, namely, the Hector Pieterson memorial, the Soweto Towers (with an option to go bungy jumping from the Soweto towers, every weekday excepting Wednesdays), Soccer city, where the 2010 finale took place and to visit Nelson Mandela’s home.

Local Tip: Visit A Local Shop At The Stop Off Near The Soweto Towers And Buy A Kota Bun Around Ten Rand Depending On The Fillings You Choose. You Can Choose From Chips And Cheese Inside, A Russian Sausage And Much More.

Apartheid Museum

If you don’t understand apartheid, how it affected South Africans and still affects them today, then a visit to the Apartheid Museum is a must. An interactive museum, filled with local artists work, interactive technological displays and tranquil quarters to reflect and find something to snack on. The museum is located next to the Gold Reef City Casino. You can get here on the city sightseeing bus or by car. Parking is secure.

Tip: Bring Coins To Pay For Parking.

Where Life Began For Human Kind

A trip down to the cradle of human kind is where one can discover more relating to our origins as humans, this is a must-see attraction for those who are not completely opposed to the Darwinian idea of evolution.

Food

What else is interesting to visit in the city of Gold, Johannesburg? Johannesburgers, as the locals are known, love to eat in Maboneng. This is a hip, up and coming inner city district, which has undergone an urban renewal initiative. Expect to find great South African wine, beers on tap, liquors, spirits and food. The food ranges from Mozambican to the Cape Malay style food, to Italian, Mexican and of course the local favourite, Indian food.  The suburb is walk-able and the security is tight. But I would suggest trying to park as close as possible to where you will be dining. It is just safer for your own peace of mind.

Accommodation

Places to look for hotels to stay in include Melrose Arch, Rosebank Mall and Sandton City. Wonderful restaurants and entertainment and security can be found when residing in these areas. Air B’nB is a fantastic in South Africa as South African’s love to have company and have a braai (barbecue).

Tip: I’d Suggest Just Two Nights In Johannesburg, Maximum. Fly Out On The Second Night.

If you need some VIP treatment and a resort is your thing there are a number to choose from, but why not go for the best and try out Sun City? Add an extra two nights for a stay in Sun City. Or how about a safari in the Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest wild life parks at twenty thousand kilometers squared, the same size as the whole of Israel!  Add an extra three nights for a visit to the Park.

Constantia and Hout Bay

Venture out along the Constantia route to do some tasting and pairings via the long, winding road linking Newlands to Constantia or otherwise taking the Constantia turnoff from the M3 highway. The wine tasting and pairing at Groot Constantia are divine. I encourage you to do the Belgian chocolate pairing. A visit to Groot Constantia gives an opportunity to learn about Cape Town’s history, to learn about not only the slaves, but also the colonialists who brought their wine making skills from Europe, as well as the South African terrain and how it contributes to making such great tasting wine. You can have a picnic on the site if you purchase a multitude of items at the Constantia Nek farm stall on the way to Groot Constantia.

If you need some time unwind and eat a great meal whilst displaying your artistic talents, why not head to the Clay café? This workshop/restaurant is along the way from Constantia heading towards Houtbay via the Constantia main road. You are able to choose an item to paint, from jugs, to bowls to mugs. There are pizza’s, pasta’s and South African food’s to eat. There is wine to accompany your meal as well as soft and hot drinks. South African’s love to visit this centre. It is spacious and warm and there is a beautiful garden with a play area for the kids.

Continue on the road down to Hout bay and book a trip on the Glass bottomed boat, which will take you out to Seal Island. You will learn about the seals, the great white sharks and see all the ocean floor beneath your feet. Then drive through to Simonstown via Chapmans Peak. Pay the toll fee of R32.50 and be in awe of the natural beauty of mountains, clouds, sea, sky and windy road hugging the cliffs. Photo moment of note. Every single time you go it is spectacular.

The Southern Peninsula incl. Kalkbay

Voted the coolest coastal village vy Forbes and the UK’s daily telegraph.

Book a hotel or self-catering accommodation as a base for the Southern Peninsula. This is one of the most beautiful parts of Cape Town according to me and well the individuals who voted it as such.

Kalkbay is just one of the villages along this coastline. It has been voted the coolest neighbourhood in the world according to Forbes list of travel destinations in 2018.

Next door is Muizenberg. Having resided in Muizenberg for a part of my adulthood, which is two villages away from Kalkbay and just under five kilometres away, I usually jog this route, and love going through this quaint and pretty town, which is sheltered from the wind.

