Under lockdown, with inter-provincial road travel severely restricted, highwayapps.com founder Peter Delmar decided to develop an app-based tour for his own backyard.

So N3 Radio currently features the Parkview Lockdown Virtual Tour. Like our “highway” apps, stories about the Johannesburg suburb are triggered automatically but this time content is designed for people walking or jogging, rather than driving.

For walkers – not drivers

“After I had the idea, we let the Parkview tour hitch a ride on N3 Radio simply to expedite matters, and to save costs,” says Peter. “On the open road we give our points of interest (our stories and alerts) trigger distances of a couple of kilometres; with the walking tour we’re doing it in a couple of metres. And it works – beautifully.”

In case you’re wondering, Parkview is bordered by Zoo Lake, the Joburg Zoo, Westcliff and the Parkview Golf Club. As Peter says, the suburb (which was founded in 1906) is packed with history and interesting personalities. “We have three schools in the area, a tennis club which was once the best in the country, and even an Egyptian cathedral. But what makes the stories sing is the characters (many of them quite unsavoury) who have inhabited this space. The one sad thing about our geographically-defined heritage is that it is overwhelmingly about white people, because of our racially skewed past.”

Producing content for the app proved challenging at times because of lockdown restrictions but Peter says technology successfully bridged the physical divide. “We couldn’t go and interview people so we mostly asked people to send us WhatsApp voice memos; the quality is surprisingly good, we engineered and mixed sound remotely and we really didn’t miss going into recording studios at all.”

Various individuals and organisations saw the walking tour’s potential and helped out, including the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and community organisations. Even an English author in lockdown in Kent was able to provide information and guidance – on the day the British Royal Family met 26,000 Joburg schoolchildren at Zoo Lake in 1947.

Creating a sense of community

Peter believes the Parkview tour has proven the potential walking tours can have to create social cohesion. “We were inspired by seeing so many people taking back their streets during the first three-hour exercise window. We hope they will keep walking and experiencing their suburbs and townships. Soon we’re planning more interactive – but safe – activities like fun scavenger hunts.”