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#Gauteng52, Week 17: The James Hall Museum of Transport

Welcome to Week 17 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the James Hall Museum of Transport. I was prepared to hate the James Hall Museum of Transport. The only thing I really knew about the James Hall Museum of Transport (which most Joburgers refer to simply as “the Transport Museum”) before I went was that it’s about cars. I have zero interest in cars. Also the first room of the museum makes a bad first impression — full of badly lit, dusty exhibitions — and I kind of wanted to leave within five minutes of arriving. The James Hall Museum of Transport, which looks underwhelming from the outside. A 19th-century carriage, complete with full-size plastic horses, in the “animal-drawn vehicles” collection. This part of the museum, which is the first room after the entrance, was a bit sad.  But I was with my friend Kate on our whirlwind tour of Joburg South, and neither of us had been to the Transport Museum before. We wanted to give the place a chance. And besides, admission was free. We persisted and in the end we […]

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Johannesburg’s Amazing Race

I have a confession to make: I know a lot about Joburg, but I know nothing about Joburg’s public transportation system. Give me a car and a set of directions, and I’m off. I’ll get lost a few times, but I can find anything in this city by car. Take those car keys away, and it’s another story. Don’t ask me to get on a bus, board a train (not counting the Gautrain, which is easy to ride but has limited reach) or signal for a taxi. I don’t have a clue. In South Africa, the term “taxi” refers to a minibus taxi. About 90% of Joburg’s population uses the taxi system — an informal network of dilapidated minibuses — as a main mode of transport. 

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Three-wheeling Through Jozi

I love living in Melville because it’s a walkable neighborhood. However, “walkable” is a relative term. I can walk up to 7th Street to meet a friend for dinner, but walking home alone at night is a risk. And although walking from one place to another within Melville is easy, traveling on foot from Melville to any of the nearby suburbs — Parkview, Emmerentia, Greenside etc. — is a mission. Melville is walkable, but the walkers need a little help. That’s where e-tuktuk comes in. An e-tuktuk and its driver, Matthews.

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What I Miss Most about Washington

Washington D.C. commuters love to complain about Metro. And the D.C. subway system does have its faults: rising fares, rush-hour delays, malfunctioning fare card machines, and surly station managers. But I spent thousands of hours riding Metro in my day, and all in all I think it’s pretty great. It’s fast and convenient, and makes it possible to get around this city without a car. Plus, the Metro stations are beautiful. Especially on quiet, nearly empty Sunday evenings.

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Jozi to Pretoria at High Speed

Joburg and Pretoria are about 60 kilometers (35 miles) apart. Rush-hour traffic between the two cities is legendary. If you’ve ever driven from Baltimore to Washington D.C. at 7:00 a.m. on a weekday, then you know what it’s like to drive between Pretoria and Jozi. On a bad day it can take hours. And until today, the freeway was the only option. Friday afternoon gridlock in downtown Pretoria. I’m a big fan of train-commuting. I spent 10 years as a D.C. suburbanite and rode the train to work every day. Believe it or not, I miss those train rides. I loved having that daily hour (or more) to myself — to read, sleep, listen to music, or just space out.

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