The Blue Train takes you through 1,600kms of South Africa’s stunning and varied scenery, giving you a feel for the vastness and contrasts this beautiful country offers. Look through your picture window, take in the splendid views in your own haven of comfort and indulgence and reflect. Welcome to your window to the soul of South Africa
The train departs Cape Town station at 8.30am after refreshments in the departure lounge.
Perfectly on time your journey begins and the legendary train wends it way past the magnificence of Table Mountain, heading through the stunning Cape Winelands.
Towering mountain ranges, farmland and vineyards greet you as you journey through the Wineland towns of Worcester and Wellington.
For several peaceful hours you take in the stunning sweeping views. It’s amazing how long the mountainous terrain goes on for, culminating in the amazing pass through the Tulbagh Valley and three tunnels. When you emerge your world has changed dramatically. You’re in the Karoo and it’s time for an off-train expedition.
The tiny town of Matjiesfontein is known as the Jewel of the Karoo. Founded in 1884 by an enterprising Scot, James Logan, who bought a Karoo farm and also developed the town as a Victorian spa and health resort and refreshment stop for hungry and thirsty travellers. It soon became a popular spot with the cream of Cape society and attracted people like Cecil John Rhodes, Sir Randolph Churchill and the Sultan of Zanzibar.
The town’s most famous resident was writer and feminist Olive Schreiner whose first novel The Story of an African Farm was set in the Karoo. She said: “I love the Karoo. The effect of this scenery is to make me so silent and self-contained. And it is all so bare, the rocks, and the bushes, each bush standing separate from the others, along by itself.”
Hard to imagine so much happened in this sleepy little oasis all that time ago! Now there’s a collection of Victorian buildings and a tour on a red London bus which takes about 10 minutes – known as the shortest tour in South Africa! Visiting the bar for a sing song and a glass of sherry before meandering along the dusty streets, it’s like you’ve stepped back into a colonial time warp. A charming interlude.
And then it’s time to climb back into the comfort of your Blue Train home which attracts a lot of attention when it arrives in this sleepy little place.
Back onboard and it’s time for a refreshing gin & tonic in the Observation Car.
The Karoo is so vast, here’s a picture taken from my suite looking out towards the front of the train. The Blue Train is a long train, but set in the Karoo landscape it all looks pretty insignificant!
Reaching more agricultural regions, there was soon a panorama of maize fields – in all directions as far as the eye could see. Having grown up on a mealie (as we called them) farm, it made me feel very nostalgic.
And no, I am not driving the train, this is again taken from the Observation Car.
As you approach Pretoria, the landscape gets more urban and again it feels like you’ve entered a different world. Which I guess you have, the Blue Train really is a window on the South African world.
You can read about my onboard experiences by clicking here.
Next up…the delicious dishes I devoured on my Blue Train journey.
Find out more about The Blue Train at www.bluetrain.co.za