First Night in Johannesburg

We landed in Johannesburg slightly ahead of schedule. We quickly cleared customs (free visa on arrival for US citizens), which included being scanned by a temperature monitor for signs of Ebola.

Enjoy free wifi in Johannesburg Airport – 30 minutes per email address you register with 🙂

Very varied arrivals board in Johannesburg international arrivals

After customs we went to pick up the SIM card we had ordered online from VodaCom. We put it in JT’s phone and then went and found the ATMs (ABSA bank, no fees, found in the arrivals hall – turn left when exiting customs).

ABSA ATMs where we got our first R1,000
In case you want to take the train to the city, there are boards telling you how long until the next train (12 mins here, but my camera could not catch all of the digital display)

We bought a book of stamps at the airport post office (just to the left when exiting customs – R66.50 for 10 postcard stamps). Finally, we made our way over to the Avis car rental counter and picked up our white VW Polo Vivo.

Our rental car

The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car!

We sat in the garage for a while as JT familiarized himself with the car. Katie made the terrible realization that there were no printed directions to the guest house in our folder (Katie had prepped many direction sheets to use if needed, but apparently forgot this one) and our phone did not seem to be getting signal due to the garage.

JT’s reaction to having the idea of driving on the wrong side of the road

JT wanted to drive around a bit in the garage to get acquainted with the car. But, following the lanes in the garage, we were quickly dumped out a series of roads and then onto a highway. Katie struggled to work JT’s unfamiliar phone and try to get directions to the guest house up. We soon found we were also unable to get any data on the phone, so getting directions on the phone was not going to be an option. Katie pulled out one of the other direction sheets and tried to form a plan based on the very high level map. She picked a route that seemed to go just south of Johannesburg city center on a decent size road and would eventually hit the N1 limited-access, divided highway.

This was a generally good plan, but what seemed to be a rather large road on the map actually had lots of stoplights (many not turned on) and went through some poor/sketchy areas. We finally passed over the N1, but there was no entrance. JT found a place to U-turn and intuitively found a way to the N1. We exited at the correct exit and found the general area of the guest house, but we struggled to find the correct turn off of M5.

With time ticking down towards the latest check-in time for the hotel, we decided to stop at a gas station, buy some snacks, and get directions. This finally put us on the right path and we found the guest house – just a couple of kms away. Driving without directions, on the “wrong” side of the road, on the “wrong” side of the car, in km instead of miles, in a different country with unfamiliar road signs, in the dark, through rough areas and through areas without power (for streetlights or traffic lights) was really rough, but JT did a great job of handling driving!

Someone came outside to meet us outside 5th Avenue Gooseberry Guest House with a candle. Apparently the guest house (and surrounding neighborhood) was currently experiencing so-called “power load shedding”, so we had no electricity. Apparently this is pretty common in South Africa, so many people/hotels/businesses have generators. Our hostess even mentioned that maybe they should get a generator, while showed us to our room (#12). Then we went back to the car to get our headlamps and our bags.

Finding our way to our room via headlamp – a lot easier than by candle!
Hotel room bed

Once back in the room, Katie unpacked while JT called VodaCom to try and get our data plan set up.  It seemed like he had no luck.

We left for the Above & Beyond show at the NASREC center at 9:30pm, since Above & Beyond was scheduled to go on at 11pm.  JT drove there with no issues, and we paid R50 to one of a crew of guys who were running around and showing people where to park. They did not seem to be official at all, but ~$4 was a good investment to not create an enemy. At the concert venue, there was very little security and no need to show ID.

Ready for some “Group Therapy”

The concert was being held in a big exhibition hall, with food trucks outside and plenty of bars in the back. We did not check beer and liquor prices, but people were drinking plenty so we assume they were rather inexpensive.  The venue was not too crowded when we arrived, so we positioned ourselves pretty close to the front and to the left side.  We were surprised by the lack of kandi (we did not see any besides ours) and the lack of Above & Beyond shirts (we probably saw a max of 5 other A&B shirts, and only got one comment on ours).  We’re sure there were a few big A&B fans like us there, but it seemed it was mostly people who could take or leave A&B (which was pretty sad, considering they were the headliners). JT described the crowd as ‘tough’, and his back pocket was “checked” at least a dozen times during the night by would-be thieves. Thankfully we had everything we needed in a money belt. It was a pretty disappointing crowd, that only went downhill as the night continued.

Fresh (the act from 10pm-11pm) finished around 10:40pm.  Seamus (Above & Beyond’s tour manager) came out and altered some things on the decks, and then Jono and Paavo (2/3 of Above & Beyond) took the stage for what ended up being almost a 2.5 hour set!

“Don’t forget a thing called love”

The actual set was pretty awesome, although the crowd was strangely not enthusiastic at points. We were both hoping they would play Ilan Bluestone’s Cape Town (since we’re in South Africa, albeit not actually Cape Town), but no luck.  They did play everything from classics to a “world premier” of something “from our lab”. They played a variety of songs from all their albums: Oceanlab, Tri-State, Group Therapy and of course a bunch from their recent We Are All We Need CD.  The Push The Button guy and girl who were chosen took forever to actually push the button (and seemed a lot more excited about being on stage than about pushing the button), and most people in the crowd did not seem to understand / know about the Push The Button ritual.

Protoculture was set to take the stage from 1am-2am, and Katie had listened to a couple of his sets beforehand and thought it was be good.  So we decided to stay for his set.  The actual set was good – and probably would have been pretty awesome if the crowd had not been terrible.  There were many drunk and high people stumbling into us, ‘tough guys’ just randomly pushing through people as they went around, and even more people trying to check JT’s pockets for things to steal.  Really not a good crowd. We stubbornly made it through his set, and then we grabbed some food from a food truck outside before making our way to our car.

We found out from experience that a “Boerewors Roll” is a sausage on a hot dog bun

As we were leaving, the security guards were warning people to watch their phones and wallets, as pickpockets were around.  Great.  In reading on the Facebook group for the event the next day, multiple people report getting robbed after leaving the show and one guy even claims to have been stabbed (badly enough to have to be taken to the hospital) and hit over the head with a bottle!  Apparently security did nothing in any of these cases.  Pretty glad we made it to our car with no issues.

JT was able to make the drive back to Gooseberry with no issues (and mainly by memory!).  He’s really picking up driving on the left-hand side of the road, although he says it still takes careful decision making and thinking at every turn or lane-change.

Once back at Gooseberry, Katie showered and JT took a bath.  It felt so good to be clean, since our last showers were over 2 days ago – and a lot happened in those two days.  The bed in room 12 is really comfortable, and we fell asleep really quickly!

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