Monday, 7 July 2014

'Early Morning Run in... Johannesburg'

Next stop Johannesburg. Northeastern South Africa. Population 3 million.

Let's begin with a chuckle. A joke not included in the three previous Zimbabwe posts. Barack Obama and David Cameron and Robert Mugabe are in a boat in the Atlantic, when suddenly the ship develops a leak. They have only one life jacket. Obama says, "Let's do the democratic thing. Take a vote to see who has the life jacket." They each write a name on a piece of paper and stuff it in a coffee can. Obama and Cameron have one vote each; Mugabe gets six.

A short pleasant flight from Harare yesterday. 'Lifeline' hires a Noddy car at the airport. Also a GPS. Essential to stay in the right areas. We won't be outrunning anything in Noddy.

The final post in this 2014 mini-series from Southern Africa. The trip has taken in Harare, Victoria Falls, and Bulawayo. Today Johannesburg completes an unforgettable road trip. 'Lifeline' is the guest runner for the 4th time.

The Joburg base is a private home in Westcliff. An extremely affluent suburb with views over the inner city and northern suburbs. Another guest to introduce. Meet 'Granite'.

Last evening was a wonderful one of African hospitality. Plenty of high quality South African wine quaffed. We enjoy a spirited conversation on a wide range of subjects, including: Andy Murray, his pushy mother, the World Cup, guilt or otherwise of Oscar P, Kevin Pietersen's sacking by England, Nelson Mandela, cricket, African politics, and Matt Damon's unsuitability, being a short arse, to play a back row rugby legend in the movie 'Invictus'. A lively evening...

Oh, not to forget, some planning for today's early morning run. You know it's a good evening when the run slides by an hour.

'Granite' kindly offers to drop 'Lifeline' and I downtown. We'll run back to Westcliff taking in some sights. Oh, forgot to mention the nibbles last evening. Biltong. The Boer used biltong during the war of the late 1800s. Food for travel (longlasting), and food for war (protein). Some say South Africans like only two things more than sunny skies and rugby. That's biltong & beer. This beautifully dried cured meat with a salty texture is perfect with cold beer. I'm hooked.

In amongst the fine wine I missed the briefing about the internal house alarm. Crime is a serious consideration in Joburg. Granite had said, "if nature calls at 0500 hrs use the guest suite's en-suite bathroom. Don't open the wrong door into the main house."

Sorry to everyone for the earlier than expected alarm.

0650 hrs. Glass of water. Quick laugh about the idiot who woke the whole house up two hours earlier. Into Granite's car. We're in the traffic flow to downtown before 0700 hrs. Jan Smuts Avenue is busy. 15 minutes later we're dropped in Newtown. A well-known cultural district, a bohemian feel with restaurants, museums, jazz clubs, theatres...

We quickly establish our bearings and run north to cross Nelson Mandela Bridge (below). It's cold. We feel the altitude for the first ten minutes. In two weeks is Nelson Mandela Day (18th July), his birthdate. He'd have been 96 years old. The great statesman and icon passed away 5-Dec 2013. So many quotes, I'll go with this one, "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

This year also marks 20 years since South African gained full democracy from white minority rule. Apartheid was over in 1994.

Another guest runner appears. We're joined by a local lecturer for a few hundred metres, jogging alongside in his street clothes no less. A fantastic smile on his face. Thankfully we turn and head east up Ameshoff Street. He was the flying lecturer. He could move. We settle back into a steady groove up Constitution Hill.

Joburg theatre to the left. Now renamed after Nelson Mandela.  The giant billboard advertises Peter Pan opening in November. 'Second to the right, and straight on till morning'. Peter told Wendy this was the way to Neverland. A land of fairies. We're in South Africa. Haven't seen any fairies yet.

For us, it's first to the right and straight up Constitution Hill. Continue climbing Joubert Street.

Constitution Hill. What a view. Worth the ascent. We run straight into the Old Fort, first built in 1893. All happened right here, folks. It's more than the site of South Africa's Constitutional Court. There's some stunning modern architecture on this 100-acre site. This former prison complex held Gandhi, Luthuli, and Mandela (all Nobel Prize Winners), amongst numerous others. His 27 years in jail began right here.

We run a slow circuit of the raised fort perimeter. A high vantage point to see Joburg. Pause. Take a few snaps. Over to the east is Hillbrow. This suburb is more associated with crime than anything else. A hard area, even the Rottweilers, go around in pairs.

We work our way down from the high ground. Plenty of cheery bonhomie from those on foot also thumbs up from some drivers. I detect we're something of an oddity. Perhaps not a well known early morning running route? Down from the high ground onto Empire Road. Head west. Merge back onto Jan Smuts and begin heading north slightly uphill back to Westcliff. The training for Vic Falls paid off.

Run past our base - one more thing to do. 'The Steps'. 300m run down. Turn at the bottom and push back to the top as hard as possible. A final jog around Westcliff to warm down.

Here ends a beautiful road trip. Johannesburg has been fantastic for 36 hours; I want to return. A hearty thank you to 'Lifeline' and to all we've met along the way.

P.S. Thanks to 'Granite' for a bumper pack of Biltong for my hand luggage. I'm both savouring and rationing it...