||21 October 2012 07:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
Johannesburg: A bustling city [on screen], with a footprint bigger than New York and London.
And with its hundreds of kilometres of roads to contend with, getting around could be a daunting task for residents. So where does that leave a visitor who's just landed?
Bongani Bingwa (Carte Blanche presenter): "The point of the exercise is very simple. Let's take an international visitor - we'll call him our 'accidental tourist' - to see just how accessible Johannesburg is, particularly to somebody travelling on his own with no assistance."
To find out, we set a few challenges for an American visitor:
- Sample three different taxis from the airport to an upmarket Sandton hotel.
- Make his way to Soweto using only public transport; spend a day touring historical sites and sample township cuisine before returning to Sandton again on public transport.
An easy task? We shall see.
Meet our tourist, American national Brooks Spector - a seasoned traveller who says he's seen it all, done it and eaten it all.
He's off and in search of his first taxi. To ensure his safety and to blend in, we followed close by with cellphone cameras and tracked his movements using a GPS.
At the info desk they referred him to a taxi driver who was a trained guide working under a Gauteng Tourism project.
[Taxi 1] Brooks Spector: "I'm sitting here with my newfound friend, Mduduzi."
Almost Brooks... it's Msunduzi.
Our tracking device froze and we lost our tourist. But he arrived safely, having gained a wealth of information about the city.
Our overall assessment: a well-deserved two thumbs up.
[On screen] Price: R400, Driver: Knowledgeable
[Taxi 2] So far so good. He's heading off with a metered taxi and this time we manage to track the driver's every move - just to see if he takes the long and winding route for an extra buck.
So for the assessment: The journey was fairly pleasant and pain free. A touch steep at R480, as the driver took the long way round, but all in all, deserving of a thumbs up.
[On screen] Price: R480, Driver: Friendly
And our last instruction: go with any driver that approaches you.
[Taxi 3] And it appears as if he's catching a lift with a tout. They disappear into the basement parking and we lose them.
Then tracker says they are nearby, within 10 metres. Ah, spotted in the silver Tazz.
We temporarily lost sight of them again, but then finally they arrive safely.
[Diary Cam] Brooks: "And he wanted R550, but we had to stop and get some petrol first because his car was empty."
A complete rip-off. The driver was not prepared to negotiate, didn't have insurance and didn't seem familiar with the route.
[On screen] Price: R550, Driver: Chancer
Our tourist seems to have been three times lucky. But no one suggested the Gautrain... at a quarter of the price, safer and quicker.
Bongani: "This is our city. We're going to set you out there... set you loose, and see if you can be on your way."
Day 2 and we're sending him to Soweto with one rule: he may only use public transport.
Bongani: "Alright Brooks, you have your instructions. I just want to add that for lunch you are to order umngqusho, maotwana, or mogodu. Good luck to you."
Brooks: "Alright, thank you very much. We'll see what happens."
Bongani: "Brooks is off to Soweto. It is 09:30 now. He's got to find the Mandela House and we'll see him later at Vilakazi Street."
Ai-ya-ya... shouldn't he be going down...?
Brooks: "This is definitely not right."
After a false start, our tourist is on his way, but he struggles with the vending machine... The queue is just too long so he takes another stab at it. Success! Now if only the vending machine would let you reload your card by destination.
Brooks: "Ah, it worked!"
Meanwhile, the crew are on their way to Soweto.
GPS: "Turn left, turn right... Arriving at destination."
[On screen] Vilakazi St.
No... this can't be right. Seems we have a case of mistaken identity. We asked three residents and not one could direct us to the correct Vilakazi Street. Just as well our tourist is taking the Rea Vaya bus.
[On screen] 10:20
No one could give him a pocket map that included the Soweto part of his journey, but staff and passengers helped fill in the gaps:
Woman 1 (Rea Vaya): "Where are you going to?"
Brooks: "Eventually I'm trying to get to Vilakazi St."
Well, she then told him to take the C3 to Chancellor House and then the T1-Boomtown and the F4 to Vilakazi Street... I'm confused.
Brooks: "So I get on here?"
Woman 1: "Ja, you get on here."
Brooks: "Thank you! Appreciate your help."
