Complacency and anxiety often restrict people from building new friendships, relationships that exist in the flesh and not a discardable online connection. For a traveller however, those barriers appear dissolved allowing a bond, though temporary, to be formed instantly and often from the most simplistic of connections. The humble hostel offers travellers the greatest opportunity to fabricate such temporary friendships. And so it was that after much drinking the night earlier Milli and I found ourselves chauffeured across Johannesburg by a friend of the hostel owner, whose name I have since forgotten.
Together we take to the highway where I begin to grasp the enormity of Johannesburg. Sprawled across 1645 sq km, South Africa’s hub is four times larger than London thus
travelling throughout Jo’burg at any degree of convenience demands access to a private vehicle.
Situated in Soweto, the remnant cooling towers of the now decommissioned power plant houses a smorgasbord of adventure activities from paintball to free fall. The entire length and circumference of the Orlando Towers as they are referred to today, have been beautifully decorated with colourful images symbolic of Johannesburg and South Africa alike. Strung between the two towers swings a netted bridge constructing an incredibly unique setting for bungee. Bungee companies often strive to differentiate themselves from one another and so this particular jump is touted as the ‘tallest bungee between two cooling towers’, somewhat of a stretch I realise.
Before the entrance, a vested man stands, whose sole responsibility is that of guarding the parking lot who, assures our group that our car shall remain as we had left it. More concerning however is the black and yellow sign informing guests that no guns are permitted. Though the landscape and weather remind me of home, the abundance of razor wire, electrified fences and commonality of such security instantly returns me to a state of alertness.
Having completed a number of jumps and with my feet firmly placed on the ground I felt calm and relaxed. Happily gazing upwards, listening to the shrieks of punters as they plummet. An open-air lift elevates me to the top of the cooling tower which, because of the upturn travels momentarily at an invert. My heart rate gently accelerated. Perched along the outer rim of the tower a viewing platform offers an incredible panoramic view of Soweto and suddenly I am struck at how tiny the people below appear.
Shuffling my feet one by one, my toes perch over the edge of the jump platform, 100 metres above the earth below. I’m instructed to raise my arms and a countdown begins from 5 to 1. I leap without hesitation, the colourful tower capturing my attention before my sight shifts to the rapidly approaching ground below. For a brief moment, the surrounding sounds disappear and I feel calm. Bungee has certainly become an addiction of mine, one which is often costly but at only $50 AU including photographs, Orlando Towers could be classed as a bargain.
Satisfying my vertical obsessions Milli and I returned to the highway, onward to the Apartheid Museum. Alike the oppressive controlling communist state of East Germany, the era of apartheid in South Africa represents a troubling period of recent history I felt compelled to explore.
The museum which had also featured a temporary exhibition to the late Nelson Mandela chronicled the origin, resistance of and eventual liberation from apartheid. Projected films depicting violent protest and police driven massacres offered an experience equally engaging and disturbing.
For myself who had only a very basic awareness of apartheid history, the museum proved overwhelming at moments. Alike my first visit to the Berlin Wall Memorial I found myself having more questions than had before I entered.