Intrepid by name and by nature…A Tuk Tuk tour in Soweto.

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This is all that needs to be said!

 

 

 

 

If you look up the dictionary definition of this word, you will find that it means very brave, not afraid of danger or difficulties and as a synonym, fearless as in an intrepid explorer.
I, together with several media representatives were asked to join INTREPID on a voyage of discovery as we crossed from the CBD of Rosebank, past downtown Johannesburg and into the heart of Soweto for what would turn out to be a most interesting experience
One I would highly recommend to those who have never visited this area before.
Put aside all your worries and your reticence and become a tourist in your own city for a day (like we did) or a weekend (like I hope to enjoy with my wife soon)
When chatting to the staff at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, I was astounded to learn that they have guests stay anywhere from 18 days to 2 months.
Given the quality of the accommodation, the friendliness of the staff that I interacted with and the excellence of the food we were served, I am not surprised.
Representing Travkor, Stephanie had the LARGEST water bottle I had ever seen.
And it is as big as it looks, no trick photography to make it look that size, what you see is what you get.
It must hold at least 2L of the beverage of her choice!
This was where our transport dropped us off. Aside from the Tuk Tuk tour, I had no idea what other activities were on offer. Seeing that time was of the essence, we were unable to do either a walking tour or a bicycle tour. But the former is on the cards for my next visit.
FYI: I will quote some background on the property and what it offers, taken from their website…

Integrated with the community around us, we invite day as well as overnight guests to be part of our vibrant township. As a day guest, you can book one of our interactive tours as well as enjoy a traditional African meal in our outdoor restaurant soaking up the tropical vibes and the atmosphere in our community park

Overnight experiences offer a variety of accommodation options- a backpacker’s lodge, a self-catering guest house, and a campsite with access to our communal areas and self-catering kitchens. Discounts on experiences and packages to explore Soweto and its surroundings. Home-cooked meals are served around the fire and the opportunity to explore Soweto on your own, mingling with the locals in our friendly community.

 

 

 

 

 

The aroma that wafted from these pots was tantalizing, but we had to wait as there were welcoming speeches to be made and introductions to be shared before lunch would be served.
This band was already in full swing when we arrived, and provided excellent background music for our group as we sat down to enjoy the meal that had been prepared for us.
This wall art was the backdrop to the park that surrounds the outdoor eating area. I was wonderful to watch the locals walk by, some of them stopping to sit and enjoy the music and the outdoor space. It used to be a rubbish dump, but with a lot of hard work from both the staff and the locals, it has been transformed into a green space that in residents can be proud of.
What comes before food? The washing of the hands of course.
Clinton Els, Intrepid Regional General Manager, Africa and Middle East testing the water. I had expected it to be cold, but it was warm and welcoming.
My lunch which contained at least one item that I had never tried before…chakalaka…
There was also cooked cabbage, chicken, and beef stew. All in all, the most enjoyable plate of food.
But wait, “What is Chakalaka?” I hear you ask. It was my question exactly as although I have been offered it before, I have always refused. But on this excursion, I figured that, if for no other reason than research, I should give it a try.
And this is what I discovered…
Chakalaka is a South African vegetable relish, usually spicy, that is traditionally served with bread, pap, samp, stews, or curries. The relish is said to have originated in the townships and the gold mines surrounding Johannesburg, when Mozambican mineworkers at the end of their shifts cooked tinned produce (tomatoes, beans) with chilli to produce a spicy Portuguese-style relish to accompany pap.
The reggae colours are prominent in this part of Soweto.
There were several tours, aside from ours, that were enjoying lunch and this pile of chops soon vanished!
The area around the backpackers is kept neat and tidy.
One of the staff members tends the garden that Lebo’s used for their herbs and vegetables.
Grown in a manner that does not require pesticides, the produce is seasonal and fresh, Ground to the table is what makes the food here want you to come back for more. There is also a section where the local residents can grow their produce, something that I saw replicated in many of the nearby streets. This is a testimony to the effort that Sowetaens are prepared to put into cultivation for their families and friends. Judging from several roadside vendors I saw, this crop is also being sold for income.
One of several wood carvings by a local artist, Mpho, can be found on the campsite near the chalets. They are all made from the roots of gum trees and seem to have taken on human personas.
East, west. Home is best…
These are some of the chalets that are available to guests at the campground.
A previously neglected space a few hundred meters from our main premises has today been revamped and turned into a creative space where you can pitch your own tent, hire a fully equipped one from us, or book a little Camp-Chalet“. Quote from the official website.
The interiors offer basic amenities and there are shared ablutions available as well as a braai area for those who wish to cater for themselves. The backpackers is very close by and offer alternative accommodation that includes showers and toilets.
This was one of the tour guides, Lerato, who is far and away the most passionate and knowledgeable guide I have ever had the pleasure of being with.
His exuberance brought a story-telling quality to his presentation and his factual knowledge of the area is beyond reproach.
What do I want from a tour guide? I want them to be informative, educational and entertaining. Did I get that from Lerato? HELL YES!
I came home with a better understanding of the area and the enormous role that it played in the fabric of South Africa and specifically the history of Johannesburg.

The Backpackers team sang the REAL version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight before we climbed into our assigned Tuk Tuks and headed off on a short but informative tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was Mr Isaac, the first driver that I encountered on our tour. We each got to share the vehicles with another of the media guests and at each stop we would change vehicles. Thereby getting to meet a new driver as well as a different guest. Networking was certainly the name of the game.

 

 

 

 

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