New Gold Rush in Gauteng!

Gold is the magic that pumped through the earth’s veins giving life to Johannesburg on land that was otherwise not suitable to attract and sustain a large human population. Primarily, it is unsuitable land because there is no natural water source to support the consumption needs of a vast landlocked city and the joke runs that the only reef to be found anywhere near here is the Witwatersrand Gold Reef.

Johannesburg sprang up virtually overnight when the first gold rush started after the discovery of gold in 1886 and is known as the City of Gold.  It now looks like we could see a second gold rush 130 years later….

On Easter Sunday we went to an Easter Egg Hunt at Birnisan Farm to the North of Johannesburg. What we actually found (or rather what Pickle found) was far, far more exciting.

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‘Diamonds’ gathering dust on the windowsill.

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The Escape Room Phenomenon hits South Africa

I’m always looking for new things to do and now I’ve found a great way to escape FROM Johannesburg IN Johannesburg.

Escape room johannesburg, keys, codes and mysteries.

Escape rooms (also known as puzzle rooms) are already massively popular in many big cities around the world.  Johannesburg, South Africa is no exception.  Here’s our list of Johannesburg’s Escape Rooms.  Which one will you pick?

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Johannesburg’s China Town: A Taste of Asia in Africa

Like many other big cities, Johannesburg has a China Town.  Commissioner Street in the CBD was the original Chinese hub, but when the inner city deteriorated in the 1990’s China Town relocated to a quiet suburb called Cyrildene in eastern Johannesburg.


Welcome to Johannesburg’s China Town

There are plenty of other places to buy asian foods and spices at shops dotted about Johannesburg, but Johannesburg’s China Town has to be the best place to go for the widest variety and best prices.

Many of the locals don’t speak English, they speak Chinese.  As my Cantonese (not the same as Mandarin) stretches as far as the words for ‘jumper’, ‘watch’, ‘roll call’ and a rude and unmentionable phrase – all taught to me by two Hong Kong school mates at boarding school many years ago, I followed the following advice:  1. Go with the point and smile sign language technique (you’ve got to love those picture menus in some of the restaurants).  2.  Ask one of african shop assistants who will probably speak 4 or 5 different languages and be more or less able to guide you in the right direction.

Derrick Street boasts a selection of shops, restaurants, massage parlours and hairdressers.  The overall feel is Chinese, but there are products available that come from all over Asia, for example, you will find a decent selection of Thai, Indonesian and Japanese goods for sale.  As an interesting aside, apparently many of the Japanese products are actually manufactured in Taiwan because it’s more cost effective and yet, the Taiwanese-made-Japanese-sold products are more expensive in Japan than in Johannesburg.

Get a fix of dim sum or go to the restaurant that has a giant cauldron with a fire at the bottom and small pots of various casseroles stacked inside.  I can’t remember what it was called, but I’m a big fan of casseroles and they smelled delicious.


Casserole Cauldron

The only advice given when choosing a lunch venue and menu was to avoid any dishes including internal organs.


We were advised to avoid anything on this page of the menu.

We popped into a specialist tea shop.    It’s apparently THE place to go if you are doing business with overseas asians (i.e. Asians in Asia, rather than Asians in Africa) and want to gift a good tea to smooth business relations along.  Alongside the attractively packaged gift teas are regular drink-at-home teas and medicinal ones, including ‘dealcoholism tea’ (I’m assuming it’s for a hangover rather than to actually cure alcoholism or more people would know about it?) and rather titillatingly, ‘sex tea’.

There was a glass jar full of surprise tea – the same idea as surprise soup, but you end up with tea rather than soup.  I was thinking about buying some, but was slightly concerned that I might get more than I bargained for – if you look carefully there are a number of other surprise items stocked in the glass cabinet, under the glass jar.


Surprise Tea


You can buy exotic vegetables in China Town, from clusters of oyster mushrooms to flower like dragon fruit.  I’ve lived in and visited various parts of Asia and thought there would be nothing too surprising, but I’d never come across ugly, bumpy bitter gourds before.


