Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Claremont Capering

I'm not much of a driver. I've only ever taken two lessons in my life, after which I kinda just lost interest in the whole licence spiel and went right back to walking everywhere (I was living in Grahamstown, after all). As a result, I still find it fascinating to explore even the most arbitrary and commercial areas of Cape Town with the help of its lovely train system. And with this particular outlook, I hopped on at Mowbray Station yesterday to explore the suburb of Claremont.

Not the most famous tourism spot, but I'm getting kinda sick of the mountains anyway.

Claremont is full of shopping places, eating places and living places. It also has a bunch of flats and office buildings, most of them rubbing shoulders with (or simply sitting on top of) a whole truckload of random commercial establishments. Everything feels quite jam-packed, but I suppose that isn't too bad when you have to reach everything on foot. I ended up finding quite a few interesting locations, and even snapped a pic of this curiously-named hair salon:

This was about a block away from Adult World, so at least they got their location right.

Aside from the oodles of random establishments within the area, there's also two major centres: Stadium On Main and Cavendish Square. Since Stadium On Main has a no-cameras policy (what's up with that?) and a pretty crappy Website, I'm simply going to waffle about Cavendish instead. Besides, the latter has freaking touch-screen store directories.

A freaking touch-screen store directory™.

Cavendish is rather big and has pretty much what you'd expect from any major shopping centre: electronics, food, clothing and the occasional esoteric retailer hiding in the corners. What intrigued me was the layout - the mall was literally cut in half by a street market, with permanent stall set up to allow merchants to sell some fleamarket goods. Location-wise, it's actually a brilliant plan that exposes businesses to traffic that may not otherwise stumble by.

Cheap plush toys and wireframe art are the way of the future.

I ended up spending the entire afternoon in Claremont, after which I victoriously marched into the local Shoprite, grabbed myself a few groceries and headed back to the train station to get a rush-hour ticket home.

Oh dear.

See, until then I'd only ever boarded trains during off-peak times. It's admittedly a bit slow: sometimes it takes ages for a train to arrive, but if you strike it lucky and show up at the right time you'll be able to board almost instantly and enjoy a comfortable trip back.

I'd heard that trains came far more frequently during commuter hours, so I was looking forward to a quick 4:45 ride back to Mowbray and hopefully a nice hot supper within the hour. I was soon confronted with the hideous reality: trains literally full to bursting and seas of tangled bodies quite honestly forbidding further boarders until a handful of passengers decide to spurt out onto the next platform. In this way, the Cape Town train system is kinda like South Africa's version of the Large Hadron Collider: a huge acceleration system on rails with the potential to create superdense singularities from a squished-up mass of passengers.

After seeing one or two of these jam-packed trains pass by, I decided to suck it in and try clamber onto the next one that arrived. Long story short, I got onto a carriage about five minutes later after bribing my way on board with a litre of milk.

Then it turned out that I had to lean outside the train while frantically maintaining a hold on the door frame as though my life depended on it. Dearest reader: I may talk rubbish on this blog from time to time, but I'm being absolutely serious about this one.

It's kinda scary just how accurate this drawing really is.

Unfortunately, I couldn't whip out my camera to take a picture of this daredevilry. It had something to do with me maintaining a white-knuckled grip on both the train door and my shopping. Needless to say I was quite relieved when I had the opportunity to clamber off a few stations later.

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