See your city through new eyes

2013-04-26 09:30

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We send three locals out to act like tourists in their home town.

Zama Nkosi, Johannesburg

Witness history: Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum

I was raised in Soweto and despite the fact that I drive past the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum every time I visit my parents, I have never been inside. Today was going to be different.

I join the throngs of tourists who are pointing and clicking, taking in the rich history of the area that is just down the road from Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s former homes in Vilakazi Street.

The memorial is red granite stone engraved with stories and recollections of the students who died on 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprisings.

The famous photograph of 13-year-old Hector being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo stands on Khumalo Street, not far from where Hector was shot by police.

Nearby, the impressive facebrick museum commemorates those who died in the uprisings, and celebrates the students’ role in the struggle for freedom.

The museum is filled with grainy photographs, newspaper clippings, historical documents and audiovisual displays relating to the Soweto uprisings.

Although I’m well versed in the events of that fateful day, being at the museum made the experience an emotional and introspective one for me.

The Death Register Room records the names of the children who died between June 1976 and the end of 1977 as the protests grew bigger and more powerful.

I sit on one of the many benches in the museum to reflect. I fully appreciate that the people who marched these streets were doing it so that I could have freedom.

Cost: R30 per person

CONTACT: 011 536 2253

Take a joyride: Red tour bus

The magic of downtown Jozi, mainly reserved for public transport commuters and hawkers (apart from the handful of achingly cool places that have been adopted by hipsters), is largely overlooked.

The Red Tour bus, largely full of German, British and American tourists, is the perfect way to visit this unloved part of the city – and explore it at your own pace.

A day pass allows you to get on and off the bus as many times as you please. When you’ve finished exploring your chosen site, simply catch the next bus, which comes every 40 minutes.

The 12 stops include Gandhi Square (a busy bus terminal and home to restaurants, fast food joints and small businesses), the 50-storey Carlton Centre mall and office building and Gold Reef City (an amusement park built on an old gold mine).

As a child, going to Carlton Centre with my grandmother for a shopping spree, lunch and a movie was a real treat

. But as other malls have popped up, Carlton has lost its glittering allure.

This visit allowed me to discover tiny budget outlets that sell everything from jewellery to clothes from China. All around, there are offices, informal hair salons and tailors, hawkers and people rushing to catch their next bus – which is very downtown Joburg.

The tour reminded me that I live in a city where stillness is not an option.

I loved the fact that the CBD isn’t as sanitised as other places in Joburg – and that its pulse is still very strong.

Cost: From R120 per person

Contact: www.citysightseeing.co.za

Join the underground: Liliesleaf Farm

Rivonia, just a few kilometres from Sandton, is one of Joburg’s popular stomping grounds.

Nestled in this neighbourhood is the gracious Liliesleaf farm, described as the ‘nerve centre’ of the liberation struggle.

This majestic venue is where struggle leaders and activists, including Nelson Mandela and Denis Goldberg, used to congregate for underground meetings.

It is also where the raid that led to the infamous Rivonia Trial occurred.

The farm is beautifully maintained.

Each room tells a different part of the Struggle story and interactive facilities allow you to hear and see the various aspects from different viewpoints.

A standout for me was the audio tape from a woman who lived next door. She was an avid birdwatcher and was probably the first person to notice that something undercover was happening at Liliesleaf.

There are also handwritten letters from freedom fighters, including Govan Mbeki, which gave me chills down my spine. Seeing ink on paper made that section of history come alive for me.

We spent an entire Saturday afternoon there, seeing where the ANC meetings took place and becoming engrossed in the interesting information on offer.

A restaurant on the grounds serves as a nice place to take a break before delving into history, which is presented in such a fascinating way that even children can be captivated.

I would also recommend it as a date spot; there’s so much to explore that it beats going to dinner and a movie. It’s certainly the most unexpectedly interesting and informative outing I’ve enjoyed in a while.

Cost: R60 for adults, R35 for kids over 6.

Contact: www.liliesleaf.co.za

Daiman Cupido, Durban

A date with jaws: Ushaka Marine World

The venue: uShaka Marine World. My significant other: one of the most feared fish in the sea – a shark. And at R160 for 10 minutes, it was the cheapest, quickest and most thrilling date I’ve ever had.

