One week in Johannesburg

Sawubona everyone!

I’m back to our paradise island after spending a wonderful week in Johannesburg, one of the biggest cities of South Africa. Known as the “City of Gold” after the discovery of the precious metal in the 1880s, the city seems to be a great country to live in, with loads of places to discover and many things to learn about the history of its people.

In case you are wondering the language used to greet you, it is called Zulu, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. And yes, it is important to mention that black & white people live altogether peacefully thanks to their hero, Nelson Mandela who fought against apartheid / racism. As far as I witnessed, your skin color does not matter. Also, worth mentioning : I noticed loads of people of Indian origin with huge resemblance to Mauritians.

A bit more about the travel & stay

After spending endless minutes (in fact, nearly 2 hours) in our airport and 4 hours flight time in Air Mauritius’ new A350, named Le Morne Brabant, I landed in Joburg which has a 2 hours’ time zone difference from Mauritius. Again spent another 2 hours in the OR Tambo International airport before riding to the my final destination.

My first impressions : Sometimes it is difficult to grasp what some people there say because I’m not used to the accent. However, most people are nice and welcoming. Travelling around the country is great during weekends but however, there are considerable traffic jams during working days. Unlike in Mauritius, you can have 5 lanes going in the same direction, without any emergency or crawler lane. Despite those 5 lanes, traffic jams are a normal thing. Also, maximum speed limits on some highways are 120km/hr and from what I understood, there’s a minimum speed limit of 60km/hr on some roads.

I can say that I’ve been pretty busy there with sightseeing during the weekend, work during office hours and wandering in the huge malls late every evening. With a booking of 7 nights in a guest house on a bed and breakfast package, I enjoyed my stay in the one of the wealthiest regions, known as Sandton. On top of being a secure area, most shopping malls are easily accessible within less than 30 minutes’ drive while the office was only 5 minutes’ drive.

Situated at around 1,700m above sea level, the temperature is quite good in this region of the world. For the month of February, it is roughly 26 degrees during the day and the temperature can drop down to around 16 degrees at night. Very comfortable climate in Johannesburg right now but however, important to mention that there’s a severe drought in Cape Town right now. So severe that people need to live with under 50L of water per day (for every possible usage – bathing, toilet, cooking, drinking etc) as the city is running out of water supplies.

Currency

The currency used is in the South African Rand, often abbreviated by ZAR or R.

For indicative purposes :

  • 1 rand is approximately 3 Mauritian rupees
  • 1 US dollar is approximately 11 rands

The open-top bus tour

Still remember the big bus tour I mentioned in my Dubai’s post? Well, the open-top bus tour has the same concept whereby you buy your ticket valid for the whole day and you can hop in and out of the red bus any number of times you want. However, if you really want to visit each place along the bus route, I will advise you to book for a 2-days ticket. It can also be a tiring journey, so be fully prepared and careful with small kids.

For less than R200 (roughly MUR600), you get to visit the best tourist attractions of Joburg in one day. You might also need to pay keep some additional cash to pay for entrances at some attractions along the bus routes.

A few places to visit absolutely

The open bus tour allowed me to get to several places along their route but I chose to get off at the few mentioned places only because of lack of time:

Johannesburg Zoo

The first time ever I saw an impressive real gorilla of 1m80 and an elephant.

Carlton Center

Being the tallest building in Africa, Carlton Center is a skyscraper of 50 storeys also known as “Top of Africa”. From the 50th floor, you can have a panoramic bird’s eye view of Johannesburg

Gold Reef City

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw the video of the “Tower of Terror” I uploaded a few days back. I still feel goose bumps when I think about the wagon plunging 90degrees downwards from a height of 50m! With several other rides in the park, you can easily spend the whole day there with you family and the prices are very affordable. So, to the left below is a photo of the entrance of Gold Reef City and to the right, a selfie in one of the glamorous toilet of the Gold Reef City 🙂

Additionally, you might want to visit an ancient gold mine and go to Level 2, found 75m deep into the earth. It was an enriching visit, especially when you think that people might not have the same opportunity as water is flooding the old gold mine.

