Johannesburg really surprised me while on the City Sightseeing Tour of the city. The problem is that I wanted more and got myself a ticket to do the Soweto Tour Extension the next morning. I was up bright and early and made my way down to Gold Reef City to hop on the first vehicle of the day. The guide for the morning was the very delightful Brenda and I was joined by a couple of Brits, a German and two Brazilians. Soweto here we come. The first stop was outside Soccer City (FNB Stadium) where we had the opportunity to hop out for a couple of pictures followed shortly after by a stop at the "famous" Welcome to Soweto sign.
For most of the tour the well know painted Orlando Towers dominated the skyline and one can't help but to keep glancing at them in amazement. The stand out above the township, literally and figuratively. The cooling towers have become an activity center with a 70 meter bungee jump from the top. We
fortunately unfortunately didn't have time to stop for that....
The first major stop of the tour was at the Hector Pietersen Memorial and Museum. We were met by a community guide who took us around the memorial and told us a bit more about the tragic incident that led to this memorial. The site is just a few blocks from where the 12-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot on 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprising when high school students from the township took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the mandatory use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in black secondary schools. The iconic photograph of Pieterson’s body being carried by high school student Mbuyisa Makhubo, with his sister, Antoinette Sithole, running alongside, became a graphic representation of repression under the apartheid regime. The tour gives you the option to either continue on foot along with the community guide to Vilakazi Street or to stay on the bus. I opted to go on foot and as we went along the guide pointed out the significant sites one sees along the way.
Vilakazi Street is a hive of activity. Tourists and traders everywhere. The main attraction here is Mandela House while just down the road you will find some of the most popular eateries in the township. You'll also get a glance of Desmond Tutu's house, making Vilakazi Street the only one in the world where two Nobel Peace Laureates used to live. I had about an hour before the next tour bus came by so I had a look around Mandela House. The museum wasn't open yet during my last visit to Soweto so it was great to see the house Madiba and his family lived. As I had an afternoon flight to catch I decided to skip having a meal but in hindsight perhaps I should have and I probably would have if I had a travel companion on this day. When the next City Sightseeing combi came by I hopped back on and we were off to the last stop of the day. This time at Walter Sisulu (Freedom) Square in Kliptown. Here another community guide met me and took me to the Kliptown Open Air Museum that tells the story of the Freedom Charter. It was here in 1955 that 300 people came together to adopt the Freedom Charter. Again time constraints made me decided to jump back on the vehicle and not to explore while waiting for the next one. I won't say I'm sorry I didn't, but if you do its a great way to get to know Soweto and its people, places and cultures a bit better.
Not long after we were back at Gold Reef City and it was the end of my tour. A tour all visitors to Johannesburg should actually go on because you can't truly say you've been to Jozi if you haven't been to Soweto.