By Tiffany Markman, copywriter, editor and mom to an almost-three-year-old, who tries to balance her workaholism with cuddles, books, caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.
My advice? If you’re going to take two toddlers, aged 3 and 2 & 11/12, on a City Sightseeing tour of Jozi via the Joburg Red Bus, you could probably use:
- 2 x marshmallow fish
- 2 x gummy snakes
- 2 x Woolies breakfast bars
- 1 small packet of raw almonds
- an apple (red)
- 1 packet of penguin crackers
- assorted dried fruit
- bottled water, hats and sunblock
(This is pre-lunch-time. At 12.30pm you’ll do really well to ensure that there’s a shared half-portion of beef ribs and chips nearby. Try Smokehouse Grill, Braamies.)
You’ll also benefit from some over-ear headphones. Aside from that, take a sense of humour – and patience proportional to the age of your kids – and you’re good.
Off we went, armed with tons of padkos, to gaze upon our city’s famous CBD and surrounds from the comfortable upper deck of a gleaming Joburg Red Bus.
We left from Park Station – where there’s lots of parking and a Burger King 😉 – and chugged at a bussish pace through the city streets, checking out sidewalk traffic, local markets, incredible art deco buildings, weird and wonderful graffiti, and decaying urban ruins. Without having to get off and explore, until we were ready.
The route’s hop-off spots include landmarks like the Carlton Centre, the Transport Museum, Gold Reef City & the Apartheid Museum, Newtown, the Origins Centre, Con Hill, and the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein. You can get on and off as many times as you like, and on weekends there are buses every 30 minutes or so.
Undaunted by our wriggling charges, who wouldn’t keep the supplied earphones in their little ears, nor their Red Bus crayons and colouring books on their laps, my fellow mom and I tried to listen to the recorded commentary and local music. The info is sometimes witty and sometimes serious, but always interesting. And mostly balanced. With unexpected openness about historical facts that are unconfirmable.
We also had to do a bit of explaining, in response to questions like “Is that a beach, Mom?” (it was the golden sands of a former mine dump) and “But the driver won’t break suddenly! Doesn’t he have bones?” (I’d warned that he might ‘brake’…) And there were lots of cute exclamations like, “I can see the whole earth from here!” and “I want to play soccer with those boys…” (at the mammoth Metro taxi rank).
On the whole, though, the littlies did really well for the first hour and only became nightmarish during the second half – based on which I’d suggest that you take children aged 4 and up. For what it’s worth, you should know that the tour is equally awesome for locals and tourists (there was loads I learned that I didn’t know).
We disembarked in Braamies, for lunch and to let the monsters run around (the bustling Neighbourgoods Market is IMPOSSIBLE with small kids and minimal seating), and hopped back on 90 minutes later, for a quick return trip to Park Station.
All told, a great morning. I’d go back, but without kids, and with a lot more hop-offs. At least, for the next year or so. If you’ve not been, you should go. It’s fun.