Mbabane to Jo'burg

Mon, 18 Aug 2008 09:01:01 +0000

Maputo to Mbabane Index Jo'burg to Gabarone

I got up around 7:00 to get my breakfast. The bloke on breakfast duty was very attentive, actually a bit too much so. It's embarrassing to have someone hovering over you the whole time. But the breakfast was pretty comprehensive: sausages, fried eggs, yoghurt, cornflakes, and toast. Everything was just slightly crappy quality, which suits me perfectly.

I then grabbed my backpack and the manager gave me a lift down to the bus station. He pointed the way to the Johannesburg buses. There were at least two, which is good, means I don't have to rush. So I went off to buy a postcard and phone through a booking to the hostel in Johannesburg. That last was quite hard, since the phones don't seem to accept international calls. But in Swaziland, it seems, the whole of South Africa is considered just an area code of Swaziland. You simply prepend a "7" to the South African area code. It makes sense, I guess South Africa dominates life in Swaziland a bit.

With that sorted out I went to get on the bus. I got very confused here. Unlike the minibuses I'm used to, you don't just hop on the right bus and wait. It seems both Johannesburg buses are operated by the same people, and I had to go and register my passport with a guy sitting in the other one. I bounced back and forth between the buses trying to understand their system for a bit, before eventually figuring it out and settling into a seat at the back. We set off at ten to nine, earlier than I'd been promised, so it's good that I got there early.

Before long we hit the border post. I was glad I didn't get a whole extra visa sticker in my passport, they just put another stamp over the old one. That page in my passport is getting quite crowded, since it has my Mozambique stamps in as well. There was lots of confusion about the bags. We'd each been issued with a form saying we'd been through customs. But then they decided that we each had to declare our bags, and we were returned our stamped forms so that we could go back over the border to do so. Except that apparently I didn't need to bother, since I'd left my bag in the bus itself, not in the trailer, and somehow this is completely different. I guess it's just bureaucrats trying to apply the nonsensical rules they've been given.

And then the long ride into Johannesburg. It's mainly farming country along this road. You can really see how different agriculture in South Africa is from agriculture in Mozambique. I guess if we're going to solve this food crisis, all those little maize and cassava fields in Mozambique are going to have to be amalgamated into gigantic featureless anonymous fields like in South Africa. It might be less picturesque, but that's probably not Africa's biggest concern right now.

Eventually we reached the vast Johannesburg conurbation. I'd received instructions over the phone that if I wanted to be picked up by the hostel's shuttle, I should get out of the minibus at "Park Station". I figured out from Wikitravel that this is Johannesburg station, and I was able to follow our journey on GPS and jump out at the right point, avoiding the need to risk life and limb walking through the city centre. Mind you, there do seem to be lots of people walking around, many of them looking much richer than me. Is the danger exaggerated? Today didn't seem like the day to find out.

I phoned the hostel again and was told to wait in the "Hungry Leopard" restaurant. I ordered a "quick lunch", which came fairly slowly. Two pieces of fried chicken, rice, curry sauce, and a little coleslaw. Not bad. I wolfed it down, worried that I might not have time to finish it, but of course my ride took ages to turn up.

The Backpacker's Ritz hostel may not be the most luxurious place I've stayed, but it's nice to come back to somewhere faimilar. I checked in and booked a bus ticket to Gabarone for tomorrow. Intercape had space available this time, so that's nice. The rest of the day was just alternately hanging out in the hostel and in the mall. That's Johannesburg for you.

Maputo to Mbabane Index Jo'burg to Gabarone