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Posted on: Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A different forest – stories from the road by Ruan

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Joburg Skyline

Joburg Skyline

The Johannesburg Skyline lies in front of me and it shows the various stages of growth that this city has experienced. Buildings rise ambitiously, keeping watch over a city that unites South African culture and serves as a place where dreams are hunted. I breathe deeply, this is it. This is 9000km, the last two months of a journey that started in the exact same place. As the cars fly past me on their way to another meeting and another deal, I get on my cycle and start the last stretch …

When you look out over Johannesburg you stare at a Green landscape that looks like a forest. You blink and look again, yes it’s still green. Apart from the few buildings towering out of Sandton and the CBD, the rest of this enormous city is covered with trees. The city in a forest. Johannesburg has become the biggest man made forest in the world and it is unbelievable to think that a whole city is operating underneath the line of green.

Market Theatre

Market Theatre

My cycle takes me through Newtown, performing arts capital, and suddenly I am inspired by the history of the Market Theatre. My journey has somehow brought this place to life. The theatre that pushed the limits and has always tried to make a difference. I am taken over Nelson Mandela bridge and the busy Park Station excites me as it runs its course through the city. One line, no deviation on the route, but such diversity in thought from those that use these trains every day, trusting it to take them where they are sometimes unsure of going.

The city shows me its buildings, the most beautiful architecture built along with gold mining of previous centuries. Underneath all of these stones, where history is preserved, the mines run deep into the earth. For miles underneath the city they form a highway that has given hope to many.

The road takes me past Zoo Lake where couples find themselves having picnic on summer’s days and the evenings are filled with music and laughter. I cycle past Rosebank and as a soft rain starts washing me with a Highveld lightning storm greeting me on my way to Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton.

Mandela Square

Mandela Square

Cars pass me by and from the window of a high rise office building a friend waves at me. Johannesburg is that type of place where anything is possible, anyone could sit next to you in a coffee shop and walk out to be your friend. In Johannesburg the people are great. There might not be a mountain or an ocean, but when the cold morning breeze greets you on a winter’s morning it is a smile that will warm you up.

The Afternoon is starting to become restless as everyone prepare for the weekend. From Johannesburg you could drive less than an hour and experience the mountains of Magaliesberg, Hartbeespoort Dam or the calming sound of the Vaal river. I know that when the sun sets everyone leaves their suit behind and finds a different city that has no stop.

I am caught up in the tempo of which I have suddenly become acutely aware of. Billboards and traffic lights show you the way. Men shout from corners spreading the day’s news and entrepreneurs are willing to share their ideas with any ear that could listen.

Sandton Skyline

Sandton Skyline

I cycle into Sandton Square and see the big man. Nelson Mandela in all his glory towers over the plaza and tourists stop to take a picture with him. It is almost as if his eyes are directly looking at a sign that indicates the days before the 2010 World Cup, and he smiles. He is waiting too.

A friend walks down the stairs towards me. I haven’t seen this person in two months.­­­ In her high heels she walks effortlessly with two cups and smiles. We sit down on a dry patch of earth as the heart of the economy flows around us. Time stands still. The dreams of so many are caught in the now soft breeze, I exhale my dreams into the air and smile because I have managed to complete at least one…

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