Solo Travel Chronicles: Arriving in Johannesburg

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e18s1 Solo Travel Chronicles: Arriving In Johannesburg

Solo traveling: night bus to Johannesburg

Initially, I was a bit insecure about booking a night bus from Cape Town to Johannesburg (Jozi). There had been some highway heists in recent months and I honestly wasn’t sure how safe it was to travel. However, the night bus is the only bus that allows you to arrive in Jozi bus station during daytime – something that for me is a safety non-negotiable. Flights were out of the question considering how heavy my luggage was. In the end, I talked to some of my local contacts. Soothed by their reassurance I went to the neighbourhood Checkers, a food store brand, and bought my ticket to Jozi. The bus trip of course took longer than expected, but overall, went well without any hiccups.


The travel safety risk of taking the night bus to Johannesburg did make me reflect about my upcoming trips. I have many times felt grateful that this journey started in South Africa, a country I have traveled a fair few times before. Soon, however, my three month visa is up and I am going to continue my journey onto unknown lands. Learn new norms and safety precautions. Understand new contexts and gender roles. The thought both excites and exhausts me. At the beginning of this adventure I did not suspect I was going to be traveling, rather I expected to be at a fixed point for an undefined time. I realise that this expectation lives on within me even if my reality now has shifted. I am going to have to do something about that if this traveling thing is going to work.

When I get to the Johannesburg bus station I manage to negotiate a better taxi price than their standard rate. At first I am surprised that they agree to it, that is, until I see the car they expect me to ride in. There is only one window and it looks like its floor might be touching the ground. I sigh as I sit down next to the only window that works. Remembering the many warnings I have gotten about window grabbing robberies in Jozi, I roll the only window up so that there is only a streak of air coming through and put my backpack between my legs. The ride is quick and smooth and I arrive at my hostel, Curiocity Backpackers, in under five minutes. It is a two floored brick building with a huge balcony framing the upper floor. It is early but the streets of Maboneng are already filled with life.

The Hide Out Bar at Curiocity Backpacker
Mural: @familyoffriendlymonsters

Curiocity Backpackers, the gem of Maboneng

I have spent many weeks at Curiocity Backpackers during the years but seldom have I taken the time to look at the building from the outside. I get out of the taxi and take a breath as I observe the building, letting all the memories of Jozi flow over me. It looks inviting, with its warm rusty style, fluffy green trees surrounding it and people from all over the world walking in and out of its bar entrance.

It is not its rustic, hip look that makes Curiocity my go to place whenever I’m in Jozi, it’s what is on the inside. As I enter the bar area on the bottom floor, a wave of sound hits me. The music is chilled and the conversations plentiful. It’s not even noon and Curiocity’s Hide Out Bar is already filled with artists, travellers, tourist guides and local students. This is why I love this place! The vibe is like no others. It is a natural meeting point, a cultural melting pot, creating space for connection, live music and culture.

Curiocity’s concept has a capacity of making tourism accessible. What I love most about their tours is that they do not hesitate to talk and explain the more difficult topics. Whether it is about the socio-economic reality of the large migrant communities that exist in Jozi, the gentrification of Maboneng, the many times destructive effects of tourism or the political contexts that propelled one of the many murals in the city, the guides of Curiocity will generously share their knowledge and thoughts.

Reunion in Pretoria

The very next day after my arrival, Matambo comes to pick me up. Matambo is one of the friends I’m still in contact with after living in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, back in 2015. I haven’t seen him since before Covid and reuniting now feels surreal. “Let’s go see Sine!” He says and smiles at me. I beam as we hit the highway realising my friends are proper grownups now with cars and jobs. We can do whatever we want! Sine is another friend from the same PMB era. She stays in Pretoria nowadays, the capital of South Africa, approximately an hour away from Johannesburg.

Before this day I had never visited Pretoria before but I had been warned! Nobody parties the way they do in Pretoria. And to my surprise they were right! The reunion was sweet and intense. I met these beautiful souls when they were in the messy phase of becoming. We were at very different places in our lives then as they were doing their masters and PHDs and I had just finished high school. Despite this, I never felt anything but welcomed by them. Seeing them now, all grown and wholesome, embracing me in my messy phase of becoming, makes me all warm inside. I hope you know how precious you are to me!

My PMB people <3

3 thoughts on “Solo Travel Chronicles: Arriving in Johannesburg”

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