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Go shopping in the CBD
15 April 2010

Jo Buitendag (far left) guides tours around the city

Combining history and culture, Soweto and shopping, Past Experiences offers interesting, one-of-a-kind tours through some of Jozi's hottest spots.

WANNA go shopping in the Joburg CBD but don't know where to start? Jo Buitendag of Past Experiences has done all the leg work and will give you an outing that will turn you into a respectable downtown shopper.

Emmanuel Samwel sells good second-hand books on the pavement
Emmanuel Samwel sells good second-hand boots on the pavement

Buitendag, a registered tour guide and qualified archaeologist, calls herself a public archaeologist, which means that she wants to bring archaeology and its related field, history, to people instead of sitting for hours on her haunches with a small brush on a dusty site in the back of nowhere.

She admits to being a people person, and has found a different outlet for a profession that can be rather lonely.

"I love Johannesburg," she says. "I wanted to introduce tours that would show Johannesburgers the city they live in. And by extension, also show foreign visitors the best parts of the biggest and richest city in Africa."

On her shopping tour, you will catch a Rea Vaya bus to the eastern side of the CBD, then walk through the Small Street and Kerk Street malls. And if you're feeling energetic, right across to some great traditional shops in Diagonal Street.

Soweto tour
But it's not all walking and buying. Besides shopping in the CBD, Buitendag takes people to Soweto to soak in the flavour of one of South Africa's largest and most colourful townships.

"Johannesburg people don't go to Soweto, but it is an amazing place. It is full of history and culture and there is so much to do."

The Smal Street Mall is a good place to get a range of clothing on the shopping tour
The Smal Street Mall is a good place to get a range of clothing on the shopping tour

You'll visit the beautiful Regina Mundi Catholic Church, a symbol of Sowetans' resistance to apartheid. The interior of the church still bears the scars of the security police's bullets, yet at the same time it radiates a quiet, tranquil ambience.

Buitendag then takes visitors to the neighbouring Thokoza Park, one of the city's showcase green spaces, for a braai. Later you will visit a shebeen and drink local beer.

"The braai is a typical African braai with shisanyama [braaied meat], pap and chakalaka, a local beer and maybe even a casual game of soccer with the locals," she says.

"Jozi is a beautiful city with an amazing history, culture and vibe - we want to share this with everyone. We also want to take locals into areas that they have not had the opportunity to visit, or wouldn't want to visit on their own."

Archaeological tours
Her tours also take in some of the country's best archaeological sites - Sterkfontein and the interpretation centre at Maropeng, both in the Cradle of Humankind, a world heritage site to the northwest of Johannesburg. This is supplemented by a visit to the wonderful Origins Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand.

"History and archaeology have a fuddy-duddy image that we want to change. History - both recent and ancient - is a lot of fun. We would like to encourage young people and families to come on these tours."

 Past Experiences
Jo Buitendag can be contacted on 011 678 3905 or 083 701 3046.

Details of tours are available on the Past Experiences website.

Buitendag also takes visitors up to the historic Mapungubwe site in Limpopo, where interesting archaeological finds include the intriguing golden rhino, now in the Mapungubwe Museum at the University of Pretoria.

She has hands-on experience on the nearby diamond mine. "I have worked on the fantastic archaeological sites on the De Beers Venetia mine, and I also take people to see the wild dog project on the mine's property. That fascinates people."

Tours cost between R70 and R496, and take between two hours to a full day. So, sign up now - for the tour of the week, or the monkey business tour, or the I love the pavement tour . . .

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Last Updated on 30 April 2010