Arrived in Joburg, rented our 4×4 pick-up and got to our accommodation, the Airport Game Lodge about 11pm. It was a strange little place with a fenced-in area with impala and ostrich. We were a little peckish and parched from our long flight, so we were happy to hear that the bar was still open. Turns out the bar consisted of a vending machine with snacks, beer and wine. That works.
We got up early for our two-hour drive to Sun City where we were spending the night. Sun City is a casino/resort built in the late seventies during Apartheid and was for whites only. It was the first casino allowed in South Africa through a technicality, and quickly expanded into multiple hotels, restaurants and a concert venue. There was an anti-apartheid song from the 80’s, “I ain’t going to play Sun City” sung by a collaboration of artists; good intention, bad song. Anyway, the place was no longer segregated and looked kitschy and bizarre and so a good place to get over our jet-lag and get acclimated.
As in England, they drive on the left side in South Africa. The steering wheel is on the left, the peddles are the same but the gear shift is in your left hand. With a mild case of jet-lag, driving in sprawling Joburg was a bit of a challenge; left hand turns were the worst. The biggest problem I had, was that the turn indicator lever and the windshield wipers were reversed; Whenever I went to turn, I would hit the wipers. It drove Helen nuts; but that’s ok, that’s my job.
We drove past the outskirts of some townships with corrugated tin shacks packed in tight; dirt roads and lots of people walking; bleak, like nothing I have seen before. Only a little later we were driving through the affluent northern suburbs. We passed gated communities, high-end car dealerships, large malls: All of them surrounded by ten foot high walls with razor wire and electric fences. They were like mini-fortresses with huge metal gate and guards: one even had guard towers like a prison.
We rolled up to Sun City which, like Vegas, is in the middle of nowhere, rising out of the scrub brush like a surreal temple of doom. Sun City has a jungle theme with elephant bridges, monkey mountains and lagoon pools; A fake jungle in the real African bush. After lunch we went to the wave pool and water park; I’m a sucker for waterslides and have been known to push small children out of the way to be first in line!
Sun City was surreal and odd but we got a chance to recharge for our upcoming, intimidating, return to Joburg.
After two days in South Africa, I was having a hard time getting my head around this complex country; the first world and the third world living side by side, the filthy rich and the dirt poor; the fake and the real, the black and the white.