Other items you can stock up on in China Town include industrial sized bags of rice, which surprising often come from Australia, you can buy ‘Hell money’ to burn at funerals, face masks (not the pore-cleansing beautification type, the protect-yourself-from-inhaling-polluted-city-air type), dried noodles, dried fish with wizened faces and racks and racks of entirely unidentifiable goods (unidentifiable to me, to the trained eye it’s probably no more complicated than buying a pint of milk or a loaf of bread).  I also found plenty of things I did recognise like soy sauce, prawn crackers and rice wine.


Jozi’s China Town is a thriving community rather than a tourist attraction, but if you’re based in Johannesburg, it’s worth a visit nonetheless to get a small taste of Asia in Africa.  Enjoy an inexpensive authentic exotic meal and stock up on some tasty culinary goodies.  I also hear on the grapevine that Chinese New Year is celebrated enthusiastically in China Town, perhaps that would be a good time to pencil in a return visit?

Going Downtown in Johannesburg

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Jo’burg has a lot of urban art.

In my last post, Hats for Twins, I mentioned a shopping trip and some interesting underwear that was on sale in Downtown Jozi.  In any city, if you’re prepared to get off the tourist trail with its well trodden attractions, you’ll no doubt see all sorts of unusual and unexpected things.

Johannesburg’s Fashion District

There was plenty more to relish in Downtown Jo’burg starting in the Fashion District…

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Random Johannesburg Roundup

It’s silly season.  The carol reel is looping in the shops, the Christmas biscuits in pretty tins have been shining on the shelves for weeks and everything has gone into warp speed with the end of the year looming.  Contractors and government departments will imminently shut up shop for the long Christmas holiday. Sitting down to write keeps dropping down the priority list.

However, this week I’ve come across 5 random things which I’ve cobbled together into a short post to share with you.

I’m calling it my Random Jo’burg Roundup.

1. Genius Gift Idea:  You might remember me telling you about the power cuts we had during the winter months and the culinary (and other) challenges they posed.  You can read about our power cut problems here, here and here.

Yes, the power has been much much more reliable for weeks now, but winter will be back next May/June, so we need to stay prepared.  Well, it looks like good old Woolworths has risen to the challenge and produced a book specially for power cut cooking.

unplugged cook book

Glow in the Dark Power Cut Cook Book

I just love the fact that it’s glow in the dark.   Continue reading

Honeydew Mazes: Johannesburg’s Best Kept Secret

Honeydew Mazes is one of Johannesburg’s lesser known attractions.  It’s not well signposted and doesn’t feature heavily in guidebooks.  We joined forces with another family and went to see what it was all about.

From roughly February until June there is a Maize Maze. It’s October, so at the moment the Maize Maze looks like this.

Waiting for the maize maze to grow. Honeydew, Johannesburg.

For the rest of the year there is the more permanent ‘Elemental Maze’. Grab a clipboard and pick a team name, (we were the Chocolate Loving Minions), and you’re ready to go and explore.  There are 5 secret gardens to find and in each one there were creatures to spot, quiz questions and riddles to answer and things to identify by scent, sound and touch.

Kids exploring Honeydew Maze, Johannesburg.

Some of the questions were a little….unexpected.


We found the woodland fairy in one of the gardens. She was pretty creepy.  Dirty faced, she was nailed to the branch through her belly button.

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Apart from the gremlin fairy and the question about gun law, the outing kept two mums sane on an otherwise long and frustrating husband-free never-ending Sunday and five kids (aged 5-12) engaged and occupied.

At the end of the challenge staff check your quiz answers at the snack shack. Regardless of the quality of your answers, the staff will dish out ice-lollies as a reward.

Once you’ve completed the big maze, there is a large open area with picnic tables.  Packing  your own delicious picnic is recommended, as the range as food options at the snack shack are limited. It’s not far to the car park, so leave your cool bag in your car and fetch it when you’ve completed the maze.

