Johannesburg neighborhoods

LOCATION: Housesitting in Johannesburg, South Africa
WEATHER: Sunny. High 80. Afternoon scattered thunderstorms

I worked on my Christmas menu and subsequent grocery shopping list in the AM, and did laundry (ho-hum) 🙂

Since it was a nice day, we decided to walk to a cute-looking pizza place in the neighborhood next to ours. Like most big cities, Johannesburg is made up of the main city center, then a lot of suburbs. The population is about 13 million, but more if you include nearby Pretoria.

The pizza was quite delicious. We sat on the patio under some nice shady trees. We shared a bottle of wine, then brought the rest of the bottle home. Unlike in the USA, the markup of wine in restaurants is not much. Today’s bottle, a really good shiraz, was about $8.

Here is George – with leftovers.

Too full to think about walking back home, up a hill, we took a cheap Uber home.

We took the dogs to another neighborhood for their afternoon walk. When it started to thunder, our dog Annakin started having a fit. Our homeowners had warned us that this would happen. We got him home, and he huddled in the shower until the storm ended.

DINNER: In a word: strange. The homeowners had encouraged us to use up some crab sticks (the fake kind) that a previous housesitter had left, as they are vegetarians and did not want them. I was apprehensive as the crab has been in the freezer a full year, but I thought I would give it a go. I found a Jamie Oliver recipe for crab and chick peas. I sauteed some onion and garlic and mixed in the crab and beans, all with lemon juice and herbs from the garden – chives, parsley, and basil. George ate it like a champ. I wasn’t too happy with it.

Quiet days in Johannesburg

LOCATION: Housesitting in Johannesburg, South Africa
WEATHER: Quite pleasant. Yesterday a bit hot – 90

We have established a nice routine. Mornings are spent on computer and reading (Karmen) and TV (George) while the dogs lounge, and follow us around.

We use Uber to go out and about. Most rides are about $4. Today we took an Uber to the Craft Beer Library, a cute little restaurant/pub not far away. It has the largest selection of beers that we have seen so far in Africa. We had a nice lunch of sausages and pretzels

In the afternoons, we take the dogs for a walk which they LOVE. We rotate between a large dog park and a neighborhood park. We drive the owners’ jeep to the large dog park. (The drive there is always breathtaking!) The dogs especially like it when there are lots of other dogs around to play with. Most are off leash and they frolic around..

Then, the best part of the day…..sundowners, as they call happy hour here. We sit around the pool and enjoy the birds, fish in the pool, and cool breeze.

Tonight we made gin and tonics with fresh passion fruit, right off the vine. A new favorite!

The passion fruits are just now ripening. Every day we pick 3 or 4. We just cut in half and scoop out the fruit. It tastes tropical to me. There are hundreds on the vines. As we were sitting outside, one fell off the tree and plopped on our dog’s nose!

DINNER: The last of the chicken thighs – one wrapped in bacon (for bacon-lover George). Side was broccoli and cheese. Last night was stuffed mushrooms. George grilled the mushroom caps, and I filled them with a mushroom/rice blend. Salad on the side with fresh basil from the garden.

BOOKS: “Malice in the Palace” by Rhys Bowen. One of a series I read off and on.. A detective story about a British royal who gets herself in mischief. 4 stars out of 5

Johannesburg’s contrasts

LOCATION: Housesitting in Johannesburg, South Africa
WEATHER: Perfect. One reason for the pleasant temps is that we are at about 6000 feet in elevation

We took off in the AM, via Uber, to do another day of hop on/hop off bus. Security here is a big thing. All of the doors in our house have two sets of locking doors. Our house, like all houses, has a gate in front, and an electric fence surrounding the premises. So, it takes us awhile to get all locked up. I don’t know if all this security is necessary, or if people are just paranoid.

Once downtown, we stopped at a pharmacy to buy some ibuprofen. We went to the prescription section to select it. The clerk wrapped it up, put a price tag on the package, then locked the package in a little cage (like a bird cage) with a lock. She told us to take the cage to the cashier who would unlock the cage and we would pay for it there. We asked why the big deal, just for ibuprofen. She said it is to prevent customers from ripping open the box between the pharmacy and the cashier, then not paying. Wow!

The hop on/off bus first took us through the beautiful suburbs again. The extravagance is something else. The houses are huge with beautiful gardens, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Many have a personal guardhouse in addition to all the other security.

Then, we went through the main parts of town. The contrast is shocking.

We hopped off the bus at SAB – South African BreweriesMiller. They had been the second largest of the 4 biggest breweries in the world – after Anheuser-Busch. Just recently, Anheuser-Busch bought out SAB, so the SAB Museum was closed. We stopped anyway to have lunch at their remaining bar/restaurant. When we got off the bus, an employee of the bus company insisted on escorting us to the restaurant, for safety. Wow! We had some good ribs and a South African stout on the patio.

Once home, we got in the jeep and drove to the dog park. A police truck was there, doing paperwork with a guy whose car had just been stolen in the parking lot. I guess the parking attendant (whom we pay about $.15 each time we park) wasn’t watching close enough.

