Johannesburg, more than Somalia and Iraq combined has a bad reputation for crime and danger. I disembark at the airport, get some cash at an ATM, and hire an Uber. My first order of business is to head to the bus station and get out of Dodge. My Uber driver is friendly and nowhere on our route seems unsafe, but construction on one of the city’s major highways puts us on a significant detour. For putting up with that, and for being a kind, welcoming first South African encounter, I give him a tip of several Rand.
The bus station, though busy, is incredibly mellow for an overcrowded transit hub. Security guards, whom my Uber driver told me I could trust with my life, have no idea where to catch a bus to Eswatini. None of the bus ticket agents know either, and I start to realize I am in the wrong place. Searching the ‘net, I learn that the station’s ‘taxi rank’ is actually where the cheap international and intra-city transport awaits. This is where vans, or “Kombis,” are loaded up with locals and kick off immediately for their destinations only after selling every seat. “Friendly people” jump at the chance to show me to the international section, and when I reveal I have no extra money my chosen guide waits outside my window for five minutes, tapping on the glass to make sure, until my neighbor shoos him away. I wait an hour and before long we are on our way East.
The border crossing into Eswatini (or "the country formerly known as Swaziland") is calm, and a very tall African woman presses her breasts firmly against my back as I wait in line at immigration as if she is trying to push me over. I somehow neglect to get the gate pass, a free sheet of paper issued to everyone passing through, and have to run back to grab one before clearing Eswatini immigration. Thankfully, my bus does not leave me behind.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.