Johannesburg’s two story narrative and suburb architecture sloping up to tall buildings in the center as if invoking an uncomplicated middle pole tent. But the complexity is so folded as to make some aspects of the place hidden even from secrecy, I’m lost on streets glinting from their any modern city, they are quieter than bustle and some of the signals are from places flung further from this first world. Still, students in smart uniforms, a loud beer hall, turning buses and impossibly clean commuter rail station. Sit and eat and watch and some pre-teen boys, black, pause at the window and openly consider me before waving. Grin wave back. In a half hour I’ll be in a museum of buildings on a hill that held so many objectors to the many versions of colonial rule, just voices of decency and sanity, alongside murderers and thieves the way any civilized place has. Now a bust of Gandhi. Now a plaque to Mandela. A perpetually burning flame.
Walk back, plenty of folks on foot, each one telling me somehow that it is unusual though not unwelcome that I am, too. Later dinner with new friends, some of the best kindest folks I’ve met, bikes gear travel talk, warm laughs convened by Anton, veteran Freedom Challenge racer that I was put in touch with by Eric at Revelate, we debate equipment for this year’s edition between clinking bottles of SA wine. Top adventurer Alex Harris humbly mentions seven summits and a recent crossing of the Thesiger fame Empty Quarter on a fat bike. Brilliant.
East. Lands of hard wind blown blonde grasses with season burn smoke columns, onward to canyons rolling granite and green, serpentine roads. Then to a vast park. No bicycles, a shame, they’ll wait.
Asleep to lion’s near camp rumble, a vervet stealing our powdered milk package and then white face mocking us from the roof, zebras just standing but somehow not as gracefully as giraffes just standing. More elephants than we can count in an organized water break before being led by the biggest matrons back into the tall brush. A water buffalo train ten minutes crossing the road. Sometimes there were small breaks in the line, a large adult in his prime would stand marking the way to the ones in back, escorting the old and young as they hoof tapped four meters of alien asphalt. A pair of male lions, recently of age, walking uncaringly down the dry riverbed, grooming, looking behind bushes, long blinking in the heat exactly like house cats.