Global Warming, however, has meant it has been spring for a few weeks already but seeing that it is only the beginning, there still is the chill in the air that makes you always carry a jersey to your car every morning. Spring does mean that the great outdoors is fair game. I am one of those people that sits in bed and rue every moment of winter. You might have picked that up with the lack of blog posts during June and July. Jozi is sometimes referred to as the largest man-made forest in the world with around 10 million trees existing around the metropolis. Jozi sadly does not have a beach (well, there is one but I’m not going to tell you about it just yet) but there are some stunning parks that are perfect for a spring affair. The park around Emmarentia Dam is one of my favourite spots.
The park’s history is based around rather, well, colonial occasions. The gardens, which is actually called the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, itself date back to around 1886 with the first dam (believe it or not, there is apparently more than one) being constructed just after the South African War. The dam was named after the wife of Louw Geldenhuys, Emmarentia. Louw ended up as a road. Anyway, the park itself was established in 1952 to commemorate 300 years since Jan Van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape and caused this country to happen the way it happened.
No, going to this park does not mean you are celebrating the exploits of colonialism. Sadly we are a product of the oppression and our lives are dictated by what has already come to pass. Billions of years of evolution have resulted in me going to Emmarentia Dam with a few instruments, some cleverly disguised water (not really) and some really cool friends.
The dam itself is great for canoeing and the adjoining Johannesburg Botanical Gardens has this beautiful rose garden which is perfect for a summer picnic. There is a stage elsewhere in the gardens that is used for many a concert. Elton John has played a concert here and I’ve seen New Young Pony Club play here too. One of the best performances I’ve seen at the park was by Just Jinjer. They blew me away. I’ve never been the most ardent fan of theirs but gosh, I loved every minute of it. There was a point where Art dropped a bottle of water onto a drum and just played. I can’t explain how great those few minutes were. That moment changed me.
Spending the day at a park evokes many emotions. You may feel nostalgic, it may make you appreciate those around you a little more or you may simply just revel in the feeling of outdoor fun in its purest form. Emmarentia makes you tranquil. The birds of summer singing their greatest symphonies as the sweet scent of roses intoxicate you with their poisonous yet not really, perfumes. The golden leaves of autumn glide gently to your feet while whispering the tale of this great metropolis. It all is tinged with serenity that conceives that lasting smile When you pack up your wares as the sun waves goodbye, you leave with a sense of calm. This is probably why it is my favourite park that I have visited in Jozi.
When to go: The Park is open all year round but, for obvious reasons, its best to go during spring and summer. The park does look best when the flowers are in bloom. The rose garden is especially fetching when in bloom. If memory serves me right, the park does not have a strict policy with regards to what time you can leave. They regularly have concerts there during summer so if you want some quiet, try to avoid these. The concerts are generally fantastic so even if you want some quiet, go anyway.
How to get there: I normally get there from Barry Hertzog travelling from Emmarentia towards Greenside. Turn left into The Braids and then follow the road and turn right into Louw Geldenhuys. There is a small parking lot on your left. You can also access the Park via Beyers Naude via Thomas Bowler Street. There is a lot of signage so you probably won’t get lost.
Cost: The cost would include a few Rands for the car guard, a few tens of Rands for your picnic supplies and a few thousand Rands for petrol. Entrance is free!
Anything Else: You can also do a variety of water sports on the dam. The Joburg Photowalkers have done a sunrise photowalk at the dam. The pictures that I have seen were amazing so if you are crazy enough to wake up to watch a sunrise, this is a great place to do it.