Monday, 7 July 2014

'Early Morning Run in... Johannesburg'

Next stop Johannesburg. North eastern South Africa. Population 3 million.

Begin with a chuckle. A joke not included in the 3 previous Zimbabwe posts. Barack Obama and David Cameron and Robert Mugabe are in a boat in the Atlantic, when suddenly the boat 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 get one vote each; Mugabe gets six...

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

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



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. Sierra Leonean readers what can I say? Sure beats 'Condor Peak' & 'Two Oceans' that somehow finds its way north to Freetown. We enjoy spirited conversation on a wide range of subjects, including: Andy Murray, his pushy mother, the Williams brothers, 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 AM run. You know it's a good evening when the early morning 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. Food for travel (longlasting). Food for war (protein). This was the real deal. Some say South Africans like only 2 things more than sunny skies and rugby. That's biltong & beer. Beautifully dried cured meat with a salty texture is made for  cold beer. I'm hooked. Biltong was used by the Boer during the war of the late 1800s.

In amongst the fine wine I obviously missed the briefing about the internal house alarm. Crime is a serious consideration in JoBurg. If nature calls at 0500 hrs visit 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 2 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...

Quickly establish our bearings and run north to cross Nelson Mandela Bridge (below). It's cold. Feel the altitude for the first 10 minutes. In 2 weeks is Nelson Mandela Day (18th July), his birthdate. He'd have been 96 years old. The great statesman and icon passed away 05th December, 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. Fantastic smile on his face. Thankfully we turn and head east up Ameshoff Street. This was the flying lecturer. He could move. Settle back into a steady rhythm  up Constitution Hill.

Pass JoBurg theatre to the left. Now renamed after Nelson Mandela.  The large billboard advertises Peter Pan opening 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...



There it is. Constitution Hill. Overlooking the city. What a view. Worth the ascent. Run straight into the Old Fort, first built 1893. The place we've selected to run today. The epicentre of South African history. 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. I wish we had longer...

Run a slow circuit of the raised fort perimeter taking it all in. Tremendous vantage point to see JoBurg. Pause. Take a few snaps. Over to the east is Hillbrow. A suburb more associated with crime than anything else. If we left Noddy down there with the doors open and keys in the ignition...


Work our way down from the high ground. Plenty of cheery bonhomie from those on foot, also thumbs up from some of the cars. 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. A pleasant run back.

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. Final jog around Westcliff to warm down. Good run. Just over an hour, few stop and starts though. This is tourism on speed, I wonder...could it catch on?

Here ends a wonderful road trip. Johannesburg has been great for 36 hours, I want to return. A hearty thank you to 'Lifeline' and to everyone 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...