Let it be heard here before it begins. You will glean nothing from these words except this single truth: Cities are loved by those who love them. Despite what is my inevitable duty to needlessly compare cities and sum them up in this here interest piece, no matter how I describe them – with all their shortcomings – it will not change your opinion of them. Johannesburg and Cape Town will forever be subjectively loved by those who love them and appreciated more by those who have left them. That is our nature.
H2O. 100% correct.
Now, the flight between Johannesburg and Cape Town is the tenth busiest flight on Planet Earth. Certainly, the immensity of that fact will only sink in when you learn that there is not a single European or American flight on that list, which, if read in the many ways it can be read, means that human flows between our two major cities allow for a staggering amount of competitive African banter. And this here is it:
I have lived in Cape Town for a year now and it has been enjoyable one to say the least. I regularly surf, hike and drink hipster beers in an urban mash of colourful Dutch-old buildings and enjoy, when the wind is kind, to sit on white sandy beaches. Having sat on many iconic beaches around the world, I have sincerely never loved a beach as much I enjoyed Buffels Bay last week, a tucked-in slice of turquoise “magic” that can be found within the confines of the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Of course, I apostrophise “magic” here because I have come to realise, after getting drunk with thoroughbred Cape Tonians last Friday, that they like to use that word a lot. A lot, a lot! Truth be told, magic is appropriately used. Without wind, magic is just the right word for a Cape Town beach day.
Truly. Buffels was ridiculously good that day.
For all it offers though, which is truly magic, I cannot help shake the feeling that living in Cape Town has somewhat starved me of the urban pulse that only truly mega cities can offer. Let me explain it like this. Even if a Cape Tonian doesn’t hike Table Mountain, they would still notice if it was removed. Similarly, if someone removed the ostentatious centre of Sandton from Joburg, a Joburger would notice whether or not they enjoyed Sandton in the first place. As such, Cape Town, for a Joburger, seems to be lacking in real urban depth despite its largely enjoyable urban centre, which of course I enjoy most often, round after round after round.
I mean, where’s its Rosebank – the real Rosebank that is – the inner hub of over-priced mega clubs and multi-culturalism? Or its Sandton, with its stories-deep-super-train that when caught takes you to another urban centre altogether? For that matter, where’s its Vilakazi? Enjoying the hipster squalor of urban Africa from its townships to Maboneng feels more real than slipping into chinos at Woodstock – and a Bree street visit seems tame compared to Melville where Joburgers have been on the edge of edgy urbanity since the beginning of South African time. Just like a missing mountain or beach, when those urban realities are gone, you can definitely feel claustrophobic without them. Isn’t it strange that that which can cause claustrophobia in the first place can re-emerge in the cause’s absence?
Checks this mal doos! The Soweto towers. Heavy.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, cities are only ever fully appreciated when they’re gone and those things which you glorify when you leave, you enjoy less when you have them. The amount of Cape Tonians I know who never surf or hike or do those Capey things is outrageous considering what their home has to offer, and the amount of Joburgers who insist on becoming suburb-stranded is sinful considering the amount of city at their disposal – or for that matter the real bushveld on offer which is a mere two hour drive from them. Cape Town certainly is beautiful, yes, and the Protea is an awesome sight for even non-flower lovers, but every real South African knows that proper bushveld is khaki as it’s only in its thorniness that you’re really able to lose yourself in the unending wilderness of the Africa that has chiselled our belonging. This Africa.
The real bush. At sunset.
For what it is worth there are small things that I can pick at that you expected – perceived differences that are controversial and generalisations that aren’t really true. Cape Tonians are seen to be worse drivers, yes. However, driving habits must be interpreted as cultural and infrastructure as influential. Cape Tonians drive slower and skip through less orange lights because they obey more laws. That is culturally admirable, not exactly worse driving. However, only the Pope knows why they interpret the fast lane as the slow lane but, that said, an awkwardly designed highway system does not help this phenomenon as it often sends you unwillingly from slow lane to fast without you being able to help it.
This doesn’t help your cause, Cape Town.
Cape Tonians are cliquey, I’ve heard. But that, I believe, is just a white phenomenon country wide, specifically amongst English speakers from private or Model C schools who become entrenched in their social circles and sometimes, perceived superiorities. Cape Tonians then are as cliquey as Joburgers are aggressive, which is only true when you’re cliquey or aggressive yourself; those who look for fights in any city will find them and those who are unable to crack cliques might, indeed, be a part of uncrackable clique themselves.
Do you even lift?
So what is the truth then with the unending battle that is Joburg vs Cape Town? Certainly, it’s not a unique one: Milan and Rome are always slugging it out. New York and LA too. Some city rivalries go back centuries – and some are so intense that they transcend national identity. Madrid and Barcelona are case in point and their rivalry is as bitter as they come. Certainly, in South Africa’s case, the truth should be this: Every South African, if they are able to, should enjoy both because I assure you that both are, in very different ways, enjoyable, as both offer, invariably, very different Africas.
I have lived as an African in New York and a ‘Saffa’ in London and loved them both. But, I am always happiest when I am a boet in Joburg and bru in Cape Town. Because lemme tell you, Boet, for real, it’s hectic pal. It’s mal. My life’s jol here is an epic African road trip. And truly, it’s absolute magic bru. Magic.
Ya no, 100% correct.
CEO Mondays. Casual.