Some years back, visitors were able to go even deeper, but they had to close the access because of natural water flooding. During the visit, you also get to hold a pure 12.5 kg gold bar! And to the right of the picture below, you can find an indication of the depth of the mine.

Downtown Joburg

A place to avoid as a tourist, especially if you are alone but however, you are quite safe if you are driving through the region in the bus tour. Here, you can find shops, small snacks and etc., just like you will find in Port Louis or other towns of Mauritius.

SAB World of Beer

It is some sort of museum for beer. Yeah, the first part of the visit consists of videos showing the history of beer, how it is made etc. You also get to taste “Sorghum”, the traditional beer made by women in the Zulu culture. As per their culture, the “Sorghum” is drank in a special vessel pictured below. Very different from the commercial beer we all know; beer lovers would probably have never be fans of beer if the taste was kept the same lol.

During the visit, you also get a can of chocolate flavored beer along with 2 vouchers for tap beer in their bar. So, at the end of the visit, you are nearly drunk! So, please make sure that this place is last in your list!

Monte Casino

I also loved my visit to Monte Casino. If I had to describe it : It is a large mall building in which there is practically a village built inside, with fake streets, fake rivers, fake sky ceiling and an enormous open-air casino in the center. Everything is so real inside that you might think that you are actually walking on real streets and entering real shops found outside on the streets :

My first experience with Uber

For those who don’t know, Uber is a service whereby you can request a car to travel to your destination using the Uber application on your smartphone. Available in over 600 countries around the world, Uber has a large network of vehicles whereby practically anyone can become an Uber driver and earn a living. Using the mobile application, you just choose your destination and request a ride to the first Uber driver responding to your request. The mobile app also shows the position of Uber drivers in real time, as pictured in the left picture below. On the right side, you can see the estimated fare for the chosen destination :

Here in Johannesburg (and in many other countries), you can add your credit card to your Uber account. From there, you don’t even need to bother about payments. The moment you get off the vehicle, your credit card is charged accordingly automatically! You also get to rate your driver from 1 to 5 stars.

Other means of transport in Johannesburg include

  • GauTrain
    It is a rapid rail service covering over 80km and stopping at around 10 main stations in the city.
  • Uber
    As explained above, Uber remains a very convenient method of travel at a fairly good rate
  • Taxi
    More expensive than Uber rides, taxis operate differently from Uber as they normally require special license etc. just like in any other country. Because of the competition with Uber, sometimes taxi drivers might not appreciate if Uber drivers pick passengers near their taxi stands etc.
  • Taxi vans/minibus
    Available throughout the country and easily recognizable by the thin yellow reflective bands around the vehicles, the 15-seater vans offer a very convenient and cheap way for locals to commute around the country or to their place of work. One interesting thing about these taxi vans; The drivers and passengers communicate through hand signs to indicate where they are going or need to go as the destination is not written on the van itself.

Security

 

Although the first concern of people at the mere mention of “Johannesburg” or “South Africa” is insecurity, I have not felt being in danger at any time, but you need to be careful, especially when you realize that every house or building in regions with the high-income population are protected by electric fences and armed security services ready to intervene anytime. When you drive in regions whereby you can’t find any of these fences or security signs, you know that you are in less wealthy regions inhabited by the middle-class and even low-class population. You can also find slums in regions far away from the main wealthy regions.

Some basic rules are

  • Avoid travelling alone in unknown regions or roads
  • Avoid wearing jewelries or walking around with big cameras
  • DO NOT VENTURE in markets you might find in some regions.

As you can notice, these rules are applicable to any other country (exceptions do exist) but the rate of criminality in Johannesburg (as well as other cities in South Africa) is very high, hence the need to be careful and avoid taking any risks.

To give you another example, it is not advisable for tourists to be on their own in downtown Johannesburg whereby you can find shops and probably very good deals. However, shopping malls are generally safe but as you can guess, prices are quite high because you will find mainly big brands out there.

Shopping

There are tons of shopping malls around Joburg, easily reachable by the vast road network. And in some of these malls, you can find craft markets where you can grab good deals while enjoying a safe and sound environment. For example, I’ve been to Rosebank’s Art & Craft market to buy souvenirs but remember, always bargain!

