Better late than never. On 22 September I had to go to Sandton. Everybody knows I hate going to Sandton. That traffic drives me completely and utterly insane. However, nowadays you can drop your car in Marlboro, and then catch the Gautrain to Sandton. I decided on this option, although a slight deviation via Pretoria would be made after my appointment. Twas supposedly car free day too, but the traffic, once again, was standing on the highway.
By 11.30 I was heading to Pretoria from Sandton. I had already done the Rhodesfield trip before so wasn’t really a stranger to our own HST. It’s all slick and polished and a tad uneventful hurtling along at 160kph. I had been lucky enough to ride the Pendolino in the UK and that was amazing because of the traction motor noise. Gautrain is quieter. In spite of all this the trip went smoothly, infinitely better than trying to dodge mad taxis on the highways and byways.
I had no real plan for Pretoria, in fact the original intention was to ride to Hatfield and then come back, but once we hit PTA I decided to head out to Church Square and check out the statues and buildings.
Pretoria Station in itself is a piece of history, my last journey through here had been in 1981 when I was in the army. Today it has changed considerably, gone are the railway coaches and steam engine, replaced by security and unfamiliar signage. Its still a pretty building though, and well worth seeing on its own.
I passed the old Victoria Hotel, which looks so out of place. Its a wonderful old structure though, and was supposedly completed in 1895.
Continuing up Paul Kruger Street, I came to Pretorius Square with its 3 statues and town hall building that is a magnificent edifice all on its own. A beautiful statue of Chief Tshwane fronts it today, and that gives it an almost ironic feel.
Church Square did not disappoint. Its a beautiful space, surrounded by historic buildings, trees, and dominated by Oom Paul and his 4 sentries. Sammy Marks probably would have approved at what his creation looks like, however whether Oom Paul would is another story. Paul Kruger seems to have found some sort of tacit acceptance amongst those who now use this space. At any rate, the pigeons still enjoy visiting his hat.
When it comes to magnificent buildings I don’t think you get any better than the Old Raadsaal building or the Palace of Justice. They are absolutely beautiful, and definitely make the square. Of course there are other buildings there that are as stately and from another age, but those two just crown them all.
Then it was time to head off home, my mission accomplished. Looking back though, I should have explored the east side of the square, and taken more time to try find some of the other significant sites in that immediate area.
I was fortunate to be able to grab the next train heading south and didn’t have a 20 minute wait. And, on the drive home from Marlboro the robots were all dead along William Nicol Drive. Traffic was backed up onto the highway for at least 2 kilos. Had I gone through to Sandton by car I would still have been sitting in traffic! Car free day my eye.
The one final comment worth noting is that Gautrain’s biggest asset is its staff. They are really great and I just hope that they don’t go down the road of surely, unhelpful and apathetic.
May 2012: An update to this post. Since this was written originally, there has been a change of policy with regards to photography of the Gautrain, it is no longer welcomed and expect to be accosted by security guards if you haul out your camera. Apparently this was always the “policy” although when Gautrain originally opened photographers were encouraged. It seems as if the whip has now been cracked. My comment about the staff still holds partly true though, although some of the security guards are becoming very officious.