Friday, June 18, 2010

The End of the Line and Welcome to Guateng

The rest of our train trip became somewhat epic.... Firstly, the evening meal consisted of 5 courses, including Soup, Fish, Leg of Lamb, Chocolate Parfait, and a round of cheese and biscuits for good measure. Of course we added a bottle of red wine and the essential port with the cheese and at the end of it, all felt totally stuffed...! So then we went to the Bar and tried out a few different local South African spirits like Klipdrift and Amarula, before turning in for bed. The sleeping cars were comfortable, well, as comfortable as a rolling bed can be, but I think we all got a decent amount of sleep.

The next morning dawns and we awoke to very cold temperatures, no water for toilets and showers, and at 7am we came to an unscheduled stop. Apparently the AC had tripped in the night, we had no water because the pipes had frozen and we had stopped due to a problem on the line ahead. Apparently it had been the coldest night in that part of South Africa for 4 years, and looking at all the staff beavering away in their overcoats, I could tell. So we sat huddled together in the dining car, Yates wrapped in a blanket, desperately looking forward to a hot drink. As soon as we could we retreated to our sleeping car and climbed under a blanket and waited for something to happen. The train was delayed four hours, four long chilly hours, with no toilet facilities and only the faint warmth of the sun coming in the window to warm us up. Finally we did get going and the heat did come back on, but now we were behind schedule, and instead of arriving at 11am we arrived at 3pm.

Overall, even with the delay and the cold, I have to say that the train was an excellent way to travel between Cape Town and Johannesburg. It really did feel like a little bit of old fashioned luxury in this jaded modern world, the food was spectacular and plentiful, and you can’t beat the view from a train passing through the Southern Karoo at sunset.

Even though we had no connection plans, we still had to get a taxi to the airport to pick up a rental car, and then make our way about 2 hours north to our next port-of-call, and the delay had put us behind. After an interesting taxi ride in South Africa’s most beat-up Mercedes, 2 stops by the police and 1 for directions, we eventually managed to pick the car up and head north by around 4:15pm. Sunset around these parts is at about 5:30pm at this time of year, and as I didn’t really have a clear idea of exactly where were going, I was disappointed that we would now had to do it in the dusk/dark. Even with Lord Vader directing us via the GPS, this also became a somewhat eventful trip, as we managed to find our way through the middle of the Mamelodi township at dusk, (not recommended), and then proceeded to get lost outside of Cullinan. After a few phone calls to where we were staying and 3 trips down the worst road in Africa, we made it to Abloom, our home for the next 29 days.

We did little more than dump our stuff, make our 4th trip along the worst road in Africa, and head straight out to find something to eat, as we were all completely famished. It had been one of those days, where nothing actually went wrong, but nothing quite went the way it was planned. Even in the restaurant we were cold, and once we got that cold into our bones it was hard to shake off. It is as unseasonably cold here, and the wind was bitter, and even though our suites had underfloor heating and gas fires, I don’t think any of us were really warm.

Next day we were straight on the road to our next World Cup Game, Argentina v South Korea, at Soccer City in Johannesburg. Even though I had made an error with start time, we made up time on the road, eventually found the ‘Park & Walk’ and made it to the stadium in time to see the kick off. This was by far the best game we had seen to date, lots of action and more importantly, lots of goals, with the Argies pulling out a 4-1 win over a disorganised South Korea. While Argentina are showing signs that they are going to be a force to reckon with at this World Cup, I still have reservations about their defence, and when they meet a more organised team in the later rounds, I think they could come unstuck.

The ‘Park & Walk’ facilities were so well organised, that within 10 minutes of getting back to the car we were on the motorway home, and less than an hour and a half later we were stopping at a supermarket near where we are staying to get provisions and stock up for the days ahead. We stopped again in Cullinan for dinner, (we had not had any breakfast or lunch..!!), which went down well, before making another trip down the worst road in Africa and back to the lodge. We watched the Mexicans deservedly put France to the sword on the TV and all crashed out for the evening.

Tomorrow we are off to Ellis Park to see Slovenia V USA....

1 comment:

  1. We need to have a picture of this worst road in Africa.