 

 

I have been constantly comparing prices in Mauritius / Johannesburg and I can say that there isn’t a huge difference whether you are buying food, drinks, clothes or even petrol.

Poverty

Like in any other country, the society is divided into different classes depending on your income and social status. Joburg has beggars too unfortunately. You can see them around shopping malls or near traffic lights. While some of them carry a garbage bag so that you can throw your rubbish into them when you are at traffic lights, others might do some show to entertain you. The reason behind is to get some money from you while they entertain you or help you to get rid of your unwanted stuffs.

Summing up

If I need to come to Joburg again, I will gladly do so. Additionally, I even feel ready to hire a car and drive around here as I have been able to look around and observe the behavior of people in general. Vehicles are right-hand driven, just like in Mauritius. Roads are also in very good conditions and drivers are courteous in general. People don’t drive aggressively or don’t horn unnecessarily. Affordable to live in as a tourist, Joburg seems to be a good place for sight-seeing with your family as long as you don’t take any risks. The only unpleasant surprise I got here is that I had to pay a 10% gratuity fee (tip) of my total bill to the waiter in one of the restaurants. Well, it seems that this is the normal percentage to pay here in the region. I need to read more about my destination before flying next time!

A last thing : Some extra kilos are expected to show up because for the past week, whatever I ate was very bad for health : Oily, fatty food. And beer practically every single day!

Ngiyabonga (Thank you in Zulu language) for keeping tuned to the blog!

Take care!

 

Tablet restrictions to be removed because of the incompetency to secure them!

Sometimes, you need to end the week with a good joke!

Nothing better than today’s statement by Mr Vasant Bunwaree.

tablet penta

Sometimes, you need to end the week with a good joke! Nothing better than today’s statement by Mr Vasant Bunwaree.

The Minister of Education has announced that the restrictions ‘implemented’ on the newly distributed tablets will be removed if and only if the students prove that they can be responsible about the usage of those ‘educational’ tablets.

haha, lol, rofl, lmao…

None of these words usually used to show someone’s amusement can actually express my state right now! What he did not tell is that they are incompetent in their job and can’t assume their responsibilities. So, instead of trying to fix things, they prefer to stay away from providing the kids with a new challenge. As announced at first, restrictions were implemented to prevent the students from accessing social networks and other web sites. The new generation of kids did not just stand around doing nothing.

Some weeks back, the first tablets were ‘jail-broken’/ hacked / compromised or whatever bad-word the authorities used to qualify the action of some of the brillant kids. Kudos to them! Personally, I find that they brought shame to the rotten system!

As per reports in the local media, it was as simple as :

tablet-kidmode

A bad political move

IMHO, the government ( yet again) finds itself in a very embarrassing situation especially when there are high concerns about the security of the new biometric identity cards. Only a few days back, the same minister was severely condemning the action of those students who bypassed the security system of an educational tablet for other personal uses. Those same uses which were at that time qualified as ‘unauthorized’ and not in the initial agreement between the government and the students. Suddenly, now the minister is backing up with today’s announcement. At one time, he even mentioned punishing those college students who dared to turn the authorities into stupid donkeys!

donkey-govt

The problems with the tablets are not something new. More than a month back, several problems were noted in those tablets and even none of the insurance companies wanted to insure those cheap tablets. Read more in this post here.

I repeat, again, giving away free tablets was not a wise decision.

Bane incompétents, lev paké aller ene fois!

Bon weekend to everyone!

Quatre Bornes : long queues ahead!

I have stopped counting the number of times I have seen them digging again into newly tarred roads (see above). Or the numerous places with inadequate and confusing road warning signs.

machines

If you are go frequently through ( or live in ) the region of Quatre Bornes – Palma, the huge sewage works have probably caused enormous inconveniences to you. Without talking about the wear and tear in your vehicle. To tell you the truth, I pity the suspension system of my car. Launched a few years back, the works have turned the region into a huge chantier, the road network into a labyrinte, the deviations into huge traffic jams and the environment itself into a noisy and dirty area.

works2

I have stopped counting the number of times I have seen them digging again into newly tarred roads (see above). Or the numerous places with inadequate and confusing road warning signs. And very often, there’s also a big lack of police officers on the road to give proper directives to road users.

