Thursday, May 26, 2011

Family fun and travelling

At daybreak on Saturday Angus and Amanda collected us from home. Shadow was safely ensconsed in his travel cage,  his [millions!] of documents taped to the top - more about this in a later post -  and we were on our way to Johannesburg. This was the the first leg of our journey from South to East Africa.

As it was Angus' birthday on Monday 16th May, we offered him, Amanda and Joel a treat out in Johannesburg. And what better way to celebrate a special day and to enjoy some good family fun together than a visit to the famous Gold Reef City.

First we stopped off at the kennels where Shadow would spend Saturday night. We also were about to meet Yvette, the pet travel agent who arranged Shadow's entry into South Africa from the Sudan in October last year and was in charge of his travel arrangements from SA to Kenya this weekend. I didn't get a photo of dear, sweet Yvette (she refers to your pet as your baby!) but our 16 month-old grandson, Joel spotted her super bike in the parking lot and within minutes his mum had lifted him onto the seat and dad was taking photos!

I left Shadow in a clean, spacious and cat-friendly cage (he didn't even notice me leaving he was so busy exploring the little bed he would spend the night in and also checking out a friendly black-and-white cat next door) and went outside to join the family.

Then we drove across the city to Gold Reef City.

Johannesburg came into existence after the Witwatersrand Gold Reef was discovered in 1886, and remains the richest gold deposit known to man.  The town moved from tent town to wood and iron shacks to bricks and mortar within the next two decades. (If you wish, you can read more about this here)

Gold Reef City is a theme park which celebrates these beginnings by offering visitors the chance to experience life in a gold mining museum town with opportunities to explore a mine, watch gold smelting demonstrations as well as enjoy the numerous themed rides. There is a flat rate entrance fee  which is quite high: R150/US$21.50 for adults; a discount for pensioners, which Grant qualified for much to the amusement of the young ones, and Joel went in for free. However, the entrance fee includes visits to the many museums and places of interest and all the major rides.

First it was past lunch time so Grant took us for a light meal at Mugg and Bean which was situated on The Town Square.  Joel was especially fascinated  by the live band performing on a stage nearby. (See below)

Little Joel enthralled by the live band playing while we waited for our lunch order to be served

Gold Reef City  is a replica of the original town with museums, gold smelting demonstrations, visits down a mine shaft, themed rides for children and adults alike with exhilirating rides for the young and young-at-heart (or is that just "plain crazy"?) We didn't visit any of the museums as Angus wanted to do as many of the "wild" rides as time would allow and we also wanted Joel to have a ride on one of the more gentle rides.

Angus waiting in the queue to go on The Tower of Terror (see him second from left)

The first ride he chose was called The Tower of Terror. This is the description: "Ride the heart-stopping Tower of Terror 50m drop at a speed a of 100km p/h straight into an open mine shaft. Ride it if you dare!
Fear Factor: 10 "

 Waiting for the slow ascent to the top of the tower
The Tower of Terror

Standing below and merely watching this cart drop into a mine shaft at 100kph, made my heart jump into my throat!

Angus, totally unperturbed, emerges  from tunnel where the ride ended!
We wandered through the streets until we arrived at the kiddie's entertainment centre. There were several rides but time was running out for us so Amanda and Angus opted for one in an "airballoon".

Joel doesn't seem to be afraid of heights or moving machinery and hung out of the "window" as the balloons circulated

Then we wandered through the streets of the city once more, stopping to photograph beautifully-restored buildings of yesteryear.

The ornate door leading into a replica of Johannesburg Stock Exchange during the period depicted at Gold Reef City

Langlaagte Station is where you can board a fun miniature train which takes forty passengers to enjoy a circular route of Gold Reef City. We didn't take this ride but Grant, Angus,Amanda and Joel posed in front of the entrance for a family photo

 Next, Angus climbed aboard the Golden Loop which is described as follows: "From start to finish this ride will blow your mind. Be propelled at speed from 0 - 85km in 3 seconds to a height of approximately 40m. But beware! What goes up must come down. Fear Factor: 8"
The Heart-stopping Golden Loop

There was time for one more ride and Angus said he'd like to go on the Anaconda. This is the description for this ride: "Calling all adrenalin junkies. Take your seat & prepare to curl like a giant snake, roar like a frightened lion & sweat like a scared rat. Welcome to the Anaconda.Fear Factor: 9"

Walking towards the entrance gate of this ride, Amanda said she'd do the ride with Angus. However, when we got there, she changed her mind!
In a moment of total madness I gave her my handbag and said I would go with Angus. We hurried through an underground tunnel and minutes later we'd taken our shoes off and were clamped into seats with huge bars protecting your body. The first part of the ride is a steep uphill gradient where the train seems to hover and then it drops you down in a gut-wrenching, mindboggling void; twists you around, turns you upside down, whips you over another loop with your feet above your head, then around a series of hairpin bends around rock-like structures (I remember opening my eyes briefly - very briefly - and wondering if they were real or fake!) and over another loop with your feet in the air. Then you swoop down a long loop and suddenly you stop. Just like that.

