Tuesday 23 June 2009


Two defining characteristics of cities being fat people and porn, it wasn’t long before we’d seen someone wobbling past an adult shop. Johannesburg has a terrible reputation, like a school bully, big, threatening and unlovable. As we first approached the city, it looked like Africa was behind us and Brent Cross was in front of us, but it was exciting to see the skyscrapers appear on the horizon. It was the first time we’d seen any since Nairobi, some 3 months ago. Johannesburg is much more attractive than I had rather casually assumed and the only things that differentiated the area in which our backpacker lodge was located from a well-to-do European suburb were 9 metre walls, barbed wire and warning of electrocution notices.

Brown Sugar backpacker lodge is in the suburb of Observatory, right next to Yeoville, which has as bad a reputation as Hillbrow, which is the next one along. This means that no one coming out of the lodge has ever turned right. It’s a pleasant, well-fortified backpackers offering the essentials of bar, pool table, powerful (and sometimes hot) shower and kitchen, with the added bonus of lovely views over the city. It was home to a mathematician called Vincent during our stay who claimed to be able to determine your birthday using a formula that required only two pieces of information: you and your father’s dates of birth. He raised a few eyebrows, as you can imagine.

It was a Monday on our first full day in the city and turned out to be the wrong day to visit either the apartheid or national museums, the Market Theatre or the surrounding markets because they’re all closed on Mondays, meaning we ended up, perhaps inevitably, in a bar and then a curry house.

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