Whizzing by open-air butcheries, neighbourhood herbalists, colourful markets and busy informal barber shops on street corners, my quad bike hums to the welcoming greetings from residents of South Western Townships in South Africa, also popularly known as Soweto.
Soweto stretches nearly 120 km2 and is regarded as one of South Africa’s most densely populated residential areas. The community is a collection of extremes: on one hand there are impoverished informal settlements and on the other, wealth from upper class areas such as Diepkloof Extension and Selection Park.
From the industrial variety of the abandoned power station, Orlando Towers, my motorcade of quad bikes speed through Soweto’s shebeens, grassy residential verges, traffic and historical sites such as Villakazi Street – home to the two Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu – Mandela House Museum, and Hector Pieterson Museum.
We quench our thirst at one of the remaining shebeens in the community – The Shack – which is popular with locals and tourists; and I tuck into the popular street food Kota Sandwhich. The afternoon sun begins to dip and the length of shadows stretch, most visibly when we zoom by the stunning calabash-shaped FNB Stadium. I am reminded of Soweto’s conviction to the right of a liveable city.
NOTES: Quad bike tour was booked through Soweto Outdoor Adventures
Quad Bikes in Soweto
I’ve toured Soweto by foot, on bicycle and even aboard a microbus; but none compare to my most recent visit via quad bike.
Offering a unique experience that embraces venturing through back roads, quad bikes serve-up an adrenalin-filled and up-close encounter with life in Soweto without being guarded by the windows of a tour bus or navigating hills that cyclists would shy away from.
Whether you’re zipping by or slowly cruising on a lower gear, riding a quad bike gives you the freedom to be captivated by some interesting street art – courtesy of a competition among local artists – to making pit stops at heritage-filled landmarks such as where Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old boy who was shot by police during a 1976 student protest, died.
The dynamic and expressive sounds of Soweto – tunes from musicians and warm greetings from Sowetans – provide opportunities of casual and organic interaction, showcasing the true standards of South African hospitality and friendship.