The benefits of a good sewage system in the town cannot be denied but sometimes I ask myself the following question : Was it wisely planned so as to minimize inconveniences to road users and wastage of resources as well as the taxpayers’ money? Do they really care after all?

[Insolite] Police motor officer, on his way back home.

Just like any of us, he is a human after all. But personally, I found this shot as truly “du-jamais-vu”.

Fridays are made to chill. That’s why I try to keep the funniest posts for this special day.

Today, have a look at this picture, shot by Eddy.
(Click to enlarge)


PoliceMoto_Large

Saw anything special?

If you are among those who did not find nothing interesting, a closer look at the same picture might help you:

Police Moto - Zoomed

Fom what I can see, it seems to be bunch of “laqueue zoignons” as we call it in creole (or some other plant). Just like any of us, he is a human after all. But personally, I found this shot as truly “du-jamais-vu”. Thanks Eddy!

Keep your eyes wide open and mail me any interesting shots you find worth sharing!

Bon weekend to all!

Insolite: When photographers take their job too seriously…

Friday, finally 🙂

This calls in for a slightly different post and coincidentally, there’s one. My friend A.M was lucky yesterday to grab something interesting while walking in the capital.

Friday, finally 🙂

This calls in for a slightly different post and coincidentally, there’s one. My friend A.M was lucky yesterday to grab something interesting while walking in the capital.

Let’s take a look at the first picture:

photographer2

Now, examine it carefully. The police officer stopped the traffic on a pedestrian crossing so that people can cross the road. Except that here, we have a photographer, standing on the road and shooting the pedestrian crossing itself! He doesn’t seem to care about his security or the fact that the traffic has been halted.

And the second pic, shot a few seconds after:

photographer1

What’s different in here? Other people got time to cross the road but our photographer is still at the same spot, still concentrated on whatever he was shooting lol.

I wonder if he got any interesting shot in there. Keep watching for him.

Happy Friday and bon weekend in advance.
Take care!

Escaping traffic jam on north motorway, besides Tuna factory

If ever you need to witness how some Mauritian drivers try to escape a traffic jam, you should just spend a few minutes near the Tuna factory, midway between Riche Terre and Roche Bois.

If ever you need to witness how some Mauritian drivers try to escape a traffic jam, you should just spend a few minutes near the Tuna factory, midway between Riche Terre and Roche Bois. People using this road to get to Port Louis surely know what I’m talking about.

Instead of driving along the motorway, they just switch to a parallel secondary road going pass the container park and the tuna factory. Once the end of this road is reached, they now need to get back onto the motorway.

A vehicle joining in the mentioned parallel road :

A security van from Brinks going along the parallel road *Same van can be seen in pics below* :

Well, some of you would say : “There’s nothing wrong in trying to avoid a traffic jam”. True. But the way with which some of these drivers attempt to get back to the motorway is quite dangerous and sometimes aggressive.

No accidents till now but many drivers surely start their day on a bad note. This is definitely not the only place in Mauritius where so-called drivers behave as such, believing that they need top priority to get to their destination.

A bon entendeur, salut!

Car scratched by Codan security guard at Vieux Mooulin

A friend of mine mailed me his painful experience on his first visit to the shopping Complex, Le Vieux Mooulin (pay careful notice to the name) whose security is handled by Codan Security (read the name carefully once again).

A friend of mine mailed me his painful experience on his first visit to the shopping Complex, Le Vieux Mooulin (pay careful notice to the name) where security is handled by Codan Security (read the name carefully once again).

