The day we fly to Africa has finally arrived. Teresa and I are very excited. We had a leisurely breakfast, nice final walk and hired a cab to get to the airport (which was about the same price as the tube ride). After clearing security and walking towards our gate, I felt a pat on my back and thought they had finally tracked me down and as I turned to face my oppressor I was greeted with the friendly face of Richard Berry.
Richard Berry is a professional photographer who lives and works in Canmore, Alberta. I met Richard several years ago after taking one of his photography courses as I developed an interest in capturing some of my experiences through photography. Richard is both an excellent photographer and teacher and has definitely assisted me in improving my photographic technique. Over the years I attended several of his photographic tours to numerous exciting locations and we became quite friendly. If you are interested in learning more about photography, I would certainly highly recommend Richard and his photographic courses and tours that he offers. His website is http://www.richard-berry.com. Once you get on Richard’s website also check out his blog regarding this trip as well as his Facebook page for other fantastic photographs. Many of you have commented on my photographs and they are a direct result of Richard’s teaching and guidance.
As I mentioned previously, I never enjoy overnight flights but we had another one from London to Johannesburg. We arrived in Johannesburg and stayed in a hotel which was very close to the airport. We only had about 1 1/2 days before we had to fly out again. After getting settled in we decided to take a tour of the city of Johannesburg and Soweto. This was arranged through our hotel. We had some initial concerns because after we were picked up by two individuals we were driven to the centre of Johannesburg with very little information and stoned silence to all of our questions. We suddenly stopped outside of a jail on Constitution Hill and simply sat there. Richard asked “ what’s the plan” at which point they told us we were actually waiting for our guide. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Our guide Modeno ended up being very verbose and entertaining. He seemed quite put off that we were not going to spend more time in Johannesburg as opposed to venturing out to both Zimbabwe and Botswana.
We initially did the city tour of Johannesburg with a very interesting stop at a shop that sold specific potions made up of animal byproducts and roots. Several of the dried animal byproducts,bones and roots were proudly displayed. The shop also contained numerous interesting cultural artifacts including spears, drums and religious items. Apparently downtown Johannesburg has numerous immigrants from other African countries and in certain locations can be quite dangerous. There apparently is a lot of drug traffic that occurs as well. We visited Kalabash stadium which was one of the venue sites for the 2010 World Cup. I must admit I did not feel as safe in downtown Johannesburg as I did in Soweto (which stands for South Western Township).
The tour of Soweto proved to be much more to my liking. It was fascinating to see beautiful homes still lived in by Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela and other notables beside shacks without running water or electricity. Apparently Soweto has approximately 2 million people and Johannesburg has 4 million. All of this makes for a very big city. We also visited the Hector Pieterson museum as well as the beautifully painted Orlando cooling towers. Believe it or not these were painted from artists who hung by ropes along the sides of the cooling towers. How they accomplished this I have no idea. Hector Pieterson, age 13, was killed in 1976 after students led an uprising in Soweto against the requirement to learn Afrikaans. The photograph of his body being carried became front-page news around the world. The museum certainly was an appropriate homage to his memory.
Afterwards we returned to our hotel and prepared for the next phase of our journey to the wilds of Africa. This was going to be the part of this journey that I was really looking forward to. Excitement was starting to build.