Johanessburg is an interesting city. Every part of the city closes between the hours of 5 and 6. It’s like a Sunday in Salt Lake City. I don’t know how people who live here ever meet anyone new or make friends. Once you get off work you go straight home. The grocery store is located in the local mall and the largest section of the store is the meat. There is hardly any fresh looking produce. What produce they have is all something that has a shell. Passion fruit is JM’s favorite local find. He’s been eating several at every breakfast. We are given several meaty options for breakfast as well. I enjoy all of the fruit however.
Nando’s is the local fast food favorite. We ate there twice. The boys all had hamburgers of various spicy sorts. I always opted for chicken and spicy rice with or without veges.
We spent three nights and two days in Jo’Burg. The first day JM and I woke at 4am. Once we got started for the day, some time around noon with everyone and after breakfast at the hotel, we went to the apartheid museum which was touching but rather large and hard to get through all at once. We spent several hours there and came back to the hotel afterwards. I crashed early and was pretty much out for the night.
The next day seemed confusing to already be New Year’s Eve. JM and I woke again at 4:30am. We all were out the door after breakfast by 9am or so. We took a rather confusing GPS route through the ghetto (accidentally choosing shortest route rather than fastest route) to The Cradle of Humankind where we first took a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves where Ms. Pleas, the oldest human descendent has been found as well as “Little Foot” which they are still working to extract. We then went to the Cradle visitor center where we went on a ride through the worlds physical elements on how it was created. It was somewhat endearing going through the ice age, fire, tectonic shifting, etc with absolutely no explanation. Not exactly Disney. We raced through looking at various fossils and ignoring most of the kid-like exhibits at the visitor center so that we could go to the Lion and Rhino (otherwise known as Ryan and Lino according to JM) Reserve where we drove through the reserve, witnessing some rhinos running full speed after each other and stopped the car contrary to being against the rules where we looked hard for some lions only to realize that one of them was about five feet from the car underneath a bush. Another one of the “rules” was to stay 25 meters from the lions at all times to assure the ability to drive full speed ahead. Aside from that, we came face to face with an ostrich while I was still putting the window of the car up which definitely made me jump.
From there we set the car aside and decided to get out and look around and the animals that were caged. Mongoose, baby crocodile, cobras, etc. we wondered around until we found the diamonds in the rough – the cats! The four of us couldn’t decide on what it was we wanted so we purchased tickets to everything! We went into every cage possible and spent every allowable minute playing with tigers, white lionesses, brown lionesses, and a rare white lion with a black mane… And holy crap can they attack!!!!
Our first cage were two lions considered adult lions – 9 and 10 months old. The tour guide immediately chastised us, “Do not look them in the eyes!” As we were allowed to touch them, we were told to only walk where they walk, to walk slowly and to never create a path where they would ultimately begin stalking us. We were not allowed to touch their heads. Of course, regardless of following those rules, one of the Tigers perched themselves on their playground area several inches above me and perhaps saw a wisp of my hair, suddenly snatched their paw towards my face over my hand which was on his at the time and exposed two of his claws. He immediately focused his eyes, toned his muscles over his front quarters as JM took me by the hips and said to me, “Walk away! He will jump on you.” Somehow, without breaking a smile or quickening my pace too abruptly, I turned and left the cats side without overlooking my shoulder until I was safely with the other cat.
In the other cage I watched a smaller lioness pounce the guide, grabbing hold of her shirt. She was helpless until someone distracted the lion or thumped her on the nose. Thankfully this lion weighed much less although she still overpowered the guide from behind. I was quickly turned into a toyful snack within moments of entering the cage which was more entertaining than terrifying so long as the large cats gnawed on my right side and not my already injured left knee and ankle. Once the powerful male reached my left ankle scar, the reaction struck me and came across to him as competitive in nature. Like a puppy, he wanted to play and what he wanted most was my shoes. However, he was hardly the pit bulls I was use to growing up with. He was four times the size and even more powerful. Thankfully despite my recent excess in weight gain, this lion thought my legs and arms were not enough for him and he quickly grew very bored of me and decided to challenge Shaun for the next twenty minutes.
As we played the safari skies grew darker and for the first time in my life the rolling hills ran far enough that I could see the lightning bolts scatter horizontally within the skies as if God were bowling across the land. The view was fascinating. One lightning bolt would strike far away and then a rolling circle of light would light up thousands of kilometers of earth. The park was beginning to shut down. We thought we would try to catch the rhinos one more time, so we head towards the hills until just in front of us a huge bolt of lightning crashed down. We all recalled the story the guide just told us about how lightning had killed all the giraffe they kept here at the reserve because they were the tallest objects. Now we were on the tallest hill at the reserve. We decided very quickly that it was time to leave. In our very little Nissan Tida, we passed several cars in questionable terrain and drove a crazy level of kph straight out of the park.
At home we all took naps longer than expected and were forced to eat at the Polo Bar again just below us at the hotel because everything was either closed or booked for New Year’s Eve. I definitely over ate but I had a really nice cheese stuffed potato made gnocchi. The boys ordered a champagne to go for celebrating and I took some olives to the room. We went up to the room and could not stop laughing as we emptied the mini refrigerators in each bedroom, preparing them for the New Year’s tradition that we had read about on About.com. According to About.com in Jo’Burg a common tradition that is “almost” under control is to shoot guns and throw refrigerators off the roof for NYE. We did see one person wheeling their fridge down the street earlier that day. So when in Rome…
We prepped our fridges respectively and ended up with quite an epic photo.
Happy New Year 2012 from Johanessburg!