Great beach walks, penguins, quaint villages with a ton of shopping await you

St. James walk from Muizenberg, is a great walk in the morning after breakfast or before to work up an appetite. Take a dip in St. James tidal pool before returning back along the path to Muizenberg, or dipping through the short tunnel to the road on the other side and walking along to Kalkbay. If you do this, be sure to buy the best ice-cream in the Southern peninsula can be purchased at the Ice café. There are always long lines for this ice-cream. It’s made on site and in a multitude of local flavors.

Take the train, or drive to Simonstown. Visit Boulders beach. View the penguins playing in the sea. There is a visitors centre where one can pay to learn about the penguins. But if you just want to see penguins, go around the side of the restaurant and head towards the beach. Remember penguins are wild animals. Do not attempt to pet them. They can bite if they feel threatened.

Accommodation options

If you wish to book self catering apartment accommodation in Muizenberg, then Whale watchers accommodation is a great option, within the Empire apartment block, which is right across from the Muizenberg beach, with surf shops and a multitude of restaurants on the ground floor of the apartments.

If you are looking for the back-packers scene, there are a number of backpackers in the area. Stoked back-packers is a good place to start your search.  Muizenberg has amazing waves for beginner surfers, so book a surf lesson. You will not regret it.

Tips

Artisan bread can be purchased daily at a bakery along the main road. The Checkers grocery store along the main road is easily walkable from most parts of Muizenberg. Your accommodation should have a parking spot, ask where. Because parking is difficult in this village.

On Friday evenings there is a food market at the Blue Bird garage. Artisan food, produced as you wait. A general seating area. Great locally brewed beer and wine. Reasonable prices. What’s not to love?

Cape Point

This is a day trip. Start early. Don’t take the Flying Dutchman. Walk up to the lighthouse. It really isn’t that far, and if you don’t walk you’ll miss out on the spectacular views at every turn. I went on a rainy day. It did not take away from the beauty.

Do the short hike to the Cape of Goodhope. The Southern tip of Africa is spectacular. There are Dassies, rock rabbits, who live there and who enjoy having you take photographs of them nibbling on grass.

Please note: Don’t feed the Dassies, otherwise they will come to rely on humans for food and not be able to fend for themselves. There are also sometimes baboons who you may see park rangers chasing after with slingshots to protect the tourists. Just keep your soda bottles out of their reach. They are like naughty kids, just looking to have some fun.

Cape Town CBD

Cape Town has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful cities by CNN. Wondering what makes this city so amazing? It has everything to do with a temperate climate which allows visitors to partake in a multitude of activities, beaches in every direction, not even a stone’s throw from their hotel room’s front door, delicious food, an interesting history, a multitude of interesting cultures and amazing views in every single direction. Let’s not forget the wine, the amazingly good wine.

District six.

Colorful homes in the Bo-Kaap. “Bo” means above. “Kaap” means Cape. These homes lie on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, overlooking the city. You will find the colorful homes of the Cape Malay people. A people who are a bit of a mix. This is where a large part of my heritage lies. If you have been to Malaysia, you may be surprised to discover a people who look very similar in features here in Cape Town. You may also be surprised that upon entering Cape Town, the majority of its people are not in-fact black South Africans but rather the Cape Malay and “colored” people. The colored people are a mix of people descended from the slaves brought by the Dutch and the English to the Cape from parts of East and West Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and the Philippines.  Some of these slaves were freed and given land and married European settlers. The religion of Islam did well hence some of the oldest Mosques in South Africa can be found here, the oldest on the road to Signal Hill. The Bo-Kaap is a hub of mosques, Malay food, and really friendly people. Visit the slavery museum and gain an alternative perspective on a little known part of South African history.


Fact: Afrikaans was developed as a pigeon version of Dutch used by the slaves to communicate with their slave masters. This developed into the Afrikaans language. The people of the Bo-Kaap are proud of being Afrikaans speakers.

Tip: Friday’s between midday and two p.m. some stores may be closed due to the call to prayer for people of the Muslim faith. But the museums remain open and the streets are free to walk.

Where to stay in order to easily explore the City bowl? I’d suggest a stay in Gardens or Seapoint.

Party in Long street

Need to party? Visit Long Street.

But I’d suggest grabbing an Uber. There is not a lot of parking in town and the police are pretty strict about drinking and driving in the area.

There are a lot of restaurants as well as street food for when you get out of the club or bar. French styled building in this part of the city, with balconies overlooking the street, make for a fun atmosphere, similar to that of New Orleans styled town.

Be careful, don’t go down dark alleyways at night. Have a good time, but be alert.