He told the story in minute details in a letter addressed to the Codan Security administration. It goes as follows :

Dear Sir,

It is with great disappointment and embarrassment that I am informing you that my first visit to your shopping centre has turned out to be an unacceptable and horrible experience thanks to an ill mannered security guard. In fact on Saturday 28/04/12, I came to your shopping centre approximately around 18:30 and being in the end of month/peak period, I was unable to find a parking slot. I therefore parked my Mercedes-Benz (Registration: XXX, Colour: XXX ) in the ATM area (opposite to food-court main entrance) next to two cars. The security guard (known as P, ) asked me to move my car from that area but given that there were no parking slots available I asked him to give me only 20 mins as I will not be staying for long. The security guard was clearly unhappy as I didn’t obey to his orders. When I went inside the food court, I could clearly see my car from where I was standing and I noted that the security guard walked around my car on the right hand side laying his hand all throughout. He then came inside the building and stood by the main entrance. He looked a little puzzled as he may have realised I clearly saw this action. He gave me sarcastic smile and raised his hand to me giving me a ‘thumbs-up’ signal. I was almost done in about 30 mins and after that I left the shopping centre not realising that the security guard actually SCRATCHED my car. When I reached home (Triolet), I noted that the security guard had scratched almost the entire right hand side of my Mercedes (apparently with a key).

The next day in the morning, I went back to the site and spoke to one of the security guards to see if the security guard was on duty. After speaking to the officer in charge I was told that the name of the security guard is ‘P.’. I therefore made a police statement in the nearby police station. I have to admit, as an unhappy customer I can only react by never coming back to your shopping complex and always stay away from the Codan security guards.

While I have no choice but to spend Rs20,000 to get my paint repaired, I would request you to kindly investigate on this incident and accordingly act on it at your level. This is not an experience deserved by a first time customer. If I do not hear back from you, I will have to consider sharing this awful experience with a newspaper. Trust you can take a timely action from your side and keep me informed accordingly.

It’s important for you to make sure that your security guards are trained to act in an appropriate manner in case a car is incorrectly parked. Given that there were no available parking slots, I could have politely been requested to leave the shopping centre instead of having my car damaged by an ‘untrained and unprofessional’ security guard. I wish to convey my intention to sue this guy to the court as I am not prepared to tolerate this behaviour, especially while he was on duty.

I look forward to hear from you after having viewed the camera surveillance video. ( I do really hope you have a surveillance system in place!)

Please kindly acknowledge that you have received this email.

From a disappointed customer.

Pictures of the scratches :

Later, he mailed me an update when I questioned him about any security cameras in the vicinity:

Yes. There are cameras but they told me my car was out of sight. However, latest update today is that the guy has been interdicted from work until further notice. Most probably the guy will be fired. I am putting a lot of pressure on Codan security.

Should we trust them?

If you read the blog lately, you have probably saw the article where a police officer used a road check as an excuse to get a car lift to his workplace. And now, we have another case where a security guard is intentionally causing damage to a vehicle when the latter is supposed to ensure the security. I am sure that there are more similar cases daily and some people believe that they are allowed to do anything as long as power is in their hands.

I will just give you another example : Bouncers.
They behave as kings in their nightclubs but in real life, they are far behind everyone as many among them are criminals who have been previously imprisoned.

Tomorrow, YOU might be the victim of this system.

Anyone got similar experiences?

Update (10th May 2012) :

Codan security’s contract has been terminated at Le Vieux Mooolin complex. Confirmed news –

Scaring people with speed cameras

Good morning. Mauritius woke up with the announcement of 2 road accidents victims in the news headlines.

Mauritius woke up with another sad news today :

2 road accidents victims as announced in the news headlines of a private radio station.

I was much surprised on hearing that in one of the accidentsthe motorcyclist died after hitting the pole fitted with the speed camera ( Camp Chapelon). When I waited for the next news bulletins to confirm the news before publishing my post, the words “speed camera” were not stated anymore.  Surely some false rumors or unconfirmed news that were broadcast early and removed later on.

Anyway, coming back to today’s topic, you have surely experienced the unpleasant ride along the motorway in Soreze’s vicinity.

Since a couple of months, authorities have ‘designed’ a temporary road layout to deviate traffic while road works were in progress for the construction of the new highway.

However, when the number of accidents in that specific area started to rise, authorities reacted promptly by… decreasing the speed limit from 60km/hr to 40km/hr. When they realised that the new measure produced unsatisfactory results, they had to find another altenative.

