No better way to spend my birthday on Valentines day than doing a tour in my own city and getting a taste of local culture.

South Africa’s most famous township, with 4 million people living in it, and now the largest black residential area in South Africa I can tell you a tour is the best way to experience this world famous spot is with your own guide. Soweto would not have existed if gold had not been discovered in Johannesburg in 1886.

Our tour guide was Nipho ( which means Brilliant ) and the driver Themba ( meaning Hope ) . Nipho gave everyone in the bus new African names, some not so easy to pronounce. I was Lerato ( meaning Love ) perfect for me, there was Mpho ( meaning gift ) Gugu and some others.
With picturesque spots, bright vibrant African colours  and off the beaten track,  the area is full of hidden spots.
On your way to Soweto after a pick up at Gold Reef City casino, the first stop is the giant calabash stadium, built in 1989 it was revamped for the soccer world cup in 2010, once the games were over the name changed from Soccer City to FNB stadium the sponsor. It has approximately 94 000 seats . The calabash is used in the African culture to drink beer made by the women. . They taste the beer once it has been made but don’t drink it, this is for the men.

There is abject poverty on one side and extreme wealth on the other. The tour in Soweto begins with a drive through Diepkloof Extension. French lessons on offer is one of the signs painted on a wall. House prices go from R1 million upwards. Pavements are in impeccable condition, many paved from the wall to the street.

The tour moves on to a stop at the Orlando Towers, one of the most distinctive landmarks in the neighbourhood of Kliprspruit,these decommissioned coal – fired power station. It was commissioned at the end of the second World War and served Johannesburg for over 50 years. When they were active they were considered one of the most advanced in the Southern hemisphere. Nowadays when we here the words “ Soweto Towers “ as they are fondly known we immediately think of bungee jumping and the 80 meters free fall inside.

A drive past Chris Hani Baragwanth Hospital and the large taxi rank move us on towards the Vilikazi street ( meaning Lazy ) , probably the most famous street in Soweto. Orlando West is known simply to many as Mandela House. Here the bus stops so that you can hop out and have the opportunity to stay behind and wait for the next bus while you explore the street fulled with rich history and go for a walk inside former president Nelson Mandela’s small, humble home that he shared with his first wife Evelyn Mase.

On this street is also the home to Archbishop Desomd Tutu that he still lives in with his wife Leah and the Hector Peterson Museum. At the museum a guide will give a brief run down on the history surround the day of the Soweto uprising. At the end of the road up on the hill is the home of Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s second wife.

Leaving this area that leaves one filled with questions, a drive past Freedom Square with its 10 statues up on pillars and the Freedom Charter memorial gives one a sense of pride that we get to live in a country with such an advanced constitution.

One trip is not enough to explore this township and delve into the culture of the people but its enough to give you a taste and leave you wanting more.

Take a weekend trip on the tour and enjoy the bustling photo spot


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