Robben Island



Next stop Robben Island. Take a ferry from the V&A waterfront to the site that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty seven years along with many other political prisoners during apartheid. An ex-political prisoner will be your tour guide. You will be taken on a bus around the island to view Mandela’s prison cell, and learn of the islands’ history as a leper colony prior to it’s use as a prison. Upon arrival back at the V&A waterfront, why not grab a bite to eat at the food market? Stocking both local and international, multiple vendors sell gourmet artesian foods this market has something for every palette. Choose what you want to eat and sit with your friends at the communal tables, market style. It closes at 6p.m. Ask a security guard for directions once you are outside the food court area.



Table Mountain

One of the seven natural wonders of the world

Table Mountain. It is also one of the oldest mountains in the world. Standing anywhere in the City you will see it towering above you. You will need to give in to your desire to conquer the mountain. In order to conquer it, you need to hike it or use the cable car to get up there.

How high is Table Mountain?

Towering 1085 meters above sea-level, from 0m at the harbor, one can easily walk from the Victoria and Albert waterfront to 1085 meters in a 1/2 day hike. The easier route is driving up to 363 meters above sea level. You can also use the city sightseeing buses to get to this start point. The much more affordable alternative is to use Cape Town’s integrated rapid bus system, the MyCiTi bus service.

How long will it take to hike up?

If you’re not a regular hiker, it could take you about four hours with lots of time to rest on the way up, for hikers of average fitness it should take between two to three hours to hike up Platteklip Gorge, which is the easiest and least dangerous route. It is a pretty tough hike for most people, so prepare a snack and stop to take in the view as often as possible.

Best days to hike.

I’d suggest hiking on the weekend, when there are many people hiking along with you. That way one would not need to book a tour, it’s really not necessary, unless you wish to based on language preferences.

Weather conditions may prevent you from climbing

Before hiking, keep an eye on the table mountain website page. It will let you know how the weather on the mountain is on the day. With weather conditions changing rather quickly, they cannot tell you very far in advance as to how hard the wind will blow until the day of the hike. So when you hike prepared to hike back down in the case that the wind comes up and the cable car is closed as a result. that you plan to hike and if the cable car is closed for the day or not. For those who hike up, be prepared to hike down in the winds change and the cable car needs to close. But otherwise, you can hike up and take the cable car down a wonder especially for those who suffer from joint pain walking downhill or have a tight itinerary to keep to. That way you can enjoy a traditional South African meal and a drink at the top of the mountain, and come down with no worries of falling off the edge of a cliff. Indulge in delicacies such as Amarula cheesecake, milk tart, jelly, and custard or even hot chocolate. Take a jacket, it is usually nippier up there on top of the mountain. The website will tell you the temperature on top of the mountain and whether the cable car is open on that particular day.

Enjoy the hike!

Cape Town CBD a.k.a The city bowl

The Cape Town City Centre is just 15 minutes drive from Rondebosch, at ten rands per kilometer in a taxi or Uber it’s definitely worth it. A Cab to town can cost you around R150.

From the CBD you are able to hike Table mountain, Lion’s head, Camps Bay and party in Long street.

Camps Bay: A 1/2day trip. Visit Clifton beaches one, two and three to get a good tan. If you like to jog or take a good walk, walk the between Green point and sea point where a walkway is used by many locals for their daily exercise.

Woodstock Artisanal Market On a Saturday from ten to two, this is the hippest place to dine in Cape Town for lunch. It is located at the Old Biscuit Mill. Food cooked as you wait, with various stalls to choose food from, the sumptuous, soul warming food is available for all dietary types from vegetarian to vegan, form diabetic to paleo  or the banting diets. You are sure to find something you enjoy.

Whilst in the area, check out some activities to do on Air Bnb such as a Malaysian cooking class or a township food tour.

Where to stay and dine in the tour the old Cape villages of the South

Places to stay in the Southern suburbs include Rondebosch, Newlands, Claremont and Rosebank. These suburbs are swanky and hip. Many students live in these area’s, so there is a great student vibe in the areas surrounding Africa’s top university. The more exclusive would be Newlands and Claremont. Newlands is tucked away within a suburb surrounded by forest. Book bed and breakfasts or Air BnB homes in these areas. You will not be disappointed.

This is one of the worlds best cities to live in, with so many recreational activities available right on your doorstep, one can spend a year in Cape Town and not have done all there is to do.

You will find that many of these areas remind one of England, just sunnier.

Visit the Kirstenbosch gardens down the road for a picnic and to relax.  Visit Cocoa Wawa for all things chocolate in Rondebosch town, down the road from the Baxter Theatre.

Oh and if you are a theatre fundi then, by all means, visit the theatre to see award-winning South African theatre.