Potato Shed, Newtown

We gather the group and head back out of Turbine Hall to the THINK sign to figure out our next move. They’re talking about going to grab a bite and more drinks in an area not too far from here. Only problem is that we’ll have to walk directly through what is notoriously known as the worst part of Joburg. Sheeeeeeeeet that sounds sketch.

“It’s literally just 5 blocks that way. Maybe we could make a ring around the girls to protect them?”

Oh, this is great. The locals are worried about this part of town. Must be insanely sketchy. Some of the girls are refusing to walk it so Sean will have them all pile into his car. Looks like the rest of us are going for it?

We come around the corner from the Turbine Hall and are instantly nailed with a cloud of piss smell. It’s nasty. There are also a handful of little fires here and there, maybe garbage fires. There’s very little lighting so it’s gotten dark. The atmosphere has definitely changed. Vinny and Dwaine just keep cracking jokes though and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around.

Dwaine puts his arm around my shoulders, “Not gonna lie guys, this area is dodgy as fuck”, Vinny pipes up, “But we’ll be fine, don’t worry”, <whispers>”We’re so fucked.”

We keep our heads on a swivel but in the few blocks through Joburg’s ‘worst section of town’, absolutely nothing happens. “Sorry for all the hype guys”, “Yeah what the fuck? I was really hoping we’d all die back there.”

We get to a place called the Potato Shed. Sean and the girls are already out front waiting for us. Looks like a rad spot. Open space with farm machinery decor. The meat off the braai smells deadly as soon as we enter. There are two people playing music in the corner. Classical guitar and a girl singer. As we come in another guy gets up to sing and starts getting people dancing.

We grab a seat, get some delish looking menus, and order a few bottles of wine. Alright first things first though, gotta check on that Anderson game. Sean’s got it on his phone and we all gather round.

Anderson wins! The first South African to make it to a Wimbledon final. “Tequila!!”

“Oh, you know what you need? A Klipdrift. Your first kilppies and Coke!” Apparently South Africans drink a lot of brandy. The guys throw in a round of them. Really good actually. Slightly sweet but I can see a night of these being a good time. I double up on brandy for the second round and everyone follows suit.

We put in a spread of spectacular looking braai dishes; lamb, chicken, pulled pork, naaaaaarmz! It’s perfect. The potatoes are a knock out. I guess it is called the Potato Shed. We all sample each others dishes and there isn’t a bad thing on the table.

Everything is outstanding.

Dwaine comes over to talk about a side dish that Peter and I are splitting called pap. “You got pap! You know what this is? 50 million people eat this every day in South Africa.” He goes on to explain that 30-50% of the 57 million people in South Africa are living in poverty and this is their main meal. It’s a maize porridge basically that you take with your hands and dip it in a sauce if you’d like. I’d read about this before the trip, it’s why we wanted to try it. Bland on it’s own but really good in this tangy, slightly spicy dipping sauce.

The food gets cleared and more drinks arrive. We settle in and the group starts getting interested in our trip. “So what are you doing in South Africa?”, “We have no idea”, “You didn’t look anything up?”, “Nope. not really”,  “So what’s your plan then?”, “We thought we’d just get to Johannesburg, meet people, and have them tell us what there is to do”, “Oh that’s bloody perfect!”

And so this is exactly what happens. The crew starts telling us about all of the sights in South Africa we should stop in and see on the way to Cape Town, what we should do in Cape Town, what we should see in Namibia (everyone seems quite taken w Namibia), and ideas for other places we may not even get to. It is absolutely perfect. I’m scribble-swiping notes into my phone like crazy. And they love describing these places, there’s a genuine pride here that you can feel and it’s touching.

We get into story time and Sean tells one about drug testing anti anxiety drugs while he was in London. But he was the only one with the placebo. So everyone else was sleepy for 24 hours and he was in London checking out all the museums and having a great time.

Sounds like these guys are serious bikers as well (guess I should say cyclists) and there’s a funny tangent about moisturizing their scaly legs. Then there was a slight rant on Marvel movies, “Fuck ant man. That can’t be a hero”, and, “Black Panther was forced. Crappy accents and one-liners.” Not being from Africa, I’m not very familiar with the accents here so it was interesting to hear their take on it.

We dip into the Mongol Rally stories and Waldo eggs me on to recount the story from Siberia again. They’re shocked and confused.

We get into more travel stories. The gang is switching from English to Afrikaans and back while talking amongst themselves. Waldo is jealous of our trip, they all want to go, “Your currency is strong, see. Travelling saves you money. Our currency sucks here, it’s tanking. Coming to visit you in California would be so expensive!” I guess that’s something I hadn’t really considered before. We are lucky in that sense.

Seems like everyone here is doing well for themselves though and could probably come to Cali at any time. There’s a fight over the bill and I think Sean ends up picking it up. With all the drinks and whatnot between 10 people it must be a doozy. Peter and I have our cards out to split things up but they’re not having it, “Oh no no, you’re visiting our country, this one’s on us.”

I nab a passing waiter to get us all in a group shot

We head out to the square of Newtown Market and Waldo is wondering if we want to go out to a bar or something. It’s already midnight but we could go see some cool places. Peter and I are good though, we only had 2 hours of sleep last night and we’re gonna hit the road tomorrow. “Ok cool. I’m glad you said that actually haha.”

We say goodbye to everyone and thank them for the hospitality and a great night. Really fun group, I kind of wish we had another night here to get out on the town a bit. 

We get mom to order an uber because dad’s being a bitch but we have a hard time finding it. The driver doesn’t want to come down into the market area and pick us up because there are taxi drivers there. I guess the taxi and uber drivers are having legit turf wars over fares, getting beat up, trashing cars, etc…. 

We walk up the street passed the taxis and then another block and the car pulls forward with his lights off. Yeah, nothing sketchy about this. We get in and the driver makes a U-y, flips the lights on and heads off towards Randburg. We cross Nelson Mandela Bridge and I snap a pic out the back window. The headlights behind us make it look like some bright spirit is walking the bridge at night.

We get home and are tuckered out. Toe Licker is super excited to see us but it is crashitty crash crash time. So tired, I don’t even understand how we’re still awake. Hopefully we’ll get a good sleep in tonight so we can make time on the road tomorrow. Not sure where we’ll get to but mega pumped to be getting on the road.

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