blimey. i am looking at the amount of pictures i took and subsequently uploaded here today and feel somewhat daunted by the task ahead. Gillian, in her wisdom, requested or suggested a blog post about the journey i was to take today, so here it is!
i had reason today to go to that fine, fine city of Pretoria. it is a truly magnificent place, but has one major flaw - the road system. Pretoria consists of a horrid series of one way streets and it is all but impossible for a visitor to get where they want to be in one shot. they also don't really particularly care for helpful street signs, to be honest. reason enough, then, to simply take the Gautrain to the place.
the above picture shows off the Midrand train station in the distance. this was taken something like half way from my car towards this station. quite a busy and distant car park it has! this part shall be of some minor relevance later in the story.
i was quite pleased to find the train station, to be honest. although i have lived in the area for quite some time, and indeed saw all the construction type vehicles going about, i had never had the reason to find out exactly where the station was. with good fortune there were a number of signs pointing in the general direction of it, and a number of "feeder" buses that i could merrily follow.
i doubt i would have missed the station had i just rolled in the car, for it is bloody massive. here's the way in and out for cars, beautified with an advert for McDonalds.
i am not at all surprised that McDonalds has taken significant advertising out around the train stations. all of the Gautrain stations seem to have a McDonalds very close to them, which was a bonus for me as you will see later on. food and drink, you see, are not allowed anywhere near the train stations and absolutely not allowed anywhere near the trains. kind of strange, to be honest, but i suppose it helps keep them clean. the security, i believe, get quite heavy handed around people why try to break this rule. i didn't.
as bloody massive as the station seems from the grounds they take up, Gautrain stations tend to be surprisingly small when you get inside. a reverse TARDIS, if you like. all stations seem to only have 2 platforms, which i suppose is all one needs for the exceptionally limited range and scope of the whole project.
here's where you gain access to the two platforms, so long as you have one of their snazzy gold smart card thingies and it has some money on it.
the no food and drink policy is certainly of benefit when you see how incredibly clean and shiny the whole thing is, so long as these pics off of my blueberry phone thing show the shine. yes, regular readers, i know i showed off the Gautrain before when i took a ride to the airport, but these are all different stations for your viewing pleasure.
as clean and shiny as it all is, it does not feel in any way at all like a regular, usual train station. the whole concept of it was really to try and just get rid of killer traffic between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as the airport. i wouldn't go as far to say the stations are sterile and cold, but they are never likely to form a fond memory as part of a day out - something that would be the case with European train stations.
as you can see in the above picture, everything about the platforms say "get on the train, get off the train, get out". no seating available for the gentry of the public at the Midrand platform, although you can sort of sit on the "lip" thingie on the wall. if they were designed to be seating areas, well, they have a funny idea of the anatomy of people who use trains and how they would sit in comfort.
train stations should be all about buying a newspaper, a bag of sweets, a drink and things like that. a bit of a shame that doesn't happen here, but there you go. it's highly unlikely that trains here shall ever be delayed by snow or "the wrong kind of leaves", so i guess it is give and take.
the trains here are however subject to being delayed by the rampant theft of electricty cables by the more dishonest members of society. that and the inability of the electricity people here to do the f*****g job they are paid very well to do and keep the electricity grid working. that they are reliant on electricity, one thing you cannot, shockingly, ever rely on as being a constant in this country, would make me highly unlikely to rely on these for going to verk on a daily basis.
oh look, here comes the train.
and what a lovely train it is too! James calls it the "bullet train", perhaps because of how fast it is. i think it looks like a glorified, shiny version of the old InterCity 125. i always liked that train, so i guess happy days. as long as it does its job i really don't usually care for what something looks like.
i did wish to get a few pictures from the window on my journey. alas, i felt a touch uncomfortable doing so. firstly, my blueberry makes a clicky clicky noise when i take pics, a feature which apparently puts off them internet predator types from using them to take sneaky pictures. secondly, sat near me on the train was one of those types of lady - the kind that seems interested and indeed judgemental about everyone and everything, seemingly mithering in others' affairs. as i had no wish to attract her interference, i more or less kept the phone in my pocket, but i did get the one picture on the journey to Pretoria.
that, reader, is the UNISA buildings in Pretoria. magnificent, they are. over the years i have visited that set of buildings with friends such as Spiros, Otto, Olivia, Nicky, Sylvia and way too many to list here.