At the aquarium, you are briefed on procedures before getting into an acrylic cage, which is lowered into the tank.

Swim in your own costume, or hire a wetsuit for R50. Your mask and snorkel are provided.

As the water level rose around my shoulders and over my head, to say I was tense would be an understatement

. It felt 1 000 times worse than meeting a blind date.

And suddenly, out of the gloom, there she was, slowly and gracefully approaching the cage – a ragged tooth shark.

You will be amazed at the absolute magnificence of this creature, who is more docile than her great white cousin. She met my every expectation – beautiful, intelligent, mysterious, fierce and graceful.

Getting up close and personal with a raggie is one way of reminding yourself you live in Durban – it’s definitely a blind date you won’t regret going on. Cost: R160 per person

Contact: www.ushakamarineworld.co.za

Leap of faith: big rush big swing

As a child, I enjoyed the thrill of being pushed on a swing, shouting, ‘higher, higher!’ as I picked up pace.

As an adult, my passion has only grown: I get my kicks on the Big Rush Big Swing, an adrenaline-charged adventure at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.

At 106m above the ground, you have a bird’s-eye view of the laidback city below, before ultimately taking the plunge. It’s a rush.

When you arrive, enthusiastic staff members help suit you up for the jump of your life, explaining the procedures and demonstrating the correct technique.

Once suited, you’re good to go. When two German tourists, the jump instructors and I reached the base of the arch of the stadium, we are told we have to climb 550 steps to reach the platform.

My calm demeanour abruptly changed to nervousness. But, with my body harness safely latched to the side of the staircase, I made my way to the point of no return.

Be prepared for an out-of-body experience when you plummet 86m towards the field, and then swing across the 220m arch at 120km/h.

Nerve-racking, but truly exhilarating!

Cost: R595 per person

Contact: www.bigrush.co.za

Liziwe Ndalana, Cape Town

Streets of Gugulethu: Township tour

I’ve lived in the vibrant township of Gugulethu for more than a year and before this tour I passed historical sites without paying attention to them.

Some of these include Amy Biehl’s memorial (the American student who was stoned to death in Gugulethu by Pan African Congress supporters in 1993) and the life-sized granite tributes to the Gugulethu Seven (who were killed by apartheid police in 1986).

Although I’ve always known the stories behind these landmarks, hearing them told by a professional guide somehow made things more relevant and real.

I was also interested to learn that the initial memorial to the seven young men who were mowed down in the street by police was rejected by the community.

This makes sense when you realise the two policemen were given amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Walking through the informal settlement on a tour made me wonder what tourists think when they see these places for the first time – where five families share a bucket system toilet and communal taps.

Dogs and kids run loose in the streets and although everyone seems to be getting on with daily life, I felt like a bit of a voyeur.

I was also interested to discover a little-known historical establishment that belonged to apartheid activist Mama Sihlangu.

She sheltered many activists during police raids and, although she is no longer alive, her humble home is now open to the public.

It was great to visit Mzoli’s as a ‘visitor’ too. This popular eatery is the place to get real African cuisine, such as pap and vleis and steam bread or boerewors rolls, while rubbing shoulders with the locals.

Learning more about the history of my township made me even prouder of being a resident.

I’ve learnt it’s too easy to ignore it and devalue things we see every day.

Cost: From R200 per person

Contact: www.sa-venues.com/explore/liziwestours

Not just a shopping mecca: V&A Waterfront historical walking tour

Like most Capetonians, my main reason for visiting the V&A Waterfront is to spend my hard-earned money on something glamorous.

But how many locals have ever taken a walking tour of the historic area? I did, and within a few minutes I’d seen one of the oldest European structures in South Africa.

The excavated Chavonnes Battery once housed 16 monstrous guns to protect the 18th century Cape from unwanted visitors.

I also now know there is a decorative mirror room on the second floor of the Victorian gothic Clock Tower, which afforded port captains a view of everything that was going on in the harbour.

During the hour-long tour, I was amazed to learn that the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business used to be a prison.

I was chilled by the remains of the treadmill, still visible near the former prison building, that reminds visitors of 1890s attitudes to penal punishment.

I’m just glad it’s not a debtor’s prison, considering how much cash I’ve splurged in its vicinity!

Cost: R50 per person

Contact: www.waterfront.co.za

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