Monday, June 18, 2012

The Daily Walk

I mentioned recently that I've moved to my own place in Vredehoek. It's really nice and stuff. Of course, now that I no longer live in my office, the work commute takes a little longer than rolling off the mattress and crawling to my PC every morning (or afternoon, whatever).

Although I'm occasionally working from home, I still walk/bus a regular route that takes me approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes door-to-door (got it down to a science, naturally). That's about two-and-a-half Scooters pizza deliveries, if that's your primary method of measuring time for some reason.

It's surprisingly neat, actually. Living alone has thus far had its fair share of ups and downs, but I really do enjoy the merry little expedition to my job. I decided to record one of my commutes to give you a better idea of what's involved.

Fuck yeah, rainbow!

The first thing I do is leave my living quarters and start winding through my suburb. Vredehoek is basically wedged up the side of Table Mountain, so there's a lot of hills and pain and stuff. Good training for runners. The peak in the above picture is Lion's Head -- it looks like a slightly skew nipple.

Fuck yeah, nipples!

It takes me approximately 15-20 minutes to get to the bus stop -- speed generally depending on how likely it is that I'll miss the next ride. I go downhill most of the way (not so much luck on the return journey) and generally stay in suburban paradise for quite a while. There's even a pretty section with trees and cobblestones and stuff. If you're lucky, you might even see a squirrel -- which is awesome*.

Fuck yeah ... er, cobblestones.

If you can tell by the picture -- it spontaneously began raining about halfway to the bus on this particular day. Weather is a rather tricky customer on the side of the mountain: sometimes, you'll wake up in the middle of a low-lying cloud and stumble through the Silent Hill-style world until you hit the bottom of the slope and emerge in a day of almost completely clear skies. On other mornings, you'll start your expedition in the bright blue and get hit by a mild storm ten minutes later because one sneaky little bugger of a cloud was hiding behind the mountain all along. Though to make up for it, the mountain gods tend to throw up rainbows faster than a unicorn eating a box of crayons.


The above shot marks the end point of my initial stretch. If you squint really closely, you'll see a little bluish blob far down the street. That's my bus stop, with a bus occupying it. This is a rather harrowing part of the expedition and I'm never quite sure how it goes. You know that thing with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in quantum physics? Yeah, I'm not saying the bus system is like that, I'm just asking you to get your head around a freakish scientific concept before you even try understanding the rules for the MyCiti bus routes. The bus waiting at the stop way over there can mean one of any number of things: I may be five minutes early, yet have mere seconds to haul ass down to the stop before it disappears. Or maybe I'm five minutes late, yet somehow have the time to amble over in good time and plonk myself onto public transport.

MyCiti bus innards. Note the douchebag up front wearing tight red pants.

On this day, I was rather lucky. After the most maddening bus sprint imaginable (minus a few moments of careful picture-taking), I managed to clamber on board. I spent roughly five minutes feeling a little stupid as the bus continued to wait at the stop, though I'm pretty sure none of the other passengers noticed me panting, sweating, fussing and crying. Maybe.

MyCiti is a fairly modern bus system. Heck, it's only been around for just over a year now. The ticket system is one of those fancy swipey-electro-bus-ATM things with the magnetic card magic (science!). It costs me R5 to get a quick trip to the Civic Centre stop, taking me through the Cape Town CBD.

You can practically taste the corporation!

Cape Town actually has one of the nicest business centrals in existence, and I should really have taken more shots of it (problem being bus window glare, et cetera). You don't feel like you're walking through some cold and imposing urbania at all -- it's a living, breathing collection of colourful, interesting and not-depressing-at-all people and places. Also, being one of the oldest settlements in South Africa affords it a lot of really old and pretty buildings that I didn't take pictures of. Pretty spacious, too.

Fuck yeah, bus central!

At Civic Centre, I typically hop onto a new bus and -- depending on how the transport gods feel -- wait between thirty seconds and ten minutes for my bus to depart to Table View -- a journey that will take just over half an hour. This day turned out to be a long wait, so I whipped out my latest reading material.

Fuck yeah, Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire! Note the tight red pants.

In a rather weird way, this is what I appreciate most about bus trips. In recent years, I've not been reading too many good books -- if I'm inclined to dive into written stuff, I usually go on a Wikipedia safari or read online articles. But as I own neither a smart phone, tablet gadget or random whodingummy that you kids love using nowadays, basically the only thing I'm armed with as a pastime is a good book. It's great: I tear through one of these every two weeks and actually have a little discipline regime in place to make sure that I don't read too much outside of bus trips (hey, two to three new books a month can be expensive!).

Office stop!

This is a picture taken just before my bus stop in Table View, outside the Bayside Mall. It's the end of the line, which is a relief because bus employees seem to be quite mindful of people who -- nose in book -- will occasionally forget to haul themselves off the bus.

When getting off at Table View, one thing to note is that it's pretty fucking flat -- one gets the terrible feeling that this will be the first place to go when the sea god's terrible wrath is unleashed some day. Back when I first started running and stuff, I would train in the neighbourhood around Table View. There's one pisspoor hill in the middle of it all, and I remember how much hell it used to give me.

Just look at that monster! That's a slight upward incline, I promise.

Table View is everything that Vredehoek isn't, so it's a nice daily contrast. And the view is arguably excellent, which is good because there's a damn "View" just in the name and it would be a massive disappointment if there wasn't much to look at.

Faint mountain in the distance? I totally live there.

To get to my place of work, I go past a large lake wetland thingy. I'm often stumbling into some local wildlife, and it feels really weird chasing the occasional guineafowl out of the way while walking along a major road. Not quite as omigod-squee!-inducing as the squirrels in Vredehoek, but the sightings are much more common.

After a day of work, I'll do everything in reverse and clamber off at the Gardens Centre bus stop again.

Fuck yeah, malls!

If I get back to home turf before 7pm (which I usually strive for nowadays), this is where I do my evening grocery shopping before hoofing it back up the mountain. There's less visual appeal at this point. I usually walk home in the dark -- especially given the new winter hours -- and I'm often walking as fast as I can without taking stupid ol' blog pictures because (1) my cellphone camera shows nothing but black smears at this point and (2) holy crap it's getting cold.

Seen at the local Pick 'n Pay. Guess they're Game of Thrones fans as well.

So that's my weekday ritual. Hopefully, with a little bit of bravery and dedication, I'm gonna start running this route because I'm training up for a half-marathon later this year. More likely, however, I'm gonna start running this route because I woke up half an hour late and oh crap is that the bus leaving already?

Good times.

*I'll actually try dedicate an entire blog post to the neighbourhood squirrels sometime, they're a bunch of fluffy-tailed little badasses.

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