Saturday, November 09, 2013

Gated in Johannesburg

I arrived in Johannesburg this morning for some work related stuff and some sight-seeing hopefully sandwiched in. Several people have asked me if I was scared of going, and the person who invited me and arrange my accommodation sent me a semi-reassuring email last week saying not to leave my luggage unattended at the airport and not to walk around at night by alone. But a couple of online searches on the internet at Heathrow left me feeling pretty terrified. But I have walked around Mexico City, Rio, Columbo, Mumbai and Preston city centre and coped. And actually, the airport felt very civilised - moreso than JFK at New York. The city has a smattering of tall buildings, which look like some were built in the 60s. We were driven to our guesthouse which had a very reassuring electric gate, and is in a "bohemian district". We were shown a 1-storey street of small shops and cafes which seems to make up a kind of cultural centre. After napping we decided to go out at get some breakfast.

But that's were events took a slightly surreal turn - we had been given a key fob with a button to press to make the electric gate open so we could go in and out as we pleased. But as much as we pressed it, the gate wouldn't open. The lady who seemed to be in charge of the guesthouse had vanished, and we appeared to be the only guests. Wandering around the compound felt a bit like being in the Twilight Zone, and when we tried phoning the numbers of the owners of the guesthouse we couldn't get through.

So eventually we got in touch with the guy who'd invited me and set up our booking and he lives about a 10 minute walk away so he said he'd come over. "I don't know what you expect him to do when he gets here," my fella snapped (by this point spousal relations were on shaky ground). "He might have a trick to get the gate open that we don't know about," I suggested, uselessly. So we sat watching tv with the sound turned down, waiting for him to arrive.

Finally, he appeared at the gate. And in an act which suggested experience which I have no knowledge of, he quickly pulled it open with one hand. Apparently these gates break down sometimes and have to be manually opened. By the time we got back from our coffee it had been fixed.

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