Our first stop was the “poor end of town” which in size is the smallest part of Soweto but also by far the most densely populated.
We were taken into a small two room “house”.
I say house loosely because it was no bigger than two decent size tin sheds found in any Australian suburb. This shack had two rooms, walls and a roof of corrugated iron and floors of metal panels on top of what was probably just mud. Looking around, every other ‘dwelling’ was the same with about two or three metres between them where vegetables were grown, washing was hung and occasionally a communal chemical toilet or a water tap was available.
None of these places had running water, sewerage or indeed electricity. The only form of heat was a small wood burning stove also used for cooking.
But the most remarkable thing about this shack were the tenants. Somehow a family of eleven lived here! Mum, Dad and nine kids aged between one and 20 years old.
Mum told us that there’s no work for anyone much and because there’s no such thing as dole in South Africa, Dad picks up a little bit of money from “Piecework”, odd jobs here and there.
She earns a little bit of money from telling fortunes and knitting and selling hats. Fortunately they don’t have to pay rent. Mum was surprisingly, articulate and intelligent. Why was I surprised? I don’t know, I had never met anyone in this position before.
I was equally surprised that she was also cheerful, optimistic and quite accepting of her lot in life and happy to give us a first hand account. As we had in Lesotho we reflected on how much we have and how little these people have in comparison. In Lesotho it seemed different, they were poor but content. Here this was just a brave face and it’s so frustratingly close to not only white affluent suburbs but black ones too! This eventually got the better of us and we gave Nic some money later to pass on to this women who had been good enough to allow us into her home.
Mother and child in Soweto in the shadows of Soweto’s upmarket and large homes are residential tin shacks. Soweto, South Africa.
The next morning we awoke just before daylight after an eventful night.
Thunderstorms had followed us there and dumped rain on us just as we arrived the day before. They had cleared for a while but came back overnight and the heavy rain found its way through the opening in the hut that passed for a window.
Not only that but the front door seemed content to allow itself to be pushed around by the wind creaking or banging loud enough to wake us.
This was also the first night that we had slept in our new super duper -2°C sleeping bags. Comfy they were, cold they weren’t. We both boiled and spent the night tossing the top off as we fried and then back on again as we froze a few moments later.
So we awoke the next morning grouchy. I was ready to give that damn pony of mine a piece of my mind, if even it so much looked like going off the track. But events had already got ahead of me. Black Label had been demoted! David now rode him and I rode David’s steed Black Cat.
Now Black Cat was my sort of horse, this bloke was strong, sure footed, docile and to my surprise obedient. He obeyed my every command, something I had never experienced in an animal, or come to think of it in a human, before.
The journey back was, despite aching limbs, muscles and rear end, (I never realised how many muscles are used in riding), very pleasant.
Gentle descends and ascends into valleys of green, cradled by perfectly formed grass covered hills and mountains of varying shapes and sizes.
Occasionally we would see the odd cluster of thatched roofs in the distance, perched on a small plateau or down in a valley. Despite being kept at arm’s length from the villages we still saw plenty of traffic on the track.
Unlike the hordes of pedestrians in South Africa these people seemed to have a destination or purpose for their travel. Men and boys on ponies were herding livestock; women on foot were carrying firewood or crops.
Young Boy looks at the camera in a small village in Botswana