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Day 3 : Sunday 5th December 2004

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Soweto tour and African Crafts Market

We had arranged a tour of the Soweto township for this morning and our guide arrived at 9am with his minibus. There are not many natural tourist attractions in Jo’burg, indeed there is little reason for tourists to come here except as the starting point for a Safari. But for those that do, one of the most important trips you can make is to visit Soweto, which symbolises so much about the history and culture of Black Africans.

The first thing to say about Soweto is how absolutely enormous the place is. It is really a city in its own right, much larger than Johannesburg with which it normally gets lumped. The official census puts the population at around 1m people, but the unofficial (and probably more accurate) figure is 4-5 times that number. Certainly as you drive into the place, it covers everything you can see to the horizon.

Our tour round Soweto included the following stop-offs:

- Oppenheimer Gardens, Oppenheimer Tower and Witch Doctor’s Camp
- Nelson Mandela’s former house
- Hector Pieterson museum
- Regina Mundi church
- A Shebeen (or local drinking establishment)

All of the above places were amazing and we spent a large amount of time just driving around to see the different areas that make up Soweto. I was surprised to see the varying levels of affluence there appeared to be, from the utter squalor and deprivation of the squatter camps to the smart, well kept neighbourhoods where professional and other wealthy blacks who do not want to leave their roots live. Most of these well kept streets would not have looked out of place in the rich white parts of Johannesburg.

Overall the tour was extremely informative and it was both interesting and yet deeply shocking to see how people live in this corner of the world.

After the tour, we popped back to my friends' house, before going out again to visit a local African Crafts Market. This was fascinating and we spent around an hour or so just walking around and looking at various stalls.

On the way back to the house, we noticed that the weather was looking like turning into a storm. We had planned a BBQ (or a Braai as the South Africans call it!), but luckily due to my friend's veranda, we could still have one, despite the impending rain. And when it came, boy did it rain! The thunder and lightning was magnificent. A proper hardcore Highveld storm! Excellent. The Braai was great as well, and with quite a few beers downed, the rest of the evening is a bit of a blur!

Central Johannesburg