We landed in Johannesburg at 8:00 am on Sunday, my birthday, after a 14.5 hour direct flight from JFK. We arrived at Country Manor, where we were spending the night before the next leg of our trip, and started our day. We had about fifteen minutes to brush our teeth and splash water on our faces before our guide, Patrick, was scheduled to take a group of us on a tour of the city.
Patrick drove us around the city, giving us an overview of its history, of which I knew little. We stopped at Chancellor House where Nelson Mandela practiced law before touring his home, which is now a museum, in Soweto. We stopped at a township, Orlando East, where the children knew Patrick and came running out to greet him. Houses that looked as if a strong wind could level them stood in rows, forming a neighborhood. We pooled our money and bought sandwiches of french fries and lunch meat on a grinder roll for the children’s lunch. I’ve never seen such poverty but the children were like any others, screaming and laughing, playing and horsing around with each other.
After a quick drive by Winnie Mandela’s house our next stop was the Apartheid Museum. There was too much history to cover in the 1.5 hours allotted and I was beginning to feel sick from the long flight (I did manage to sleep on the plane). I got a good overview of the museum which included a special exhibit about Mandela. I’ll admit to having my mind on the safari, the animals we’d be seeing, the extra excursions we’d be taking. I was humbled by and grateful for the tour so I could be educated about Johannesburg, Mandela and Apartheid. I’ve already used the word eye-opening in my last post but it’s the first one that comes to mind when I think about what I saw and learned over the two weeks we visited South Africa.
Back at Country Manor we had time to relax before dinner. We ate with three other couples who, like us, were leaving the next day for the photo safari. We got to know each other over dinner and then it was off to bed. We got a good night’s sleep; in the morning we wandered around the grounds until it was time to leave for our big adventure.