Jozi trails: Main street by night

Johannesburg – I’ve booked for a walking tour called Main Street By Night, but when the time comes I am a little anxious. It’s Saturday afternoon and I am seriously thinking of cancelling.

Walking around the Joburg central business district at night suddenly doesn’t seem such a good idea. I would have to carry my camera, some money, and a credit card, and I don’t want to be a target.

But I have booked, the good people at the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation are expecting me and, besides, I have a story to write.

Down at the Carlton Hotel in Commissioner Street, where I park my car, it is buzzing.

The last shoppers are leaving, people are gathering to socialise and the car guards are eagerly touting for business. The group of about 30 walkers is to meet at the historic Rand Club for a look around before the real walking tour starts.

I am looking forward to that immensely as I have always wanted to see inside the stately old club that was once closed to women. It is supposed to have the longest bar in Africa.

But when we arrive our tour leader, Denise Alexander, has disappointing news – there is a big wedding and the Rand Club won’t allow the tour to go ahead. We stand around a bit and watch the grand guests arriving in full evening dress.

Town is emptying now at this top end, from the Carlton Centre to the beginning of Fox Street, where many of the mining companies have their head offices. We head for the Guildhall, the oldest pub in Joburg.

Again, unfortunately, the power of the heritage foundation could not keep it open and, although it is 5.30 on a clear Saturday evening, the owner has closed the restaurant-pub and ducked. We hang around outside, looking up at the old broekie lace balconies, imagining what it must have been like in the early days of Joburg, the rough mining town that became a metropolis. The pub is said to contain many photographs and artefacts from early Joburg. I make a mental note to go back there soon.

And so our motley…

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