Let's see if he can remember all those details. At the same time, I found the real Vilakazi St.
And it seems our tourist might be somewhat delayed.
Brooks: "There's a police blockade up ahead. That's helpful, because there are marchers."
A local parade, commonly known as a strike.
Apart from the bus being incorrectly labelled 'Depot', our tourist made it without a hitch. Except maybe for:
Brooks: "I got this map at the first station, but when you look at it again you realise it only gives downtown from really the train station, Park Station, to Commissioner St. At this point, on this map, we are probably about here (a metre off the map)."
Our tourist eventually got to Vilakazi Street. By car, our crew did the journey in 40 minutes despite getting lost. Brooks' journey, however, lasted two hours.
Bongani: "I've been tracking you and it says you are right where I am."
[On screen] 11:37
Bongani: "How was the trip?"
Brooks: "The trip was fine actually. The only mistake I made was in the Gautrain station."
Bongani: "But the public transport system is working then?"
Brooks: "Yes it is. It takes a little time and if you have to transfer you have to get off of one thing, wait for the next one..."
The only problem, according to our tourist, is that once you leave the city centre you're on your own.
Brooks: "Now they have the big maps on the station walls, but that seems to be the kind of thing you want to hand people."
And perhaps this is why tourists aren't using public transport to access top attractions in the province.
How about integrating ticketing or maybe a tourist day-pass? Well, it looks like sleepy Cape Town could get it right before Jo'burg does.
Bongani: "Now we're going to send you off to Hector Pieterson Memorial and meet you there."
We told him he's going to have to organise his own taxi rides.
Brooks: "Does anybody have a car? Could somebody give me a lift up that way?"
Man 1: "You can walk; it's not far from here... So, you can walk. It's about a kilometre."
Brooks: "That's a long walk."
But a Samaritan helped Brooks on this long walk to freedom.
Bongani: "It's really the name Mandela that brings people from all over the world to this humble street in Soweto. And humble it still remains because, at the local restaurant, which is branded with the name 'Mandela', you can only get Rooibos tea... there's a sort of an instant chicory thing - not proper coffee and the cappuccino machine we were told has been stolen."
And while Brooks' lazy feet were getting to grips with Soweto's well-known hospitality, he was getting a free tour of the Struggle.
Bongani: "For many international visitors coming to Johannesburg, Soweto has associations with a brutal past. But this is a new place with a new vibrancy determined to rewrite its history."
But the manager at the Hector Pieterson Memorial demanded money from us to film there, so we ordered a U-turn and sent our tourist in search of food.
Everyone Brooks asked said there was only one place for traditional fare in Vilakazi Street. Unfortunately, it seemed to be a tourist trap.
Bongani: "So we are about to have lunch - do you remember the names of the foods I asked you to order?"
Brooks: "You wanted me to get mogodu."
Brooks: "Yes. Two more..."
Brooks: "I know, and I haven't a clue."
What Brooks did find was a local restaurant to eat umngqusho in, but there was nothing local about the price. We think the City could add some real flavour here.
We were told that organised tours are the best way to see Soweto. We disagree... especially if you are travelling alone. So we set Brooks an impromptu challenge - to hire a local taxi to try and find the 'real' Soweto. The first taxi driver wanted R3 000, but Brooks managed to negotiate a sweet deal with the second entrepreneur.
Brooks: "If we just did the Soweto part, how much?"
Gift: "You can give us R350."
Brooks: "R350 for the things we were talking about?"
Gift, a local, gave Brooks more insight than he bargained for.
Gift: "You see our carwash."
Gift: "This is our country, it's our homes."
And then back to something on the more traditional tourist route.
Brooks: "19-year-old Tsietsi Mashinini led students on a peaceful march in protest against Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black schools around Soweto."
And with death, comes prayer.
Gift points out the Regina Mundi Church, which was a haven for many people during the Soweto student protests.
And the Soweto Theatre - the newest jewel in a vibrant performance culture. Sadly, it doesn't have a sign with opening times nor a website.
So for our final verdict...?
While Gauteng Tourism planned to release an app last month, what's currently available to tourists doesn't, from our experience, make it easy to access South Africa's biggest city.
And while Brooks had a good time, it was only because of the incredible hospitality he experienced along the way.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.