So, instead of opting for a better road design for improved security, authorities have found the ultimate solution :

Threaten drivers with speed cameras

Personally, this behaviour and design of this specific road network can only confirm the incompetency of some people working in those concerned departments.

Is your home secure?

Today, I will be talking about something which we generally ponder about when it is already too late.

Is your house secure?

Hello everyone!

Today, I will be talking about something which we generally ponder about when it is already too late. When I say “too late”, I mean that most probably, thieves have already paid you a visit and carried away a big fortune. Nothing illustrates that better than the creole expression: “Après la mort, la tisane”.

Some years back, when returning home back from work, my parents noticed that the back door was open, with the door lock in pieces. Nearly all jewellery and some cash have been carried away. We never got them back. Within a week, we got an alarm system installed, all doors secured (because since thieves came in, they probably made copies of the keys) and an additional lock (Cadenas) on some doors from the inside.

Since then, we feel much more secure while leaving home everyday. The first days after the installation, it is pretty painful because the alarms keep going on now and then. After some fine tuning, the alarm still goes off a few rare occasions (probably because of a window left open or some lezard or insect moving inside the house).

How does the alarm system work?

Technology keeps changing. New things are introduced, existing ones improved and more efficient. I will just rapidly go through a few techniques used :

The PIR (Passive InfraRed) sensor is a motion detector that uses infrared light. You probably seen them in bank : they have a red led light which goes on when you go pass them.

The Vibration sensors are installed on window security bars. The alarm goes on when the structure vibrates in the event a burglar is trying to attack the structure to enter the house or even when a huge lorry is passing by, causing windows to vibrate. That’s why there is some fine tuning to be done after the installation.

Magnetic field sensors are used on doors or windows. If the system is armed, the alarm is triggered whenever someone tries to open the door or the window.

Finally, each alarm system has access control keypads which allows you to key in your pass code to arm, disarm or trigger the alarm. Configuration of the alarm system is sometimes also done via this keypad. And just as your car alarm, you also get a pair of remote controls.

Don’t become parano by watching thieves disarming alarm systems in banks etc. Be prepared to face them. Are you?

Bad things happen when you really don’t expect them.

Bon weekend!

 

Disclaimers in shopping malls, hypermarkets among others…

Have you ever spent a minute reading and understanding what is usually written before entering a hypermarket’s or shopping centre’s parking for instance?

Hello everyone!

Have you ever spent a minute reading and understanding what is usually written at the entrance of your favorite hypermarket or shopping centre’s parking?

Most of the time, nobody really pays attention to them, unless something bad happens, really bad. Like someone forced into your car, stole your personal belongings or even, your car vanishing into the air. Just like it happened very recently in the Bagatelle Mall of Mauritius.

Today, I was quite stunned with a rather ‘detailed’ notice, posted in the new mall at Cascavelle.
*You can click on the image below to enlarge*

Does that make you feel comfortable to shop in here? Most importantly, the following sentence :

All persons entering these permises do so at their own risk and peril.

Question : Why would Person X prefer to shop at ABC Shopping Mall rather than to buy those same stuffs in Port Louis for example?

There might be many reasons but I believe that some of them are :

  • At ABC Shopping Mall,  the person might feel himself (and his belongings, car for example) to be more secure.
  • Contrary to shopping in the same brand shops in Port Louis, the ABC Shopping Mall offers more facilities (including parking, food courts) – all at the same place.
  • You are free to add more reasons here (through the comments section)

I fail to understand why shopping malls and other hypermarkets etc cannot really ensure that their environment is safe. That should be their main concern. Advertising about your shops etc is not enough. Show how your mall is different from streets.  How can they invite people to use their billions-invested complex with a peace of mind when they cannot give a guarantee that THEY should feel more secure than on a street?

This said, I have been to Cascavelle today. If you have been to Bagatelle, that’s it. Cascavelle is just its miniature-like sister, but with a large “entrance disclaimer” notice, probably to prevent people suing them in case their cars get robbed, too.

Update : 
Just to give you an example, I shot this one in the parking at Cascavelle.

Who is accountable in this situation in case some car collides with the Caddys or one of them happen to leave the non-caddy space?

Take care!