Gauteng in 48 hours

2010-10-22 14:45

If Julia Roberts’ character in Eat Pray Love had you wishing you could go on your own journey of ­self-discovery, then take note. You don’t have to ­travel very far.

South Africa has a diverse cuisine and a ­coastline to rival many of the world’s top beach ­destinations. But what about spirituality? The ­Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspruit, of course!

Most people who live in Gauteng have been to popular local tourist sights such as Vilakazi Street and the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto, and perhaps the Apartheid Museum in the south and Constitution Hill in Braamfontein.

In an effort to showcase more of the province, the Gauteng Tourism Authority recently hosted an ­Amazing Race-style competition with a few local ­celebrities and personalities.

The teams included designer and socialite Uyanda Mbuli (in wedge takkies, of course); singer-songwriter and record label executive Phinda Matlala; recording artist Selaelo Selota; model Cwaita Mtose; house ­music vocalist Lelethu Nkulu; Khaya FM’s George Monetsi; Jam Alley host Thato “T’do” Mahlatsi; and singer Malik.

The group comprised four teams of four. The teams had to traverse Gauteng and experience some of the local sights while searching for the clues that would help them win.

The starting line was the Women’s Jail at ­Constitution Hill. The contestants then raced to the Rondebult Bird Sanctuary in Germiston, Ekurhuleni, where the teams had to search for more clues in this 94ha marshland that’s home to 150 bird species.

The sanctuary is a great place if you are ­into sitting still for hours on end.

At least kids will get a kick out of being in close contact with the cute peacocks.

The last place on Day 1 was the quaint Vaalnest Boutique Hotel, where guests were treated to a light lunch while taking in the majestic sight of the Vaal Dam.

The night was spent at the Maropeng Hotel in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

Bright and early the next morning, contestants took in the sunrise in a hot-air balloon before ­touching down for some breakfast.

Before their food could settle, they were off to the next venue, Freedom Park in Pretoria.

Many people may recognise it as the sight of lights on the ­Salvokop Hill that greets visitors as they enter Tshwane from Johannesburg.

Freedom Park is on a 52ha site and has winding uphill climbs that are supposed to be ­symbolic of the arduous road that South Africans travelled to reach humanity and freedom. ­Fortunately, there are golf carts and shuttles ­available for the disabled, the elderly and the lazy.

The Wall of Names is engraved with 75 000 names of those who died fighting for freedom and there’s an extra space for 136 000 names still to be ­inscribed.

There are other memorial elements: an interactive museum and garden of remembrance dedicated to telling the story of the country’s shared history. It is an intense experience for anyone keen to learn more about the country’s journey to freedom.

After that, it was off to the Bronkhorstspruit ­suburb of Cultura Park to visit the ornate Nan Hua, the largest Buddhist temple in Africa.

It is the South African headquarters of the ­Humanistic Buddhist Order, where the Chinese New Year is celebrated in style.

It’s open to the public, who can book in for the weekend at the Pureland meditation retreat centre for some cleansing, introspection and spiritual ­replenishment.

The temple was a fitting last stop to the two-day blitz around the province because after seeing this amazing venue, nothing else can top it.

»  The show will be broadcast in November on DStv channels Mzansi Magic, Africa Magic and Africa Magic Plus, and on the SABC.

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