sight of UNISA meant that Pretoria had been reached, something confirmed by the sign at the next station after i saw the UNISA buildings.
considering Pretoria is a major city, it is a touch fascinating that the rail station for it resembles a slightly enhanced version of what you would find serving as a station on a rural rail route through the Dales. with cheap(ish) fuel and massive roads, no one thought that a public transport system would ever be required here, you see. well, at least not for the rather more honky variant of resident of this country. the infrastructure, alas, has truly gone to Third World hell here over the last decade or so, and thus things like this are needed, since former part time President and full time world tourist Thabo Mbeki decided to cancel things like new highways and new powerstations, less a slight raise in tax to pay for them bruised his famously thinly protected ego.
what was i doing in Pretoria anyway? can't say at this stage, really. but if you want to see, here is a carefully obscured image of where i might have been going.
yes, the picture did come out blurry, hence the text above. sorry for the veil of secrecy. all, however, went very well indeed on my trip, and it was a success. those who need to know will know what that means, those who do not know will, at the least, hopefully be delighted to hear that my adventure today was smooth.
here is a picture of, amongst other things, the big massive Lewis building. i think Lewis sell chairs and that, not sure to be honest.
i include it here for my own reference, really. it's to remind me of where i need to turn on my next trip back to the same, blurry place. i had the address, but Pretoria has a fondness for sporadic and radical name changes in general, for street names in particular.
after i had conducted my business in Pretoria, i went for a pleasant stroll around back towards the general direction of the train station and was delighted to find this place on the way.
we have heard of it, and have wished to take the boys up to this museum one day. however, we've not known how to get there, or if it is reasonably close to the train station. those two things are now combined, really, as it's a straight walk from the train station for a few minutes and there you are. straight in the pure direction sense of course, and not in the sexual meaning. i suspect going to a museum is not in any way dependant on your sexual preferences. i don't know for certain, as i am not Mr Museum, but i think it's a pretty safe guess that it is not an issue.
moving, as it were, back on to some sort of point, and just why is it that we would very much like to take the boys to this museum? two clues await you in the very next picture.
yes, dinosaur bones. quite a few inside, apparently. i would imagine these on display outside are some sort of metal and plastic replica ones of the real things inside, but they look impressive all the same!
infuriatingly, this museum is only open on weekdays. it, with its close proximity to the train station, represents an ideal, educational and fun weekend day out. ho hum, i think it remains open on weekdays that are public holidays, though, so we shall head up on one of those days!
more pictures of the dinosaur skeletons / bones outside? OK, sure!
onwards, then, towards a return to the train station. somewhat undermining my praise of Pretoria would be the evidence of their major issues with proper signs. the only time one sees an indicator of being in the right direction for the train station is here below, when basically you are already stood outside the thing.
nice though the signs are, mind.
as Pretoria seems to have its own always on solar heating, and on to the max temperature, i was dry and parched. knowing that i could not get anything to eat or more importantly drink once i had passed the gates of the train station, i went in to the McDonalds close to the station.
i did, i confess, walk past a KFC a bit earlier. i should have stopped off at the KFC for a KFC breakfast, i know, but for some reason i could not be bothered. i am still quite angry at The Colonel for selling fake double down burgers here, i suppose.
want to see what i got at McDonalds? sure you do.
note i said see what i got, not what i ordered. that would be a sausage and egg "mcmuffin" when i ordered and paid for a sausage "mcmuffin". yes i scored, in a sense, as i got a more expensive meal than what i handed over coins for, but still it is not what i wanted. i don't like eggs at the best of times, and certainly not what McDonalds consider to be eggs. the mind boggles as to exactly what sort of interference the producers of McDonalds eggs get up to with the arses of the chickens that produce them. i saw a Swedish film once, thanks to Spiros, that gives a hint as what they might be doing to them, but i would rather not think of that and certainly don't want to eat them ever again.
off, then, to the station, with me no longer feeling quite so dry. here's the Pretoria station for the Gautrain, looking as it does like a quaint, post-modernist vision for a class little village library. one that you would design only if you really, really wanted to upset Prince Charles a very great deal.
i suppose it looks kind of smart. i think a friend of mine, let's call him Spider, grew up to be one of them architect types. i really should ask him why it is people design these curvy, glassy things at the top of buildings. is it because they've got a bit of space left on the paper?
onwards and inwards, then, to the magnificence of the long platform thingie that is, apparently, platform A and platform B.
