South Africa- 5 magical days in Johannesburg
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
To put it shortly, our days in Johannesburg were simply magic, mindblowing and it is difficult to express it in words, but I will try. First it was a long drive up from Durban through the ever changing landscape. But it was a relaxed journey and traffic is super-easy to handle in South Africa. Just be aware of the speed controls - there are many!
It was a bit tricky to find the right streets without a GPS, but we somehow managed to arrive safely in Jozi (how the locals call Johannesburg), in the suburb of Emmarentia which is just north of Melville. We stayed in a Bed & Breakfast called 43 on Congo and it was amazing! Our lovely host showed us the rooms (also our friends were staying there). We had a huge appartment with a kitchen, big bedroom, wonderful bathroom and a patio in a lovely garden. We were so surprised how green Jozi is. In this area of town there a wide streets lined with big trees and amazing villas. All we saw the first days in Jozi were big, expensive cars and many, many amazing villas behind huge fences. A lovely part of town. But, no-one is walking around on foot. You need to go to the supermarket just around the corner, so get into your car, open the highly secured fence, drive out quickly, close the fence again
automatically, drive 2 minutes down the road on the secure parking of the supermarket, go shopping and drive back. This is life in Jozi - well, at least, it was our impressions how life here looks like. Understandably, as the reputation of Jozi in terms of security speaks for its own. This is a criminal town which from the very beginning we liked (it is fascinating us in a way), but we immediately adopted to behave like everybody - better be on the safe side.
So after checking into our room, we quickly changed and drove 2 minutes to Mark's Parc which is a recreational area with many sport fields around the Botanical Garden. In a big hall there the first of 2 Darshans of Paramahamsa Vishwananda, our spiritual master, took place. We were super late, the event had already started, but I was relieved that Paramahamsa Vishwananda had not arrived yet. So I could quickly look around the hall, get organised with the camera and make myself ready for taking pictures. Just 10 minutes later he arrived and the Dasrshan started. We were just in time.
The atmosphere was completely different to the Darshans in Durban. There it was lovely, relaxed - and here, you could feel the energy of a big city. But it was a wonderful Darshan anyway with lots of music and a big party in the end when everyone was dancing and our master was singing.To be honest, we were so very tired when we finally arrived in our room. We had not even unpacked our stuff. So in the middle of the night, we unpacked everything, enjoyed a small snack made in our kitchen with a hot cup of tea. After the superwarm days in Durban the chilly nights in Jozi made us drink liters of hot tea although it was not really cold. In the early morning we went to bed and had a long sleep. As there were no activities planned with Paramahamsa Vishwananda during the day which we could have joined, we had originally planned to drive down to Soweto with the car. This is supposed to be generally safe if you stick to certain areas and drive with an empty car and without any valuables. But we were simply too tired. We needed some sleep and a break. So we ended up with a long and late breakfast in the patio with our friends before we drove to the Emmarentia Dam and to Greenside. There we found a lovely vegan health shop and a wonderful vegan café. These kind of cafés are coming up now more and more in the cities and this one was really amazing but not cheap. We bought some tea and an amazing Baobab Powder (which has a high concentrate of vitamin C - and it is not available in Switzerland for a payable price; I was so happy to get it there). And then we continued being lazy in the café where we had yummy vegan cakes with vegan cappuccino. Oh wow, this was heaven! Back in the room I worked on the pictures of
the previous night before we got ready for the second night of Darshan. What a blessing this is - the 4th night in a row receiving a Darshan of a saint. It was so amazing! It was again a wonderful night. Taking pictures was much more relaxing, as now we are 3 photographers (me from Switzerland, a devotee from Croatia and one from Italy) and a film crew from South Africa. But the hall was dark, so there are always challenges. But these challenges just make you better in what you do and they definitely keep you flexible. So it was wonderful to work in the big team and we all enjoyed it tremendously. Darshan finished in the early morning and again, we only had little sleep.
Next morning we had to be ready at the temple which was about to be inaugurated for the following 3 days. Paramahamsa Vishwananda was doing this temple inauguration together with a priest from Mauritius and his little son. Over 3 days there were different yagnas (fire ceremonies), pujas and abishekams to prepare the deities for the pranapratishta, when life energy will be put into the murtis. These are long ceremonies following strict rules to the Vaishnava traditions which I do not want to explain here in detail. For those interested, they can contact us privately. For 3 days we had prayers in the morning and again in the evening. On the first evening, we were supposed to do a procession. Well, normally, theses processions are made on foot. But as this is simply to dangerous in Jozi, Paramahamsa Vishwananda decided to do it by car. So 150 people were put into many, many cars. A challenge for the media team. We organised a bakkie where we could sit in the back. The bakkie was driving in front - a perfect idea to take the pictures. So far so good, but no-one was thinking about one thing...... The minute the car procession started, a really heavy
thunderstorm began. We could quickly organise an umbrella. This 1 umbrella was perfect for 4 cameras. Those stayed dry. But we were completely soaked in the rain. Huge drops were falling down, amazing lightning in the sky, heavy winds were blowing (and yes, it was cold) - but we were brave. I was happy that at least some pictures turned out more or less usable. And we had great fun. We were completely wet. When we arrived in the temple, I quickly went to the fire place, which was outside in the garden where most of the ceremony took place. Water was just running down on me. The rain had stopped in the meantime. And wet as I was, I finally stood alone with Paramahamsa Vishwananda in the garden and he was laughing about me. Good, you got so wet he told me and he was laughing and laughing. This was one of this super precious moments alone with him. Wonderful. The prayers continued for about 2 hours and in the end I was more or less dry again :-).
Next day again the ceremonies were wonderful. As it was a small event, it was amazing as all the people could help and really be part of it. We enjoyed it tremendously. On the last day in the evening the deities were finally brought inside the temple and the ceremony was continuing. What a strong energy! It was definitely mindblowing. I was in front taking pictures and behind me as much people as canf it into the small temple, all pushing forwards. It was definitely not easy to take pictures, more kind of a physical challenge to foucs when I was being pushed from all directions. Again, I was completely wet - this time from the heat and not the rain. But it was so amazing. In the end we offered 100.000 flowers to Nrsimha.
These days with our spiritual master and all the devotees from South Africa and all around the world were some of the most amazing days in our life. It was a challenging time, physically as well as emotionally sometimes. Definitely we could feel that it was a very transformative time and we will need some weeks, months or even longer, to digest everything. To comprehend what was happening, I doubt that we can ever get it. It was such a great gift that we could be part and we are deeply thankful. The only thing we can do is, to be happy and grateful :-).
On our last day in Jozi we went by car to the city centre. We found a parking close to Gandhi Square. From there we walked through the very centre for a while. It is not a really inviting city, it is not a beautiful city centre - but it is fascinating. Anyway, you really have to be extremely careful. When you look at the many faces of the people, you quickly realise that life in this city is tough and crme is common. We were not afraid but really vigilant. We went to a shopping centre close by where you can take a lift up onto the 50th floor to the "Top of Africa". It is all old, a bit spooky and not really well maintained. The views however over the city are amazing. From there you can safely enjoy the city and observe some areas that really look dangerous even from above. Some areas on the other hand look quite inviting. We wished we had some more time left to explore a bit of the city. But, we kept this for the next time. For us it was more important to spent every single minute with our spiritual master.
5 days in Jozi, 2 darshan and 3 days of temple inauguration with Paramahamsa Vishwananda - wow. And it was not the end of our time in South Africa. More to come in our next blog.