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tour on a saddle

By unknown | May 11, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

CLATTERING down a rocky lane in Soweto on bicycles, children scatter as the cyclists bump and grind past tiny brick houses.

CLATTERING down a rocky lane in Soweto on bicycles, children scatter as the cyclists bump and grind past tiny brick houses.

"Mlungu, mlungu," a little girl shouts excitedly.

A group of 30 American and European students are on a two-hour tour of South Africa's famous township and the storm clouds assembling overhead have spurred them into a sprint.

They've just come from a beer tasting in a local shebeen, but there's still grilled cow's head to sample and a museum to visit on this Tour de Soweto, which is in demand among World Cup visitors.

On a scale of one to 10 of tourist experiences, with one being the least authentic, taking a bike tour of this former hotbed of the anti-apartheid struggle scores at least an eight.

Most of the other 200000 or so tourists who visit Soweto each use tour buses.

But more and more are answering the call by Lebo's Soweto Backpackers, the country's first black hostel, to "get out of the car" and discover township life on bikes.

Since Lebo Malepa, 24, began running the tours with a few borrowed bikes five years ago, thousands of people have seen Soweto from the saddle.

The tour starts at the Backpackers in Orlando West.

The helmeted horde rides through streets and past gaggles of children

Discarding their bikes outside a shebeen, the cyclists stop to sample some home brew served in plastic pails or scooped-out calabashes.

For the teetotallers, there's a banana-flavoured, non-alcoholic version.

Next stop is a hostel.

As the rain worsens, the visit to Hector Pietersen Museum is abandoned.

But there's still time for some cow's head, a township favourite served on stalls, with spices and puthu.

Splashing through mud puddles has given the group an appetite.

"This is exactly what I wanted," Sarah Stanton, a 29-year-old Michigan native, says as she dabs a piece of meat in spice as demonstrated by Phillip.

For Rosie Hunerwadel, 22, a French and religion student from Hawaii, the tour is an initiation in more ways than one. Before Soweto, she had never been on a bike.

"I would definitely recommend it to my friends," she says.

A two-hour tour costs R500 and a four-hour version costs R700. During the World Cup, there's a R50 increment on both. - Sapa-DPA


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