Pretoria Backpackers Lodge’s name is a misnomer (http://www.pretoriabackpackers.com/) . This is accommodation is better than some hotels we have stayed in and at budget rates. For 280 Rand a night for both of us, we had a spacious bedroom with a double and single bed. The room had an extension outlet for European plugs, a hot water pot with a jar of tea bags, instant coffee, powdered creamer, and sugar. There are four large bathrooms around the house, but the closest was right next to our room. We never had to wait for anyone to get in. The front yard is filled with tropical plants and fountains. They have a travel center on site to help arrange tours, and breakfast is included. I would certainly stay here again and recommend it to others. Best of all, it was quiet.
Fifteen minutes before our full day Apartheid Soweto tour guide arrived for us, the guardian angel of lost luggage showed up at the gate. We once had guests from NYC come to our B and B, when Air France had lost their luggage for 7 days. Their week of horror kept running through my mind, so it was a sweet reunion when they showed up.
The tour guide was a black man named Freddy and we were a group of six. He kept telling us how safe we were going to be in these rough neighborhoods since we were with him. He was funny in both a comical sense as well as in a used car salesman sense. He kept talking about African hospitality and used a word we remember as something like ‘Abundi’, but every time he spoke to any stranger near our group, he would end it off with “Now what are you going to give me for the knowledge I imparted on you?” I was told it is “oooh-boon-too” (ooh as in “oooh ahhh”). The meaning is “I am because you are “, the direct translation is “Being a person”. Our first stop was the Apartheid Museum we had 2 ½ hours on our own. Admission was not included in the tour and was 25 Rand each. You are issued a plastic card that has WHITE or NON-WHITE on it, but they are given randomly. Depending on what is on your card determines which door you enter. The museum is heart-breaking, powerful, interesting, unbelievable, yet real. We left with the feeling that we wish there was no need for this building at all.
At 1:00, we met up with Freddie who was giving the history of a tree in the front of the museum, to van driver sitting there waiting for his group to return. As we left, Freddie had his hand out to the driver and asked if he was going to reward him for the knowledge he imparted. Freddie does not read body language too well.
We went to Soweto, Nelson Mandela’s house and coincidentally, Desmond Tutu lived on the same block, so we saw that too. Freddie kept telling us how safe we were as long as we were with him. I was not sure if that was a hint to slip him some ‘protection’ money or not. It felt like a mafia member telling us how well protected we were while they were emptying our pockets. Paradoxically, he would say that we could walk up to any house and be welcomed in since this was the African way.
For lunch, we stopped at a little local restaurant that looked like someone’s garage with no doors or back wall on it. It was right next to a house, so it must have been a converted garage. The food was tasty, but the service was slow. Freddy kept apologizing about the service.
Close by was Winnie Mandela’s house, so we did a drive by there too. Then we went to Johannesburg. What a contrast. The new area was desolate. There was neither a soul nor a car on the street. In the old section, it was like a major sporting stadium had just let out. There were mobs of people everywhere. Freddy told us that only 3% of these people were from South Africa. The vast majority were immigrants from other African countries trying to find a better life. I was grateful we were staying in Pretoria. Everyone in Cape Town warned us that the crime rate in Johannesburg was the worst in the country.
We were going to go to Eastwoods again for dinner, but it was closed for some remodeling. Since there was nothing else close by, we opted for Mr. Delivery. You call one number and they can deliver from over 15 different restaurants.