Transport in SA
Only the affluent folks around here drive the b’mers and fancy cars, or take the 20 Rand per trip transportation on the newly launched Gautrain and bus. The new trains and buses are luxurious but still very limited in its service routes and time schedules. These modes of transportation are not feasible for the majority of South Africans, who use the cheaper taxis (usually an old minibus packed to capacity), or they wait for Metrobuses that may or may not arrive depending on the strike situation in town, or they walk very, very long distances or they stay at home…in township (informal settlement) Neverland, far, far away.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, your highness has been forced to find alternative means of getting around the city as the bus stations and stops aren’t that accessible without using other modes of transportation to get to them. I have actually had to roam the land on foot… to go to the Berea taxi station in the CBD (Central Business DIstrict), which means to boldly go where no white South African has gone before… You might see one brave and unsuspecting tourist and I could write a Jozi trilogy on that one. To preface, the Berea station is huge garage that spans several city blocks. It is full of life, movement and constant chatter. People are speaking a host of different local languages — South Africa has eleven recognized languages alone. Even if they were speaking English, you wouldn’t know it and this unfortunately could have you be delivered to another part of town or country if you didn’t know how to work the system. Fortunately I was accompanied by my local South African friend, Ben who was preparing for his role as a thug in a local movie that day, so it was safe. But I have passed on any further opportunities to go to Berea…thankfully.
My pedestrian experience though, has been quite eye opening, especially my daily commute walking up and down Bompas road to catch the proverbial taxi to and fro Wits University. It’s been great giving a friendly wave to the construction workers on the street, saying morning to the domestic workers on their way to work, using my newly learned finger signals to stop a taxi into town but not sitting in the front seat cos you’ll have to get change for everyone else in the taxi… And of course, accepting someone’s generosity to pay your fare cos you forgot to change your dollars!! It’s been a pleasure to meet folks, discover, experience, observe and live on the edge a little rather than being in a traffic jam for hours on end, looking neither left nor right at those around. I have learned a lot through walking here. I have learned the everyday experience of regular South Africans, the poorer folks who are trapped into an endless poverty cycle, one of the reasons for which is a lack of transportation which empowers income generating activities found in the big city. I have often taken for granted the transportation systems of my beloved New York. Access to transportation is one thing, BUT, don’t ask the people on the street or uniform for directions, I guarantee, they won’t know even if the place is around the corner. As in, “hello, there’s a party at the Piano Bar, where is it please?” Answer, “well, there’s the bar and that’s the piano…” no party there, lol!! Well, I’ll have to leave the artsy partsy scene for the next blog… stay tuned, the pics are great.