One of the things to do this Winter is to enjoy the experience on board the City Sightseeing buses that are available in over 20 countries around the world, with routes in Johannesburg and Cape Town being recently introduced. Clinton Moodley and Masego Panyane took a ride along the Johannesburg route to see the city in a different light.
To be honest, I didn't think much of Johannesburg as a place where one can have a fun filled holiday until I stepped on board the Johannesburg version of the city sightseeing bus. I decided to go on a Sunday afternoon, after a three hour drive back to Gauteng from Limpopo.
The sunny weather in Johannesburg set the tone for a memorable and educational tour of the iconic City of Gold. There are two tours, the Green Route and the City Tour.
The tour paints a totally different one from the one I know. The metropolis city has another side, one with the homeless walking about on Jan Smuts Avenue or some setting up a place to sleep under the large bridges in the city.
Then there are the leafy, lush suburbs we all fell in love with where cosmopolitan living runs high. On the streets are high fashion women enjoying lunchtime cocktails with friends at a plush restaurant, on the other side there are young boys playing a game of football.
On the bus, there is remarkable diversity, ranging from friends, tourists and couples.
On the green tour, one can enjoy picnics at Zoo Lake, see animals at the Johannesburg Zoo or go back in history by visiting the Military Museum or Constitution Hill.
The City Tour, which links from Constitution Hill, drives to the Mining District, Carlton Centre, Gold Reef City Casino Hotel and Braamfontein.
The voices of different people in the audio that plays in the bus paints a picture of a rainbow nation, comparing the black and white lifestyles and how they can now mix as one.
I loved hearing Mandela singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star after we passed the Nelson Mandela children's home.
The bus is insightful, even for locals.
As we crisscrossed along the city, we were introduced to the South side of Johannesburg, which the guide said did not get the ample recognition it deserves. I agree. I saw the bustling township of the working class, a one of men drinking bottles of beer on the side of the street, laughing casually and many impressive old buildings
Some suggestions of places to visit in the South are the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve and Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve for hikers.
A string of Portuguese restaurants are deemed the best here.
Make sure you hear the Daisy de Melker story; it will leave you at the edge of your seat.As I rushed off to the airport, I was glad that I was able to see a new side to Johannesburg.
Views of Johannesburg aboard the city sight seeing bus. Photo: Nhlanhla Phillips
I have lived in the South Western Townships (Soweto) for two decades. I have been in and out of Joburg by extension, because it’s the place I went to school in and now work in. But aboard the open top City Sightseeing bus, I was exposed to a slightly different Johannesburg than the one I know and love.
The commentary by the guides is reflective of an important dynamic that exists in Johannesburg.The stories told of Johannesburg by Lebogang, one of the narrators, who says she would, as a child growing up in Apartheid South Africa, visit her mother in the maid's quarters where she worked as a live-in maid, humanised the experiences of thousands of Black joburgers. The tour also acknowledged the economic makeup of the north and southern parts of Joziburg. The commentary does its best to acknowledge and give voice to the tensions in the city.
The bus has 17 stops in total if you decide to do the Red and Green Bus tours.The tour's main starting point is Rosebank, with the bus service also offering passengers shuttle service from Sandton Hotels. We started with the Green bus tour, which moved from Rosebank.
Interspersed between the golden nuggets history and tales regaled on the narration, is music that is uniquely South African, and talks of places that can only be found in Joburg. Whether its Dr Mageu and Oskido, crooning about the the perils of blowing your newly received salary in the taverns of Johannesburg, or Freshlyground’s Zolani asking if you heard the news in Doo Bee Doo, the trip has just the right music. By the time we reached the first genuine skyscraper in Africa, the Carlton Center, the narration was playing Stimela sam sase Zola by Mbongeni Ngema , telling the tale of a young and smitten man going to catch a taxi outside the center to see his lover in Zola Soweto.
The tour also a tour to my hometown of Soweto, which is divided into 10 stops that include a stop at the biggest hospital in Soweto, the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the Orlando Towers, tourist haven and home to two Nobel Prize winners Vilakazi Street as well as the historically poignant Hector Peterson Memorial. We however did not go on the Soweto tour.
By the end of the trip, I had a newfound appreciation for my beloved Johannesburg.
Visit Citysightseeing.co.za for more information about bus times, fares and stops.
* Clinton and Masego were guests on the City SightSeeing Bus Tours.