August 21, 2018

From the active outdoors to gritty streets and authentic culture, Melanie van Zyl found four fresh ways to see the city of Johannesburg. She also tackled them in the brand new Hi-Tec Meridian shoe, perfect for crossing between trail and town tackling, anything from fun fitness to unusual everyday adventures. 

At the end of June, Airbnb announced the launch of Experiences in Johannesburg with around 30 Experiences already available on the platform. Here are four of their most unusual offerings.

1. Skate the streets with Ayanda

Zigzag Joburg’s inner city differently by embracing the skateboard. I’ve never skated before, but Ayanda is a pro skateboarder and patient instructor who had me up and running beside a board in a matter of 30 minutes.

Ayanda meets the skaters-to-be in Maboneng at the Curiocity African Design Hostel and teaches the basics of boarding. Once kitted up in elbow guards and a helmet he takes you past some of the city’s most beautiful artworks and important historical sites, such as Nelson Mandela’s old office on Fox Street, right through to the vibey Newtown district. I felt safe the entire time and confident enough to whizz down my hometown’s city streets all by myself by the end of the tour.

Do it: Explore Maboneng on skateboards for R300 per person

2. Discover authentic Fordsburg with Gilda

When I posted pictures of this delicious experience on Instagram, people thought I was sharing a tour from another country! Gilda is a feisty tour guide with wonderful historical knowledge of Johannesburg and takes you on a journey back in time, from the city’s fascinating mining beginnings, to the current cultural spread of people across South Africa’s capital.

Starting at Joburg’s centre, in Newtown, Gilda paints a picture of why Joburg is the way it is and helps visitors explore the tasty living heritage of Fordsburg. The starter? Only Joburg’s very best  samoosas. We meet the owners of World of Samoosas and they share their intriguing visitor’s book, which dates back to 1990s and bears the signature of Nelson Mandela. There’s both sweet and savoury on offer and I fall in love with the coconut-filled pastries. From here, we sip on fresh coconuts shipped in from Mozambique, find deliciously deep-fried street food snacks, sample sweetmeats from a specialist store and meet the guys behind the smoking tandoori chicken fires.

Gilda’s expertise, the many historical sites, inspiring street artworks and, most of all, the friendly folk of Fordsburg makes this an exceptional way to spend the day.

Do it: Join a Fordsburg food and history walking tour for R495 per person

3. Train with boxing grannies and coach Claude

Also on offer in Johannesburg are Social Impact Experiences where 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the hosting organization and Airbnb forgoes their usual fee. Training with Boxing Grannies is one of these amazing experiences.

Hosted by the A Team Foundation and Coach Claude, this was probably my favourite unusual undertaking. I’ve never been to Cosmo City, where the A Team Foundation trains, but I felt perfectly at home with this delightful group. The community can attend for free and your attendance via Airbnb helps raise funds to renew training material and pay the fitness trainers.

This is a sure-fire way to feel humbled. Claude teamed me up with Constance, a charming woman who was fitter than I am, but 53 years my senior. She trains twice a week with the team and showed me the ropes - literally - inside the boxing ring. We did 150 reps of everything from punching bags, push-ups, squats and more.

Why boxing? Well, coach said it’s not only a full-body workout, it’s about the euphoria you feel afterwards. The pure empowerment. This was my first time boxing, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Do it:
Train with boxing grannies for R250 per person

4. Create a traditional African Kaftan with Victoria

I have this thing with textiles, so when I found this offering on Airbnb I jumped at the chance to create something I could keep. Victoria is a wonderful host and champion of female empowerment. Originally from Nigeria, she learnt how to sew from her aunt and has a profound love for fashion that’s totally tangible in this workshop.

Not only did she help me to cut and sew a kaftan from my own chosen fabric (I opted for a shorter style that can be used as a shirt or dress) she taught me great hand-sewing techniques. Victoria is an engaging host who was easy to chat to and willing to share her skills. My favourite part though had to be the beading and embellishments that would set my kaftan apart.

Do it: Create your own kaftan for R550 per person

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