DINNER: The homeowners had left us some fresh okra so I fried it up, southern style. Main dish was sauteed shrimp, with onions and garlic.

Orienting ourselves to Johannesburg

LOCATION: Housesitting in Johannesburg, South Africa
WEATHER: Another really nice day. It is summer here, of course. High 75

Yesterday we took it easy and stayed around the house for most of the day. Binks and Attikin (our dogs) did the same.

We watched CBS Sunday Morning via YouTube. Attikin likes to cozy up on the couch.

In the afternoon, we drove to a big park where the dogs can run free. The traffic has really diminished, as a lot of people have left town for the holidays. Even so, the roundabouts and left-side driving make me nervous.

Today we were much more energetic. We took an Uber to downtown and rode the Hop On/Off bus around town. It is a good way to see a lot of a city. We drove through leafy neighborhoods with HUGE houses, then through the inner city that looks quite impoverished. We hopped off at the Apartheid Museum to tour it. It is very well-done. The atrocities during and after Apartheid are overwhelming.

Today’s late afternoon dog hike was a walk to a nearby park. It went well, except when we passed other houses with ferocious guard dogs.

DINNER: Last night was grilled baby octopus on the grill. A nice change of pace since meat is so prevalent here. I made a salad with some basil from the garden, and tomatoes. Tonight was an Asian stir-fry to use up some of the chicken thighs we grilled the other night, and lots of veg that the homeowners left for us.

BOOKS: I rarely drop a book mid-way, but this one I did. “Cape May” by Chip Creek is a story about a young couple who go to Cape May for their honeymoon. 1 star out of 5

Starting our latest housesitting assignment

LOCATION: Housesitting in Johannesburg, South Africa
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 75

Our homeowners left today for their trip to Ethiopia to go hiking. Sounds like an adventure!

We are settling in with our charges – Binks – a huge, gentle Rhodesian Ridgeback.

And Annakin, a little, terrier-type ball of energy.

Before the homeowners left, they gave Binks a good bath…

We have taken care of dogs, cats, birds, fish, chickens, geese, and other animals through We can now add “worms” to our resume. The homeowners have a worm farm that we feed with composting materials.

There is a huge passion fruit tree in the backyard that is loaded with fruit. They are just now ripening, so we have been munching on them. There is also an avocado tree in the front yard, but the fruit is not yet ripe. The garden is full of herbs, so I am excited to use them in cooking.

We took the dogs for their afternoon walk, then fired up the grill for dinner.

DINNER: Chicken thighs on the grill with a side of vegetables and potatoes.

BOOKS: “Morality for Beautiful Girls” – another in the Alexander McCall Smith series about the lady detective in Botswana. Cute. 4 stars out of 5.

Orientation to Johannesburg Housesit

LOCATION: Housesitting in Johannesburg, South Africa
WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. High 76

The homeowners drove us around to orient us to the neighborhood. We went to an area with lots of high-end shops. We bought great fruit, veg, and deli items. Then we checked out the wonderful butchers’ shop. You can see the house-made billtong (jerky) drying on racks up high.

We did more house orientation, including how to clean the swimming pool

4:00 is walk time for the dogs. We took them to a park where they can run around with other dogs without their leads. They had a great time and we got some much-needed exercise.

DINNER: Our homeowner Mike made home-made pasta. We watched him make it.

He served it with a sage butter sauce, sage we picked from the garden. Lucy (homeowner) made luscious, rich mayonnaise.

Side was a lettuce salad. All washed down with a good South African wine.

BOOKS: “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. A novel, but based on history, about orphan children sent to the Midwest from New York. 5 stars out of 5

Safari fun comes to an end…

LOCATION: Auckland Park section of Johannesburg, South Africa
WEATHER: Very pleasant. Cool. High 75

Our guide picked us up at our lodge in Kruger National Park and took us through another section of the park. We continued seeing more and more animals.

We stopped at an “oasis” for breakfast. We watched the cook bake the bread for which the restaurant is famous.

The guide took us out of the park through a different gate, then we headed toward Johannesburg. As with our trip to the park, we passed through lots of tropical fruit groves and tree plantations. Five hours later, we arrivied at the outskirts of the city, and then another hour to our location. Our tour guide/driver took us all the way. So kind.

We will be at this housesitting assignment for almost 3 weeks. The house is a colonial/old-style house with a lot of character. It is located near two universities. The neighborhood seems safe, but every house has massive gates in front of them. Our house has a big gate, too, plus locked barriers on all the windows.

We got a bit of an orientation, then took the dogs for a walk in a nearby park. Our homeowners are going on a vacation to Ethiopia, then returning here for Christmas Day, then taking off again for the South African coast. The two dogs seem easy to manage and are quite lovable. One is a “gentle giant” and the other is a little frisky dog. Both are rescue animals.

DINNER: We went to a cool section of town called Melville and had flat bread pizza in a neat place.