A few first impressions, probably pretty disjointed as I’m writing through the haze of jetlag …
We’ve been here for a day now and managed to stay up till 7pm last night by keeping busy most of the day. We stayed at the Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre at Bedfordview in an apartment with cooking facilities, but no cooking utensils. That’s okay, I wasn’t planning on cooking anyway. I just have to give a mention to the shower set-up. It’s so astonishingly poorly thought-out, I shake my head every time I walk into the bathroom. A hand-held shower mounted above the bath, but the hose from the tap to the shower-head is so short that the only way to get water on the upper half of your body is to kneel or sit in the bath.
There’s a large shopping centre right opposite the hotel, so after we checked in we went and found second ( or was it third?) breakfast at a Wimpy. Seems to be a popular chain here – there is also one at the shopping centre on the other side of the road. Food is cheap – using our trusty Big Mac Index, a medium Big Mac Meal is around AUD $5.00. We had dinner last night at a Spur Steak Ranch, which is a US Wild West themed steakhouse. 2 mains and 2 huge beers cost $26. We wandered around a couple of supermarkets to get a feel for what’s available. We need to buy food and camping gear before we head ‘out bush’. Loads of familiar shops in the shopping centres – Gloria Jeans, Jay Jays Jeans, Typo and like most shopping centres around the world, the majority of it is clothes. So many clothes.
Intersections with traffic lights are a popular place for people to try and make a bit of money – washing windscreens, selling flowers, begging, advertising. Car wash services are set up in shopping centre carparks, fluoro vest-wearing men watch over cars in sections of car parks for a small fee. Lots of mini-buses which seem to be a popular form of transport for people who don’t own cars, although the main form of transport for a lot of people seems to be walking.
Weather here is mild. Jo-burg is at 1600 metres, and so far we’ve had cool mornings and pleasant sunny days. The hills around the city are still green, whereas at home by this time of the year they have been brown for several months. Lots of similar garden flowers and shrubs to the ones we grow at home.
We visited a fresh food market which seems to be a chain, can’t remember its name. Great fruit and vegetables, plus meat, fish, prepared take-home meals and a few shelves of groceries. I noticed 5kg bags of beetroot for $2.50 sitting beside bags of potatoes and sweet potatoes. The butcher section sold various cuts of ostrich.
I sat next to a South African woman from Capetown who had been to Whyalla to visit her daughter and family. As we were disembarking, she reminded me that we need to be a lot more careful here than at home. I don’t feel unsafe here, but I am more watchful and careful of my belongings … no leaving my bag on the floor beside my seat like I do at home without even thinking about it.
Okay, that’s enough rambling. Time to go and do some modern-day hunter-gathering.