The ride snakes around huge rock-structures and whips along the rails just like an angry giant serpent
Amanda took the photos of the ride in action and as with all the rides, automatice photos are taken of all the participants. You be the judge of my experience...

Worth a thousand words? Mmm?

Then it was time to go home. On the way to the car park, we watched a helicopter land a few meters away. Not wanting this fun day to end, Amanda ran over to the entrance gate of the helicopter rides to check prices. (Normally these rides cost anything in the region of about R700/ US$100) She returned with the good news four people would be able to take a short (four-minute) flip over Gold Reef City for the grand sum of R240/US$34! Because Joel counted as one person and Grant had not yet done anything exciting that day, I said I'd stay on the ground.

Late afternoon sun over Johannesburg

An aerial view of Gold Reef City with the Anaconda ride in the foreground

A fascinated little boy sits on his mum's lap and watches the world way down below

And then it really was time to go home. We drove to our accommodation which I had booked for the night, Angus ordered pizzas which we ate at the breakfast bar and washed down with refreshing cups of tea. A great time was had by all.

As Angus said later that evening, we'd spent a wonderful day  together as a family and making memories.

Very early on Sunday morning Angus and Amanda took us to the airport. Once we'd booked in our luggage, Grant bought us breakfast and then it was time to say goodbye!

More about Shadow's travel and our flight in a later post.

Photo credits: Angus and Amanda Hedges


  1. Wow Jo.... What a fabulous birthday Angus must have had... Everyone looked like they were having a wonderful time....

    I remember the days when I would ride those scary rides (when I was young and didn't know any better)... ha ha


  2. Gold reef city sounds fascinating. Seems like a nice choice for an outing with family members of all ages.

  3. Okay, Jo, I'm speechless.
    Suffice it to say I can see Grant in Angus's posture and you in Angus's face. Little Joel is a darling, and it looks like he'll be as brave as his daddy.
    Looking forward to Shadow's transcontinental (again) story.
    Luv — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  4. I would certainly prefer the helicopter ride to that Anaconda. Nice family fun, even if you look a little green.

  5. I enjoyed this tour of the amusements with you and your family. My heart was in my stomach as I looked at you hanging on for dear life in that wild ride while your son beamed happily beside you ;-)

  6. I am jalous ! what a wonderful family day you had ! At least one ! I had to laugh when I saw Joel's Snoopy jacket, because the sweater I bought for Toby instead of the shoes is also a Snoopy one, lol ! I would never have climbed in such a thing, I would have come out dead ! I just imagine the poor people who had to use this Tower of Terror for work and not as a tourist attraction, the working conditions in these mines must have been inhuman.

  7. What a wonderful family day out Jo! And yes, that is how memories are made! Joel really looked as though he was having the time of his life!!!
    love and hugs xoxo

  8. What wonderful family memories were being made! Love Joel's intensity in everything he saw!
    Love and hugs xox

  9. What a wonderful family outing. You are brave gettin on that ride. Little Joel is co cute. Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing your day.

  10. Whew!! I'm dizzy from just reading about and seeing those rides! You're a braver soul than I, Jo. I avoid at all costs riding on any roller coaster. Decades ago, Jerry did talk me into going on various rides like that, but finally I refused to be terrorized like that again!

    Thanks for the virtual tour of Gold Reef City! It was really interesting.

  11. OMGggggg!!!!Hahahaaa
    SO glad you all enjoyed the trip Jo! And YOU are BRAVE!!Hahaaaa
    I'll take the baloon ride ANY day!

  12. Hi Jo, I am having Blogger problems and I am not sure what I will be signed in as if at all?!Fantastic photos and it looks a great day out for the family with lots of fun and history combined.
    Peggy ,organicgrowing pains.

  13. What a wonderful day spent with family and making wonderful memories, Jo - you are a VERY brave granny lol - I bet Joel was proud of you ! My, he is growing so fast and looks so much like Angus. So glad to hear that Shadow is with you safe and sound. Sending you big <<>> my friend xxx

  14. This brings back a lot of memories. I still think a lot about the memorable trip down into the mine and the smelting afterwards. As I remember, the dancers were quite good, too.

  15. Sounds like you had a fantastic family day. I am always encouraged when families have a great time together and share it with others.


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