Monday, 7 February 2011

Shosholoza Meyl

When Keith told me he'd booked us a weekend away on the Shosholoza Meyl, I jumped for joy. I had never been on a sleeper train and had grown up listening to stories from my Mom and Dad about train holidays, dining carts and old world charm.

We started our trip by catching the morning commuter train through to Cape Town. Once at the Cape Town station, we found the correct platform and sat in eager anticipation for our trip to begin.

The train left on time and we started the 26 hour trip to Johannesburg. We were lucky (shrewd) enough to make "friends" with the train manager and secured a 4 berth cabin for the entire trip. While I am sure there are many couples who wouldn't mind being in a 2 berth cabin, Keith and I have been married long enough to enjoy a little more space.

Travelling slowly through the suburbs of Cape Town and then heading out of town and through the wine country was amazing. The only problem was, that within 30 minutes of being aboard, my eye lids started to feel like lead! It turns out that train travel is the strongest sleeping pill known to man. You simply can not help being lulled into sleep, with the occasional bleary eyed glance out the window to inspect the passing stations and sidings.

 The Shosholoza Meyl offers dedicated safe passenger train travel services in South Africa on Tourist Class basic sleeper trains and Premier Classe deluxe sleeper trains. 
During the day, sleeper compartments convert into suites with hot and cold water from a basin stowed underneath the fold-up table. Communal toilets and showers are available at the end of each coach. The toilets are cleaned regularly and the showers are spacious, I really enjoyed showering and looking out the window watching the sun setting over the Karoo.

 Bedding can be purchased on board from the attendant at R40 p/person. Bringing your own bedding is advised. We did take our sleeping bags, but also opted for the bedding - which was very clean. They come at 6pm and make your bed.

The food on the train is acceptable, certainly not gourmet, but I could not fault it. Keith thoroughly enjoyed the beef curry with rice and sambles, which despite the low price (R30), was made from top quality slow cooked beef with no fat or gristle. I had the fried hake with chips and salads (R35). I have certainly had better, but would not hesitate to order it again and did in fact finished the entire generous portion.

Coffee and tea is brought to your cabin at 7am.

Security and service on the train is top class. Refuse bags are provided to each cabin and collected regularly. The staff are helpful, friendly and willing, we did not meet one staff member who did not seem to be enjoying their job.

Train travel is certainly not for those who have tight schedules, but if you're looking for a wonderfully relaxing way to travel around South Africa, with the added advantage of seeing the countryside I would highly recommend the Shosholoza Meyl.

 The price is very reasonable, Cape Town - Johannesburg was R480 (on Tourist) per person and occasionally they offer special discounted rates. There is a Premier Class from Johannesburg - Cape Town but this is not always available and you will need to check before booking. We travelled Tourist class and as you can see from my account were more than happy with the accommodation and service.

Click here for more information on the Shosholoza Meyl.


Claudz said...

Sounds like a great little trip and your photos are lovely!

Nicola said...

I've always been curious about this train service. Your account has just made me more keen to try it one day.

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Lovely to read this! I remember as a child travelling from PE to Joburg by train with my family a couple of times and LOVING it! But it seems that rail travel has kind of fallen by the wayside in South Africa - too dangerous for single travellers over long distances, and too crazy expensive on tourist trains. It made me sad - South Africa has such an extensive rail network - it seems a waste not to use it & it is a far greener method of travelling for those not in a hurry than flying. So I am thrilled to read of your experiences!! I do recall that problem wth the eyelids and the movement of the train though... it puts me straight to sleep!

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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