Scott Balson's trip to South Africa -
31stAugust - 1st September 2006 - Perth

Perth : Johannesburg : Pretoria : Pietersburg : Pilgrim's Rest : Ladysmith : Champagne Castle : Estcourt : Durban : Ixopo
Kokstad : Port Elizabeth : Plettenburg Bay : Cape Town : Victoria West : Griquatown : Mafikeng : Johannesburg : Perth

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The day started with rain at home and a taxi ride to Brisbane Domestic Airport at 6.30am

The plane left Brisbane at 8.50am and arrived in Perth at about midday. Apart from losing a pair of glasses which meant I could not read the journey was uneventful.

Taxi from Perth Airport to Mum's flat in Harman Drive, Sorrento and an afternoon sorting through her belongings before Mum returned to the hospital and my brother to his family.

Among the items I received is a unique tiger beautifully carved out of a gold nugget that comes from the gold fields of Johannesburg. The tiger, weighing at least half an ounce was hand carved by a jeweler from Hamilton and Inches in Edinburgh in the early 1900s. The craftsman went to the Edinburgh Zoo where he took sketches of the tiger there before creating this beautiful piece. Image below.

I am here at Mum's old flat - a refuge for her in the past that she will never return to because she is to frail.

Very sad.

In the morning I fly out to S Africa and then my big adventure begins.

My plane at Brisbane

The road to Mum's flat in Perth

Mum engrossed in
my new book

With Mum

With my brother Dermot

The gold tiger

1st September

I took the pictures at Mum's flat in Harman Drive, Sorrento before catching a taxi at 8am to the Perth International Airport.

The backyard of Mum's flat

and the front door

Packed and waiting for taxi

Perth International on a Friday

My plane being prepared

The City of Perth below

and the suburbs

The city of Perth

and Kings Park

The plane and City

The City's northern suburbs

A sharp turn over the sea

Below Hillarys Boat Harbour

as we set off to South Africa

Goodbye Australia...

The flight to Johannesburg was uneventful, the plane only half full... and the once AAA Class service that South African Airways offered now compromised by, of all things, a faulty internal entertainment system... on a twelve hour flight!

It was really boring but when we eventually arrived at Johannesburg International Airport we it was about 5pm and after 6 by the time we got through customs - the lengthy delay was simply getting my passport stamped as can be seen from the queues behind me in the last image of the series on this page below!

By the time I got out of the airport it was dark outside and a web of major interlocking highways soon had me at my destination - a hotel in Sandton City. One would not book a hotel in Johannesburg - you just have to look at the website "Death of Johannesburg" to see why.

I woke after a fitful sleep at 3am - my time is totally out of sync! It is now 5am on 2nd September and time for some more shut eye.

The view of the Sandton Sun Hotel at 3am can be seen in the image right - product of an ill-timed alert brain.

Approaching the

African Coast just north of Durban

The hills of northern Natal

Fires dotted the highveld

Coming into

Johannesburg Airport

Planes lined up

Less than impressed travellers
wait to have their Passports

First Impressions:

It was an amazing almost spiritual experience returning to the continent of my birth... as we crossed the South African coast I turned to the passenger sitting next to me and said, "I just cannot describe he feelings I am feeling right now."

Descending into the airport required flying through a thick level of smog, disgusting brown smog that enveloped Gauteng - the old name Witwatersrand is now clearly inappropriate.  African townships sprawled for mile after mile... squatter camps lit up with yellow lights but having little else by way of services or sanitation. (Image right)

On my way to the hotel we passed an emergency van on the side of the road... lit up by a torch was the body of an African struck by a car. "They can't be seen at night and just run across the busy highways - there are hundreds killed on the roads every year," my driver said dismissively. For a moment this reminded me of the problems we have with kangaroos in remote parts of Australia - but this was human life and the driver of the car involved in the incident would not stop for fear of being car jacked.

Dinner at  nearby restaurant was dominated by a large number of Africans - something I would never have seen in the Apartheid era when I was last here over 20 years ago. The SABC TV was dominated by black presenters who speak perfect English... one of the big issues today is affirmative action - with its positive impact flowing into the restaurants and the empowerment of the black population. The negative impacts have been serious degradation of services in some government bureaucracies and apparently the liquidation of many small to medium sized businesses who could not survive the quota system that was thrust upon them.

This is definitely a new South Africa and Sandton is bigger and better than when I knew it 20 years ago - while old landmarks like Johannesburg are just plain dangerous and a disgraceful eyesaw. I have a meeting there tomorrow so I fear it is going to be a disturbing experience.

One of the quirks of the new South Africa is on the news today , namely that their new soccer coach brought in from South America for the 2010 World Cup to be held here will be paid ZAR1.8 million per month (about US$250,000} - twice the President of the country's salary - while the building of the soccer stadiums has not even begun and there is now doubts they will be ready.

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