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The world through Renel's lens.



June 2014



South Africa Part 3: Shosholoza Meyl Train to Johannesburg #RenelInSouthAfrica

Written by , Posted in Africa & Middle East, Canon 7D, Cape Town, Johannesburg, South Africa, train, Transportation, Travel

I spent nine days in South Africa! If you missed part 2 click here, and be sure to follow my South African adventures using the tag #RenelInSouthAfrica2014. The itinerary for the next two days took me on a 30 hour train ride from Cape Town to Johannesburg on the Shosholoza Meyl.

Day 1

We left Cape Town around 10am for what would end up being a 30 hour ride on the Shosholoza Meyl to Johannesburg.  “Shosholoza” is the name of a Ndebele folk song that originated in Zimbabwe but was popularized in South Africa.  “Meyl” is a word that is related to a South African word for “long distance train.”  (Click here to see a lyric video with the English translation.)

I was in the 4-person sleeper with two other ladies from my tour.  Our cabin was the biggest out of the group so it ended up being the hangout room.  The other two cabins were two-person sleepers.  The cabin was actually bigger than I thought it would be but still a little claustrophobic such a long journey.  The sleeping cars are considered tourist class cost about 620 Rand (USD $59) for a one-way ticket from Cape Town to Johannesburg.  That price is about half of what it would cost to fly.  There’s a economy class with only seats on the other side of the dining car.

Shosholoza Meyl train cabin - photo by Renel Holton - / GOPR0016
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7641
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7679
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7692
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7701
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7729
solar panels - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG734
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7650

We spent most of our time in the dining car where Gary gave Lightroom tutorials.  Unfortunately we couldn’t bring our camera bags in the dining car.  A nice elderly couple in one of the neighboring cabins agreed to let us leave our bags in their cabin for safe keeping.  They were Mormons from Fish Hoek traveling to the Johannesburg temple for a mission.

The cheese and tomato sandwich with tea was yummy!
Shosholoza Meyl lunch - photo by Renel Holton - / iphone_0286

me and Krissy on Shosholoza Meyl - photo by Renel Holton - / iphone_0295

Me and Krissy in the dining car on the Shosholoza Meyl

Savanna Dry cider is South Africa’s first cider to be packaged in a bottle and was really good.  This was my drink of choice when I didn’t drink a soda.  Seconds after I took this photo the bottle came crashing down from the window’s ledge and splashed all over Krissy’s laptop.  Oops!
Savanna Dry cider - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7737
shanty town from train- photo by Renel Holton - / iphone_0284
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7745
mountains - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7757
hills - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7761
sunflowers - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7872

View of the train as it rounds a curve:
Shosholoza Meyl train on a curve - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7776

By 5pm we were bored so we all gathered around the windows to take photos of the sun setting.  This was the only photo I liked from that set.
windmill from the Shosholoza Meyl train - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7791

This photo makes me laugh. The kids in the small towns where comfortable enough to run towards the train and ask for snacks  as it slowed coming into the station, but didn’t want their faces to be photographed.
boy covering his face - photo by Renel Holton - / IMG_7845

About an hour after our sunset shoot we went back to the dining car for dinner.  I opted for the sirloin steak and chips (fries) with a small salad.  You’ll notice the mac & cheese in the background.  I saw it on the menu, but I can’t eat just anyone’s mac & cheese, lol.  South Africa’s signature tomato sauce (ketchup) is All Gold.  It was tasty but a little too sweet for me.
Shosholoza Meyl dinner - photo by Renel Holton - / iphone_0301

A few people ordered the cheesecake for desert.  I’m not sure what it was made of, but it definitely shouldn’t have been called cheesecake.   It was frozen then got spongy when it melted.  I’m glad I passed on that because it didn’t look appetizing at all.  Only one person even attempted to finish it.

While we were still at dinner we pulled into the Beaufort West station where the Blue Train was also parked.  It travels between Cape Town to Pretoria, and is one of the most luxurious train journeys in the world.  It costs 13,015-26,40 Rand (USD $12,09-$2,34) for a one-way ticket depending on the season and level of accommodations.  The price includes all meals, high tea, and drinks.  The Blue Train features butler service, an observation car, lounges, private bathrooms, and fine dining. We saw the patrons dressed to the nines in the dining car.

A group of obnoxious guys on our train started banging on the windows and grunting at the Blue Train.  Our guide joked that they had been drinking “karate water,” which is slang for when people get drunk and think they can fight anyone.  Later on one of the guys sent his number to our table on a napkin, but didn’t even have the decency to use a clean one.  The dirty napkin looked like it had residue from the fake cheesecake on it.  Yuck!

I headed back to our cabin around 8:30pm to set up my sleeping bag and turn it for the night. I stayed up a little bit reading Robin Roberts’ latest book Everybody’s Got Something, which I highly recommend.  Eventually I fell asleep to the sway of the train chugging down the tracks.


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