Child's sketch Mile High Living gives your zombie skin
Johannesburg, Weather

Mile High Living: High Altitude Quirks

There are a few quirks to mile high living.  I covered the zombie skin you get during Johannesburg’s crackling dry winter months in the post High Altitude, Dry Altitude, but there are are other things about life on the Highveld that you might be interested to know about. 

Dry Altitude

In addition to zombie skin, dehydration is something to watch out for. Because in more humid climates, where you find that your sweat glands have sweat glands,  it’s obvious that you need to drink gallons of water. With mile high living, the dehydration is stealthy. As your sweat evaporates so effortlessly (rather than running down your back or into your eyes) you probably won’t realise how much moisture you’re losing.

Dehydration is very real though, so be sure to drink plenty of water, especially if you are enjoying any of the local wines or craft beers.  If you don’t, you will look AND feel like a zombie.

Mile High Living will Shock You

…and I’m not talking about crime or poverty.  You may be shocked by another effect of the dry altitude, literally. Because the air is so dry up here, there is far more static electricity. You probably won’t notice it during the summer months when it often rains, but in winter the air is bone dry. Winter is when you are most prone zombie skin, terrible hangovers and multiple daily jolts of electricity.  Opening the car door is quite hazardous – it shocks me nearly every time.

Mile High Living can give you a touch of Altitude Sickness

Technically we are not high up enough to get actual altitude sickness, however, you might feel a bit off during your first couple of days here if you’ve come from sea level. If you’ve just flown long haul you could mistake the mild effects of altitude for jet lag.

Altitude Training

The air is thinner.  You may feel a little more breathless that usual if you over exert yourself.  You’ll adjust quickly though and on the flip side when you return to sea level, you’ll feel like you can run for miles.

A Quirky Kitchen Conundrum of Mile High Living

Because the atmospheric pressure is different you may need to adjust your cooking times. They say a watched pot never boils, well on the Highveld it’s truer. At sea level it takes 3 minutes 29 seconds to boil a medium, room temperature egg.  At 1753m above sea level (Jo’burg’s altitude), it takes 4 minutes 22 seconds – almost a minute longer!  You can find out how long it should take to boil an egg wherever you are HERE.


The sun is strong up on the highveld.  Sunscreen and shades are your friends.

Heed my Words to Survive Mile High Living

So, basically, when you first arrive here, take note of the above or you will end up as a dehydrated, sunburned, slightly tired and/or nauseous zombie doomed to wait for eternity (well a bit longer than usual) for your boiled egg breakfast.

It might also be worth investing a couple of humidifiers for your bedroom to help with the dry skin problem and to protect any valuable wooden furniture from cracking. A alternative is to fill saucers with water and place them under your furniture. 

These are the quirks of mile high living that I’ve come across. Let me know if I’ve missed any.

6 thoughts on “Mile High Living: High Altitude Quirks”

  1. Shocking! I can tell you that is one of the things I remember the most when we first arrived in Johannesburg! Shopping trolleys (especially the metal ones) had me cursing in the aisles of PicknPay. The kids love to slide their feet on the carpets and then zap unsuspecting brothers! Or switch off the lights and watch the spark being transferred onto each others noses:). Also pasta never cooks the same at this altitude. I always need to add a minute or two.


  2. Love this post and will share on And I’m glad to say, I can add another one to your list, if you’re a tennis player: Don’t think you can use those balls you shipped in your container from wherever you bought them. They won’t be high altitude balls, and as such will bounce so high you won’t know what hit you. You need to buy special high altitude balls, which is all they’ll carry at your local Joburg store, like Sportsman’s Warehouse.


  3. Buy a lot of sta soft and use it in all of your washing and a big yes to the humidifier. On the plus side your hair and make up will stay perfect all day. No himidity no frizz, no humidity no running mascara. Also one can dress properly even in the heat. At the coast the humidity makes that impossible. Oh and your washing and towels dry in no time at all. We hang our towels in the sun every day, winter time too and they always smell like sunshine. No damp here 😀


    1. Thanks Kimanye – yes, we do get through a lot of fabric softener. Maybe I should buy shares in Sta Soft? Actually, I’d never thought about it, but you’re right about hair looking good and washing always drying. Thanks for pointing out the perks of mile high living.


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