Thursday, May 15, 2014

18 April: Johannesburg to Potchefstroom (ish)

This morning we packed our bags and headed to Johannesburg's Park Station. I had booked our tickets on the Shosholoza Meyl via email, but you don't actually get your ticket, you get a voucher that you take to the ticket counter at the Station and then they print your tickets. Tickets only open for booking 90 days in advance and I've been wanting to try taking the train to Cape Town since I read about it in Dark Star Safari.

After that we headed down to the platform and waited. Someone kindly pointed us to the bit where the Sleeper Carriages would arrive. We made ourselves comfortable on a bench and we waited.

It's a little confusing. You don't actually get your cabin printed onto your ticket, you have to wait for them to post a list on the platform and then go and find your surname. The Trucker and I had been assured a 2-berth cabin.

Travel Planning tip: Trains between Joburg and Cape Town only run on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. If you book as a couple you can get a 2 berth, but if you are traveling alone you will be put into a gender-specific 4-berth cabin. Take books.

Then we were told we were in a 4-berth. But they were pretty flexible and told us they'd swap us to a 2-berth once we had boarded. The trick is just asking, people in a 2-berth "upgraded" to an empty 4-berth on our way back to Joburg.

So with this out of the way, we waited ... and waited. The train was delayed, it only arrived in the station about an hour after we should've left. But it's not like anyone had to disembark, so we were off fairly quickly after that.

Except that people got confused by the carriage numbers, which did not match their actual numbers and many people had to move after boarding and finding what they thought was their cabin. This happened to us, the first time.

So aside from the delay, taking the train was great. I stared out the window for a lot of the afternoon and read my Kindle. The Trucker napped. I've learnt about train-travel from my many trips and we had snacks packed and drinks.

But, after sunset, just before Potchefstroom, we headed up to the Restaurant Car for an early dinner.

The dinner options weren't bad, although they didn't have some of the things I might've been interested in (like Mac 'n Cheese). We both had Cheeseburgers. Fairly standard but it hit the spot.

And that was our evening. After dark there is not much looking out of the train you can do, so we set up our beds and read. We'd taken our own bedding since we were told they stopped offering it on the train ... but they did offer it on the return trip. We'd taken sleeping bags and pillows and The Trucker took the top bunk ... there weren't any foot holds that would've helped me get up or down, unfortunately.

And it was one of the best nights of sleep I've had on a train. Obviously I woke up at the occasional stop, but found it easy to fall back to sleep again.

1 comment:

Louisa said...

Beautiful photos!
We used to visit my grandparents by train all the time when I was a child. Some really fond memories of train travels...

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