With only 48 hours, I thought a tour of Johannesburg would allow me to make the most of my limited time in city. I ultimately decided to go with MoAfrika Tours because they received good reviews on TripAdvisor and the tour guide was guaranteed to be from Soweto, one of the areas I was most interested in visiting. The tour cost about $65 but I thought this was completely reasonable for a full day tour.
At about 9:30 am, my tour guide, Sunny, came in to get me inside my hotel and I joined other tourists on the bus. We rode around for about another hour picking up other guests and since Johannesburg is huge, riding around for an hour was not hard to do. There was a bit of a mix-up with other guests, but Sunny remained flexible and wanted to keep the rest of us happy. We ended up getting a bit off schedule so instead of beginning with a city tour of Johannesburg, we started at the Apartheid Museum.
Upon entering the museum, everyone was handed a ticket that read either "Blankes/White" or "Nie-Blankes/Non-White," which determined the entrance we were to use. I was handed a ticket that labeled me as White and with that small act, I became unsure if I'd be able to emotionally handle going through the museum.
The museum touches on everything you every wanted to know about the rise and fall of Apartheid in South Africa. I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea that Apartheid was so deeply rooted in South Africa's history.
Before my visit to Tanzania a few years ago, I did not feel a connection to Africa as a black American. However, throughout my travels on the continent, I have come to appreciate the black American and African connection and it hit me like a ton of bricks in the museum. But that's a different post for a different day.
We went through the museum in about 2 hours, but I definitely suggest about double that to thoroughly go through each exhibit and process the information.
After the museum, we headed to Johannesburg's largest township, Soweto. Short for "South Western Township," Soweto was a vibrant portion of the city and quite frankly, where I felt most comfortable. I always thought Soweto was the township where they moved all of the poor Black people during Apartheid. And while that is true, Soweto also contains upper and middle class neighborhoods.
We stopped at a local outpost called Chaf Pozi for lunch and to this day, I can't stop thinking about how good the food was. We had beef sausage, chicken, steak, and ribs, accompanied by chakalaka (a vegetable dish made of shredded carrots, onions, tomatoes, and beans), and pap (maize porridge). Chakalaka is by far one of the best local dishes I've had in my travels. I get excited just thinking about it.
We paid R40 (about $3) for lunch and for any drinks we had. They offered water, juice, soda and beer. With my Savannah Dry cider, my total meal came to about $5. Well worth it the very reasonable price.
After Chaf Pozi, we toured more of Soweto, including Vilikazi Street, where Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela's homes are located, as well as the Hector Pieterson Museum. Along Vilikazi street, there were also restaurants and vendors selling souvenirs since this is one of the most popular tourist areas in Soweto.
While we didn't get a chance to tour Desmond Tutu's home or the Mandela House, we did go into the Hector Pieterson Museum, which documented the 1976 uprising. Hector Pieterson was a 13-year old boy who became the face of the 1976 Soweto uprising after he was killed when the police opened fire on protesting students.
We finished the day by driving through Johannesburg and going to the top of the Carlton Hotel, the tallest building in the city. It's no longer a functioning hotel, but in order to get to the 'Top of Africa,' we had to go through a connected local mall. While I could tell Johannesburg was huge as we drove through the city, it wasn't until I saw the views from the Carlton Hotel did it sink in how massive the city is.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed MoAfrika's Ultimate Johannesburg Tour. I learned much more than I anticipated and fell deeper in love with South Africa. Our tour guide, Sunny, was personable, flexible and very knowledgable about Johannesburg and its history. I look forward to going back and seeing more of this massive city with MoAfrika Tours.