It's been said that the best way to travel is by rail. From the Trans-Serbian Express to the Palace On Wheels in India, taking the train is an experience and a half. But before you shoot down the South African rail system, we've come to show you that it's not nearly as bad as it's been portrayed to be.
Transnet (previously Spoornet) became famous for its luxury rail lines, most notably the Blue Train which runs from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The Blue Line - as it's known - has been compared to some of the best luxury trains in the world, and the 1,600 kilometres trip has become a popular tourist attraction. But, of course, the cost is much less steeper than its two hour trip counterpart.
This is where the Shosholoza Meyl rail service comes into the picture. Shosholoza Meyl is so named after the long distance train that used to bring the mail and migrant workers home from the city, and which became referred to as The Meyl, a localisation of the word 'mail'.
This rail service promises an A class experience for less than the price of an airfare. It may take the greater part of a day to get to Cape Town, but it's all about the experience. You get to see the country in a completely different way. The bunk beds are comfortable, the compartments are clean and all you have to do is bring the trimmings to make the trip unforgettable. When we take the train we pack sandwiches and snacks, some ice cold drinks and, of course, we buy a bucket of Chicken Licken before we board the train. It's these little things that turns the trip into an unforgettable and relaxing experience.
The train stops at a handful of stations, some of which are situated in small towns that you've never even heard of. The thrill of seeing Table Mountain upon arrival is on par with getting a Playstation for Christmas. Booking is easy and can be done on Shosholoza Meyl's website. You can even take your car with you if you're so inclined. There are two classes to choose from: Passenger Class for those travelling a shorter distance and Tourist Class for those travelling all the way to the Mother City. In Tourist Class, passengers have a choice of either a coupe that accommodates two people, or a compartment that can take up to four people. During the day the compartment/coupe are suites and at night they are converted into bedrooms, complete with hot and cold running water.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your tickets today and enjoy the ride.
By Shawn Greyling
Have you taken the train to Cape Town before? Let us know what you thought of the trip in the comments section below. Planning a rail trip? Then share this article with friends and family on social media.