An uneventful drive back down to Johannesburg from Kruger found us checking into a lovely comfortable guest house, with the friendliest staff in perhaps the worst area we could have imagined. Oh dear, the perils of Trip Advisor!
I guess for those who are picked up from the airport in their shuttle, delivered inside the high gates, and returned to catch their flight the next day, it is a convenient resting point, but arriving in a self-driven rental car, and wondering whether it was safe to get out out the car to ring the bell on the gate was not a good feeling.
My fears were confirmed when cousin Daniel picked us up later that evening … How the hell did you find this place, he asked incredulously. If you go to the shopping mall down the road, you’ll think you’re in Nigeria, he said. Well actually, we had popped out to the mall down the road, to buy data for the phone – I haven’t been to Nigeria, so couldn’t comment, but I do know it felt very much like Africa, which of course it should!
Mind you, he then proceeded to drive us straight through the very heart of the Jo’burg CBD, showing us how “safe” it is now that they have a grid of CTV cameras and armed guards on all the rapid transit stations. Hmmm…. For obvious reasons, no photos, though it was interesting – in a kind of watching-a-train-crash kinda way – and familiar but unrecognisable. Daniel’s girlfriend was very grumpy with him for risking driving through the city after dark.
Article in the newspaper next morning talking about how many police are being killed each week, and wondered what the “average” level might be in other places. Cops killed by ex-cops who’ve been kicked out of the force for corruption? Let me see… Probably ZERO would be good!
Then in a startling example of the juxtaposition of old and new South Africa, we arrived at the Johannesburg Country Club- a bastion of erstwhile tradition, now trying hard to attract the next generation of families who have been in the fold for decades. This occasion – a wine tasting followed by casual dinner… very nice, very interesting to taste some old favourites and make some new discoveries, and to catch up with Daniel, and meet his girlfriend Caroline. So very kind of them to invite us to gate crash their Friday night out with friends.
They drove us back to the unsuitable guest house – by now, having checked in, I was clutching the remote control for the security gates. We drove in and closed the gate behind us before we hopped out and bid them farewell and thanks for a fascinating night out. Come visit us in Auckland soon, Daniel and Caroline! We definitely owe you!