Monday, May 30, 2011

Travels and Experiences

Hi everyone
For those who follow me quite closely, you’ll know that I was away for a week in both England and Portugal. There was a 24 hour period where I did not tweet at all, all thanks to Vodacom’s inability to activate my international roaming on time. But never fear, I managed to get a new sim card pay as you go from Vodafone in the UK, and 30 Pounds later, PigSpotter was back in action.

Upon arrival in the UK, I was amazed at how easy it was to get around. From landing, it took me 2 hours to collect the baggage and pass through customs. After that, within 20 minutes I was well along my way via the Underground “Tubes” railway service to the centre of London. For a mere 8 Pounds, I purchased an all day pass, well worth the money. The efficiency of the system was unspeakable, as those who have been there will know, I was greeted with friendly service by the security personnel, who were willing and very able to assist, the trains ran at approximately 2 min intervals. Along with clearly marked directions and maps at every turn, you’d be foolish to get lost. One rule of thumb one should always remember, if you’re not in a hurry and are just going to stand on the exceedingly long escalator, stand to the right, so everyone else may pass you on the left.

From the underground I stepped out into the sunlight. Yep, sunlight! I was blessed with gorgeous weather. There were immediately several bus services that offered tours around London, For  28 Pounds for a 24hour pass. This bus would take you along two routes, red or blue, depending on how much of London you wanted to see. At any point, you would be able to disembark from the bus, walk around town for a while, knowing full well another bus would be 15 mins behind, and it runs like clockwork., to the minute….. Sadly I did not venture further into England, would have been interesting to compare the efficiency of the transport system between a tourism impacted city, to one on the outskirts. Needless to say I walked a heck of a lot for the pure adventure of it. Strangest sight I’ve ever seen in my life, about 300 men and women dressed in suits, making their way speedily to the tubes, flooding the streets as they crossed them at the intersections, all in a blur.  

Next, my journey took me into Portugal. Here I rented a vehicle and in driving between major cities and tiny villages, what occurred on the motorways is what REALLY bewildered me. Bear in mind they drive on the opposite side of the road to us in South Africa, EVERYONE on the motorways keeps right. There are 3 lanes. When a car approaches another vehicle to overtake, the move to the middle lane, once they’re past, they move back to the slow lane. There is absolutely NO trapping on the highways! Instead the Portuguese have adapted a secret weapon….. Undercover police vehicles that follow you, and calculate your travelling speed. If you are speeding or  driving recklessly, they pull you over, whip out the laptop, check for any other offences, and make you pay, on the spot. No cash? No problem, you can use your card. They carry a portable swipe machine. Strangely, everyone does generally stick to the speed limit, respectful of others. Another surprising invention discovered in the little towns in Portugal, are the speed detecting robots. They are continuously check your approaching speed, if you’re even 1km/h hour over 50km/h, the robot changes to red and forces you to stop. Stick to 49km/h and you get afforded the luxury of not stopping. Win-win situation!
There are tolling systems as well. 2 types of systems are implemented. 1 being for permanent residents, who can simply drive through, and the toll figure is automatically deducted from your bank account. The other type is an automated system. As you get onto the highway, you collect a ticket, as you get off at any exit, you then pay into the machine, much like at a parking garage. People generally are very mindful and respectful of others and almost never hoot even if someone makes an error. I say generally because in all the 5 days I was there, whilst on a bus, there was some clown in an X6 BMW who decided to take on a bus at a circle, and very nearly came short. Pity, I even had my camera ready!

Well, I just thought I’d bring those points to light with regards to the public transport of those two countries, and hoping that perhaps the Eish-bein of South Africa can re-think their strategy of road safety, and move away from the monetising aspect towards the intended goal of keeping people safe on our roads.

Take it easy out there

Best Wishes


Quentin said...

Cool post! When I was in London in April I also had the pleasure of tubing. Our day pass was 14 pounds though.

Estee said...

It just sounds so awesome in other countries and there systems work, ours (sorry) will never work! Glad you had a nice trip, happy to have you back though :)

Danie Loots said...

My previous experiences in Europe were similar. I once drove from Manchester to Edinburgh and was amazed by how considerate the people were. The biggest for me was also that EVERYONE kept in the slow lane (left lane in UK, like us) and only came over when they need to pass a slower vehicle. That made me look at our highways different. Once you do that, you notice just how much the guys driving slower in the middle lanes bugger up the traffic in general.

Their public transport and law enforcement is also a complete different matter than we're hoping for.

Danie Loots said...

On the other hand, I also stayed in Lagos, Nigeria for 6 months and travelled various other African cities. In Lagos there is NO regard for other drivers, NONE, NADA and NO regard for traffic laws as well, NONE.

If things gets worse in SA, I have seen a pretty bad picture in Lagos. Our minibus taxis are sissies compared to those hooligans.

The same with the law enforcement in Lagos. You haven't seen bad until you see those lot.

I guess there may be worse in other countries, by six months in Lagos made me really appreciate what we have. Whenever I get frustrated again at our law enforcement (or lack there off) and the way people drive, I try to remember how I felt the first month after I return from Lagos. I recall my thoughts were in the region of "orderly, respect for rules, respect for others, etc." Ja, I am serious.

I guess it is all relative. So every now and then, I am thankful we're not Lagos, but I also dream we would have roads, public transport and law enforcement like in Europe.

Sana.I.Patel said...

great post as always!!! and danie put things into perspective too. although a safe public transport system would be so great. wud make life easy and convenient.

P.S. ever find out what happened with the pigeons?