The much feted South African Blue Train has a passenger complement of 60, 20 short of its maximum for our recent 1600 kph, 30 hour journey from Cape Town to Pretoria and on the first afternoon we make a scheduled stop at Matjiesfortein and then the show begins.
Matjiesfortein would be lucky to have a couple of thousand residents and you wouldn’t think of it as one of the Blue Trains most popular entertainment epicentres but the bugle boy who doubles as a honky tonk piano man and is the Town Custodian, Johny, certainly gets the crowds going. The itinerary outlines an excursion at Matjiesfortein but the guests are not ready for the full boom of a bugle welcome, followed by a classical one man Vaudeville show.
Lord Milner Hotel
We reach Matjiesfontein mid-afternoon and after being met at the train by the rotund top hatted and dinner suited Johny we do a quick tour of the town in a fiery red London double decker bus compete with John’s hilariously irreverent commentary, then to the elegant heritage site Lord Milner pub for a sherry and singalong before returning to the train.
The town was the brainchild of Scotsman James Logan, who bought land here in 1884 with ambitions to create an oasis for travellers crossing the barren Karoo.
The VIP’s of that Victorian era Lord Randolph Churchill, Rudyard Kipling and Cecil Roads were regulars at the local bar.
The Blue Train has two train sets owned and operated by the South African Government. We travelled on a 19 coach set, 14 housing passengers (the biggest of the two measuring 399 metres) The train travels at a maximm speed of 90 kph has a conference/observation car at the rear, A Club Car Lounge with smoking facilities, a Lounge Car in which to enjoy a traditional high tea and a myriad of beverages, a 42 seater grand dining car with an excellent choice of fare for breakfast lunch and dinner. The coveted wine list has won many accolades including the Annual Diners Club award of approval. There are two meal sittings to accommodate all passengers and early or late is your call. There are Luxury and Deluxe Suites the Luxury having an extra metre of room and can include a bath.
The Blue Train route snakes through some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery offered by the African sub-continent. The train departs Pretoria at 8.30am arriving in Cape Town the next day at 3pm. The return journey departs also at 8.30 and arrives in Pretoria at 3pm a day later. The Blue Train runs in both directions 2-3 times per week. All meals, a high tea, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) as well as off-train excursions are included.
Blue Train & Table Mountain 1.6MB
The origins of the Blue Train date back to 1923 when the train took passengers from Johannesburg to Cape Town to catch the ships back to England. It was colloquially called the Blue Train as a reference to the blue painted steel carriages introduced in 1937.
On board chefs regularly refresh their menus to intrigue and tantalise your palate, as they prepare their signature dishes using the freshest of local ingredients. From Karoo lamb, ostrich and venison, to Knysna oysters and other award-winning Cape fare. All dishes are artfully presented in delicate crystal or on fine china, contributing to the ultimate experience.
VERDICT: This is a classic journey with service, attention, fare, beverages and excursions/entertainment first class. The experience is guaranteed to create a myriad of memories, images and new friends.
The Blue Train has a value added promotion for guests next year offering one night complimentary B & B accommodation in a five star hotel either pre or post journey in Pretoria or Cape Town including transfers.
The amended schedule for 2017 will include the following Hoedspruit departures:
Johny the entertainer
1. Pretoria to Hoedspruit: Friday, 16th June 2017
2. Hoedspruit to Pretoria: Saturday, 17th June 2017
The Cape Town to Pretoria departure on the 06th of September 2017 has been moved to the 08th of September 2017.
The rates, included in the attachment, remain unchanged.
Contact your travel agent for bookings
Represented and marketed in Australia and New Zealand by Africareps Melbourne
E-mail: [email protected] Mobile: +61 (0)410 22 55 80
Written by: John Savage