The Botanical Gardens of Joburg

This weekend was a long weekend….Father’s Day was on Sunday, June 15 and Monday, June 16, is Youth Day.  Youth Day is a remembrance of the young people who died by police gunfire during a 1976 protest.  The young people, who lived in the Soweto Township, were marching from their junior high to the Orlando stadium.  They were protesting the use of the Afrikaans language was to be used in school to teach certain subjects.  Afrikaans was viewed as the “language of the oppressors” who imposed apartheid on the blacks for South Africa.  

What started out as a peaceful protest, soon escalated to riots and the police fired into the crowds.  Hundreds of students were killed during that protest.  Although, the language issue was not immediately changed, this event is considered the turning point of the liberation movement to break free of apartheid. 

We didn’t realize that it was a long weekend until we tried to book a room in the town of Clarens, 4 hours south of Joburg, earlier in the week.  Everything was booked and someone I spoke to kindly explained that it was a long weekend.  Rather than try to find a place to stay, at such a late date, David and I decided to stay in Joburg and go to Clarens, for a long weekend, next weekend.  

Saturday, we went to Hyde Park Corner, a shopping mall, nearby us.  We had lunch at Life Grand Cafe in the mall.  David had a pizza and I had grilled fish, mash potato and asparagus.  We went to see the movie “The Railway Man” with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth….love Colin Firth 🙂  It was based on the true story of an Englishman who was a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp, during WW II.  Years later, he was still haunted by the torture he endured.  He learned that his tormentor was still alive and returned to confront him.  It was a very good movie and I highly recommend that you see it.  It was tough to watch some of the scenes but the message in the end made it all worth while.  

Sunday, David and I visited one of the two Botanical Gardens in Joburg.  Both Botanical

Gardens are about a 30 minute drive from our apartment.  We are currently in the midst of winter, here in South Africa so everything is brown.   It is on 308 acres of land.  The dam has created a lake and there were a couple of other ponds on the property as well as a fountain.  In the far corner of the park, was the dog park.  There were several dogs that were fun to watch.  It is a lovely spot and I can see spending more time there, while we are here in Joburg.  

We did enjoy the beautiful orange of these flowers.

Monday, we visited the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden. Walter Sisulu an activist during the anti-apartheid movement.  He served 26 years of a life sentence in prison on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela.  After his release from prison, in 1989, he was involved in politics once again by being the deputy president of the ANC (African National Congress) until ill health forced him to resign his position in 1994.  

This botanical garden was beautiful and there were many families picnicking under the beautiful sunny, blue skies.  The garden is on 748 acres surrounded by sandstone cliffs.  The red color of the cliffs, the cacti and palm trees made us feel like we were in Arizona.  At one end of the park, is the beautiful Witpoortjie Falls.  In the upper left corner, next to the falls, are two large nest of the Verreaux eagles, also known as Black eagles.  Shortly after we arrived at the falls, one of the eagles flew from the nest.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture of it….animals just don’t know how to pose for photos 🙂

Woodland Walk

We walked along several of the hiking trails offered in the park.  One took us to a bird blind where you could sit quietly and view birds.  

This nest wasn’t near the bird watching area but along one of the paths that we were on.  It looks like a nest for our Baltimore Orioles in the states.  Doing further research, I discovered that this is the nest for the Male Weaver.  If this is indeed a nest made by him, it is said that the male weaves the nest to lure prospective females.  We didn’t see any birds fly around this nest while we sat there, so possibly they have moved on for the winter.  I think it is beautiful!   

This is the Green Milkweed Grasshopper.  When it flies, it almost looks like a small bird!  They sometimes will eat a tree bare of its leaves but fortunately, this doesn’t have any long-term harm to it.  Over time, the leaves will grow back.  

I am sharing this picture of the botanical garden entrance because of the thatched roof.  I have been meaning to comment about thatched roofs in previous blogs but it keeps slipping my mind.  Thatched roofs are popular here.  Some of the large homes in the neighborhood, where I go walking, have thatched roofs.  I find it interesting and wonder what it is like to maintain one…especially one that is so large. 

The day ended by coming home and playing a couple of games of backgammon.  David won two to my one game!  I will do better next time.  

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