31.10.2009 - 01.11.2009
With apologies for the continued delay. There are blogs written and ready until I get home (sorry of i've now spoiled the ending to this tale), but I have no internet to upload them. I'll get them up as and when i can, and hopefully before i go away again...
Of all the things I had wanted to do in South Africa, taking the train between Johannesburg and Cape Town had been high on the list, though I couldn't really tell you why. It was not, after all, as though I would be using the world famous Blue Train for the journey - My bank manager amongst many others would have objected substantially to such an outlay: The cost of that journey alone is probably more than my entire transport outlay in Africa, which covers 9months travel and 5hire cars amongst much else. We actually drew up alongside the Blue Train in Kimberly, and got a few glimpses of it's obscene opulence: Wealthy Japanese dressing for dinner, which would be in a dinning area with every place set with 6different sized wine glasses, and a staff member playing the grand piano in the bar.
But to me the journey itself, as opposed to the comfort that i undertook it in, was the important thing. Slightly frustratingly, timings were not ideal and so we had made the decision to pay for a night in Johannesburg prior to our morning departure, instead of trying to fight our way through from Pretoria.
And I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, apart from the 11hour delay, naturally. The Shosholoza Meyl – long distance train - journey begins with a trip through some of Johannesburg's suburbs, before passing through a fairly empty stretch until Kimberley. From there, you pass the boringest parts at night before traveling through the beautiful Karoo (astonishingly it was not raining this time) the following day and then into Cape Town. That we reached Cape Town after dark was disappointing, as it mean't we were (a) very late and (b) didn't get to see Table Mountain appear during the approaches.
As it was, it was nice to relax and watch South Africa roll by, or in the case of along section at night and also a stop at Beaufort West, not roll at all due to faults. The restaurant (though it won't win prizes for gourmet cuisine) was surprisingly reasonably priced, as were drinks from the bar, and we had a decently appointed private cabin meaning security was no problem. About the only problem was that the top bunk was high, and awkward to get on.
But in general, the scenery, especially several hours of the Karoo more than made up for it, and as a reasonably priced (420Rand, so roughly 35euro: Buses started around 350 and went to over 600) - if slightly longer journey than by road - way of traveling between the 2 cities, I can highly recommend it.
Just don't have any unchangeable plans or tight connections at the other end.