not the greatest, most magnificent or opulent train station in the world, is it? as far as i am concerned it serves its purpose, although one can't see that little twat with the glasses and the owl catching a train to magic school from here.
there is a gesture, oddly, of seating here at Pretoria station. i don't know if you can make them out, but there's some sort of metal bar things in the middle of this platform. it's like they said "sit here if you want to, or indeed if you must". they are not particularly comfortable at all, to tell the truth. what's wrong with a big, long plastic or metal bench, exactly? i must really check if Spider is one of them architect thingies and see if he can advise me on this matter.
as i mentioned before, the idea of public transport of this nature is fairly alien in this country, in particular to use paleface / vanilla types. to that end, then, i saw none of the things one would usually see people doing at train stations. not one iTwat was being played with or listened to, and no one was bashing about on their laptop. everyone was kind of standing with some sort of reverence, waiting for the train to arrive. well, they could hardly sit.
as i could not be bothered to wrestle with the ways and means of sitting on these metal bar things they put out for us, i thought i would have a go at a picture of myself for your pleasure. all i can say is i trust you are pleased really easily, for i seem to have my "is this bloody thing working" look on the go.
no, my looks are not getting better with age, are they? that said, i remain flattered and mystified that Simon Le Bon out of Duran Duran (and, yes, Arcadia) is trying to look like me with his beard. i accept it as a tribute, of course, but why he wishes to pay homage to me is anyone's guess. rather glad it's him and not John Taylor, though, as John Taylor would look like a total dick with a beard.
and yes, Zama, if you are reading, the answer is yes. that is the jacket you "obtained" for me. i thought if i was going to go to Pretoria on a train, even a fancy one like the Gautrain, then i had best dress in a way you would advise me to.
speaking of which, oh look, here comes the train again.
on the train ride back, now that i think about it, i did see someone fiddling with one of them iTwat things. or maybe it was an e-reader. i would hope it was as intelligent as the latter. the only thing i am aware of that one can do with an iTwat is play Angry Birds, and if we are honest then someone whose imagination is at its limit with the idea of playing Angry Birds on a train probably should not be allowed on the train. the ban on food and drink is a glorified way of saying "no riff raff", after all.
what was the journey like? well, somewhat more interesting on the way back. a group of those "bloody" students were sat near me, and were discussing what was the best kind of artificial breast, saline or silicone filled. a male and female group of students, if it matters. i was unaware of one being able to get saline based breast implants, so there you go. nice to know that students retain high levels of conversations these days.
what was the journey like on a more practical level? amazing, really. from Midrand to Pretoria in 20 minutes is impossible by car, even if you cut out the parking side of it. that's more or less how long the train takes, although honestly i think it was less than 20 minutes. the cost was not all that high (i think i left at a peak time, returned at an off-peak time, bill was around R60 or so) and the trip was far, far better than ever possible in the traffic which plagues the roads.
if for some reason you need to be in either Johannesburg or Pretoria from the other city (or anywhere on the route) during the daytime all i can say is that you are a complete f*****g idiot if you take your car rather than the Gautrain. if for some reason i have to head towards Johannesburg in the near future then i will be taking this train instead.
on my next trip i might well have a go on one of these "feeder" buses too, since they are either cheaper or free if you have one of those card things for the train. which i now do. i suspect the blog post on that trip might not be quite as extensive as this one, but you never know.
in the mean time, here's an attempt at one of those avant garde, arty farty self portraits of me as i watch the world go by. no, i don't know how to word that properly - if it's a self portrait then obviously it is of me.
i was back at Midrand station before i had time to take any more pictures of consequence, so there are no more pictures of my train ride. i did briefly consider taking a picture of the cute little mini artistic urinals in the gents toilets for my friend Spiros, prone to liking such things as he is, but the cleaning staff looked like they were unlikely to be amused by such a thing. sorry, Spiros, go and have a look yourself.
all that was left for me to do, then, was to find my car amongst the vast number of cars parked some distance from the station. as you will be aware from the recent video update of my class indicators i of course did find my car, but to end things off here's a nice picture of it anyway.
yes, that car is unclean and yes that is a Tony Mowbray sticker on it.
a rather nice, pleasant and productive morning out, then! it has probably taken you a lot longer to read this than either or the train journeys took, by the way. thank you very much indeed for sticking with it!
i trust this is what you wanted to read, Gillian?
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!