Dog Day Morning in Johannesburg

It’s the best day of the week for the dogs of Johannesburg.  That’s a Monday – and it is Piki Tup day.  What an ingenious name for garbage collection – a real African winner.  piki tup

Now the dogs of Johannesburg are generally confined to the front yard behind walls and gates – standing (or lying) on duty to sound the alarm should a stranger think of entering.  Just another layer of security in a city where this is considered the norm.  But you have to agree that any dog would get a bit bored with this – especially if it is just the same old people each day walking past the gate on the way home after work.  So Piki Tup day is – EXCITING!


You can hear the truck before it arrives.  Hanging onto the sides of the truck are the “pickers” – no automation here – all human interaction.  As they come down the street they announce their arrival with loud whistles…. and the dogs go crazy!  Doesn’t matter if they are the biggest meanest looking Rottweiler or the littlest short-legged, stomach-just-off-the-ground dachshund.  They jump.  They bark.  They run back and forth in front of the gate.  They yell to their mates “Hey here comes the Piki Tup…. come on guys…. can you bark a bit louder?”

It’s not just the Piki Tup trucks that cause such excitement.  Before the trucks even approach, the streets are full of bottle pickers who comb through the Piki Tup bins for anything that can be recycled for money.  What an amazing job they do.  Certain types of paper, plastic and all sorts of bottles are transferred from the wheely bins into huge and unwieldy contraptions balanced on wheels – sometimes cannibalised from baby strollers.  It’s African entrepreneurship at it’s best.  Out on my morning jog I passed by one such bottle picker who filled the street with his beautiful baritone as he sang an old tribal song.  I didn’t know the words – maybe something similar to the Walking Song but this was a Bottle Picking song.  Whatever he was singing about I felt I could just close my eyes and be transported to the depths of rural Zululand.

bottle pickers

I am with the dogs!  I love Piki Tup Day!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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