I followed Brandon into the city, laughing at his”HOW’S MY DRIVING? 1800 EAT SHIT” bumper sticker. It was just before 5am, sunrise was almost 2 hours away and the streets were empty except for a few cold security guards, speeding taxis and a red Mini. We gathered on the corner of Mint and Fountain streets in Fordsburg and set off to explore, a pre-dawn patrol still under the cover of night.
Made our way to the pedestrian flyover bridge next to the M1 to look across over the city, and admire its sprawl, bathed in the eerie dark before dawn.
The safety railing long gone (sold for scrap metal) and missing, the only thing standing between me and the edge was a sharp sense of vertigo. The sky was getting lighter by this stage, although we never saw the sun rise. It was an overcast morning, the edges softened with fog and and blurred by streetlamps.
We crossed over the bridge, picked our way down a crumbling concrete staircase and slipped around in a bit of mud to emerge under the highway. We were greeted with the bared teeth of monsters sprayed into life on the pillars all around us. We were in Newtown.
I lost track of where we walked and all sense of direction, paying attention only to the art, architecture and history all around me. Drinking in the detail, the sense of being part of Joburg’s story.I’d always wanted to see the old Park Station up close, with my own eyes. It didn’t disappoint. It’s hard to comprehend that this piece of architectural and engineering ingenuity has been a part of the Johannesburg landscape since 1897, and that it’s been to Pretoria and back in its lifetime. It had rained the night before, leaving us lots of puddles to play in. My curiosity sated, we left Park Station and crossed over Nelson Mandela Bridge, urged by a cold wind.
We turned a corner, ducked behind yellow barriers and looked up. Faces turned skyward, eyes darting over the layers of dirt, grime, paint and creative expression.
Three hours had passed in a blur of exhaled steamy breath, cold fingers, busy eyes and wet feet. Most of those hours were spent looking through the lens of my iPhone. It was now past 8am and time for me to go home to my family, back to the warmth and cleanliness of the suburbs.
As Brandon walked me back to my car, I was distracted by the graffiti all around me. I’d always found it fitting that these artists call themselves writers; the city a blank canvas on which to scrawl their beautiful words. I gave in to the urge to snap a few last photos before climbing in my car and leaving the city behind.
It’s a bug, and it’s bitten. I can’t wait for the next time I get to explore some more of Jozi.