In addition to picnic tables, there are a selection of smaller mazes for children to explore on their own.  There are math mazes, a rope maze, a circular maze, a hedge maze. It all made a refreshing change from the usual swing-slide-climbing frame combo and kept the kids enthralled for hours.

Children playing in Labyrinth

IMG_1667We had to drag them away at the end of the afternoon.

It’s rustic setting, rather than a slick and Disneyfied one and probably the only niggle is that there are only two loos, one marked with the creepy fairy’s creepy Barbie cousin (for girls) and the other creepy Barbie’s freaky boyfriend Ken (for the boys).   More toilets please Honeydew, or are there some that we didn’t find?

Aside from the lack of loos and trio of creepy dolls the entire day was a huge hit. We’ll absolutely be heading back for another dose of fun when the new Maize Maze has regrown early next year .


For further information, including how to get to Honeydew Amazing Mazes, click HERE. (I’ve added a link to the Facebook page rather than the website, because I’ve had a few problems accessing it.  Perhaps a temporary glitch?)

Hot Wheels in South Africa

There’s always something left-of-centre to see when you are out and about on South Africa’s roads.  The reasons I don’t have an endless reel of pictures to share with you are that a) it’s not advisable to wave a smart phone or camera around for all to see when stuck in traffic and b) I’m rarely in the passenger seat and in general when you’re driving, you should’t be taking photos.  Here are the few that I have captured.

Sticky tape bus

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Fly Johannesburg to St. Helena

St Helena is an isolated island in the South Atlantic with a population of around 5000.  It was first discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1502 and is infamously where Napoleon was exiled to and died. Historically it has been exclusively accessible by boat, but that’s about to change with the successful landing of the first test flight from Africa.

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Where the heck is St. Helena?

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High Altitude, Dry Altitude

Jo’burg is located up on a plateau, known as the Highveld, which is some 1753 metres or almost 6000 ft above sea level. Yes, we live about a mile high. One of the things you quickly notice is that the air up here is crackling and dry, particularly in the winter months when rain is scarce.

Hazards of High Altitude Living

This results in dry-wizened-zombie-hag skin which feels like it’s going to crack and fall off at any given moment.

Other problems include wooden furniture drying out and cracking, static hair and electric shocks, but the Zombie skin is probably the most annoying one.

Combating Zombie Skin

Most people have hand creams, moisturiser and lip balm in good supply dotted about the house and car. Many children get a dreadful ring of  dry skin around their mouths caused by ‘lip lickers syndrome’ – basically they can’t stop licking their dry lips.  Our doctor recommended SBR repair SBR skin barrier repair special cream for dry skin at high altitudefor dealing with lip lickers, it works wonders overnight, but by bedtime the following day the ring is back and the cream needs reapplying.

When I was back in the UK this summer I spent the first three days of the holiday stroking my own cheek, marvelling at its soft youthful dewiness. Of course it didn’t last, returning to Jo’burg we’d already spent almost 11 hours on a moisture sucking plane, then we stepped out onto the Highveld and I could feel my face tightening further.  Return of the Zombie skin.

Kids are Charmingly (Brutally) Honest

This morning (like just about every morning) I couldn’t find my moisturiser.

Me:                  Kids, have you seen my moisturiser?

Pickle:            What’s moisturiser?

Sweetpea:     It’s what old people use to make their skin look young.

Me:                   Yes, that’s right.  Old people…….and Zombies (affects dead eyed stare, raises arms and marches towards them).

Read about other quirks of Mile High Living here.

Roughing it at Number 1 in Johannesburg

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The City of Gold takes…Gold!

I previously told you about some of Johannesburg’s winning ways in the post: It would be a crime NOT to tell you. Now, I’ve stumbled across some MORE positive news about this thrumming city that we currently call home. Jozi has been ranked in the top spot, the numero uno big banana of cities to visit in 2015 by The Rough Guide.

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