Farewell 2017, Hello 2018

People on beach looking at Table mountain from Bloubergstrand

The holiday is over and it’s back to reality.  New posts are already in the works.  In the meantime, just in case you missed them the first time around or just really really want to read them again, here’s a quick round-up of Expatorama’s top posts from 2017.

Ponte Tower

I had read about the notorious Ponte Tower before moving to South Africa and was intrigued. It’s an unusual hollow cylindrical building with a checkered history.  I didn’t realise you could visit the tower until early last year. The tour is fascinating and I highly recommend it if you’re in town (i.e. in Johannesburg). Find out what awaits you and how you can arrange a visit in the post: Ponte Tower – A Tale of Glamour, Garbage and Gritty Regeneration.

Hairy Moments

The post Hair Raising and Hair Razing Experiences Abroad falls under the category of ‘lesser known challenges of expat life’ that don’t normally get covered on expat blogs.  Getting a haircut may be a lesser known challenge and yet the struggle is real.

Rose Tinted Glasses

Expat Life Through Rose Tinted Glasses was a fun post to write. It involved cracking open a bottle of pink wine and playing with LEGO props. When it comes to expat life, not everything is always as rosy as it seems.

Dung Beetles

The most read post ever is Why Expat Partners are Like Dung Beetles. This is a post basically detailing how completely awesome both expat partners and dung beetles are.

Photo Hot Spot

…and if you’re wondering where the photo at the top of the post was taken, it’s Bloubergstrand, which translates to Blue Mountain Beach. It’s a short drive from Cape Town and gives you a whole different view of Table Mountain. There is a gentle, shallow natural paddling pool protected by rocks, so it’s an ideal spot to take kids.

Ponte Tower – A Tale of Glamour, Garbage and Gritty Regeneration

Ponte Tower as seen from below, Johanneburg.

Johannesburg’s Ponte Tower is infamous, notorious and really really interesting.  It embodies the former decadence, ensuing decay and current regeneration of the City of Gold.  It’s a brutalist, concrete hollow cylinder of a building in the city’s Central Business District (CBD).  The tallest residential building in Africa, it rises 55 stories tall and along with the Telkom tower is an instantly recognisable feature of Joburg CBD’s skyline.


Ponte started life in the mid 1970’s as luxury real estate dubbed the ‘Vegas of Africa’, where the plushest apartments spanned three floors and had built in jacuzzis.  To see a smattering of photos from those bygone I only found this one article: Buildings are Geological Agents. There are only a couple of images and you have to scroll most of the way down through the post.


When decay set in and the original hipster residents moved out, the empty buildings were broken into and hijacked. Ponte became a complete no-go zone.  It was an overcrowded den of iniquity with a direly severe rubbish problem in the 90’s.   There was no running water, no electricity and when the rubbish collections stopped, residents would lob their waste into the central void.  Unfortunately, there it stayed until it rose a festering 14 stories high (or 2 or 3 or 5 – I’ve read different things and I’m not sure which is factually correct, but 14 is the number given by our guide on the day).  Ponte was a slum in the sky.

Gritty Regeneration:

In recent years, Ponte has changed again.  The illegal tenants evicted, the rubbish has gone and the building has been refurbished to a good standard and is now home to a mixture of families, students, working and middle class residents.  It is possible to tour both the inside (marvelling at the views from the top) and the eerie core with a circle of sky high above.   Continue reading