Soweto, South Africa
Southern Africa Travel Tip - Soweto Bike TourSoweto is probably the most interesting and culturally important neighbourhood in all of Johannesburg. This is the neighbourhood where the student uprising started, where Nelson Mandela lived, and where Desmond Tutu still lives to this day. It's never been a rich neighbourhood, with slums and low-income housing making up most of the area. There are a few affluent areas, but for the most part it's a poor part of Johannesburg, and has been historically for generations.
In the recent past, this neighbourhood was considered a no go area for tourists. There have been tours through this area during these times, however they would often be buses driving through the neighbourhood stopping a predetermined spots along the way. Today there are still no go areas in Soweto, particularly during the evenings, however several industrious locals have started to change Soweto into a tourist friendly place. One such person is Lebo, who's opened a backpacker’s lodge and also started a bike tour in the area.
The bike tour takes you through many areas of Soweto including a stop in a slum, at the spot where the uprising started (there's a museum there now) and at Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s houses. The tour can be fairly full with 20 or 30 people, however the guides are well trained, and dealing with large groups is not a problem for them. There are several stops along the route, including a walk through the slum with a local food sampling. You obviously have to be able to ride a bike to take the tour, and you should be ready for a few hills. They will supply you with a bottle of water, however it's a good idea to take extra as the South African sun can be pretty hot.
This is probably one of the best ways to see this very famous neighbourhood, and even though the reputation is that of a high crime area, the tour is perfectly safe.