Sunday, September 7, 2014

Running in Johannesburg, South Africa: Sandton, Braamfontein Spruit Trail, Botanic Garden

I just landed this morning after 20 hours on a plane and 29 hours door to door. Plus 2 hours to wait for an available room as arrived at the hotel in the morning. A rather smooth trip overall except for the stealing of my new Garmin and old Canon camera from my suitcase. After flying more than 1.7 million miles, it was time something like that happened to me, still it's always a bad surprise and almost jeopardized my plans to explore Johannesburg on foot. What is disconcerting is that it seems so common particularly with South African Airlines according to this thread. You'd think that, after a few years of consistent occurrences and reporting, a few cameras would catch the thieves and address the issue. Speaking of camera, I passed by many gorgeous villas in Sandton, each with electrified fences and at least a handful of cameras. The cost of living in such a contrasted and divided country with extreme wealth on one side (houses, luxury cars) and extreme poverty on the other one (and I know I haven't seen much in the area I'm staying in).

Anyway, having gotten the usual warning of not exercising outside in this country, and Johannesburg in particular, I did some search on the Internet about running in Sandton. I didn't find much, just a few posts reassuring foreigners that Sandton is particularly safe in the early morning, and recommending to run in the nearby parks or the indoor track of the Radisson Hotel's Planet Platinum gym. This didn't seem very appealing for a long run so I de zoomed on the map and found a very interesting stretch of green area along a creek, on the West side. It seemed so obvious, I was disappointed when the Concierge of the hotel had no idea about what I was pointing him to on the map. His only reaction was that it must be very far. Indeed, 4 kilometers, phew! ;-)
So I decided to go after sending an email to Agnès with the Google trace of my targeted route (only to find out upon my return that I hadn't hit the send button before leaving, oops!). The sidewalks are quite uneven along the main arteries of Sandton and it's also dangerous to cross roads and streets in a country which drives on the other side of the road (I almost missed to cross one looking at the wrong side of the incoming traffic, with the wrong habit and reflex); as a result, I was glad to find the Braamfontein Spruit Trail. It's kind of the Parisian Coulée Verte (see 2007 and 2014 posts), or maybe a local PG&E trail since the trail isn't much about leveraging the nice creek as it seems to rather be to allow for the passage of a huge power line across the city.
But, when not looking up, it is really surprising to find such a natural creek running in the heart of the city.

There is no marking but the path is rather easy to find and follow. It was actually quite dusty in this early September, after a dry winter. Yes, it's still winter here for a few more weeks, yet the temperature was 86F this afternoon and quite dry (16% humidity)!

I saw dozens of mountain bikers but only a handful of runners.

After about 12 kilometers I reached the Emmarentia Dam:

The reservoir is surrounded by the Johannesburg Botanic Garden which was crowded today with locals enjoying early Spring conditions.

I did see a few local species, for instance these ducks which seem to wear a brown mask or sun glasses, and a sort of ibis.

And a few upside-down inhabited nests as I've seen in Senegal last year:
Great city escape for a long run if you are staying in Sandton. Note that the trail keeps going North for a few more kilometers. More to explore another time, I won't have this luxury with my busy work week here. A good excuse to start tapering anyway after another reasonable good training week (88 miles, including a good speed workout on Thursday with Bob) and before the upcoming US Nationals of 24-hour in Cleveland in 2 weeks, which I finally decided to go!


Val S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Val S said...

Hey Jean

I'm sorry about your mishaps in Jozi, but I do hope it doesn't put you off visiting again.

There is a huge running community in the city and if you're ever here again please contact me for a run together.

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