Shit happens. Specially if you are a solo backpacker traveler in Africa. My coupe ticket in tourist class that I booked one month ago, because a of a mistake of my online travel agency, is not reserved. And the tourist class is fully booked.
At the Super modern Park Station in Jo’burg a lady at the sales ticket office suggests to buy a seat ticket. I ask if it safe and she said: “I don’t know, I never take it. It should be fine”.
There are two classes in normal South African trains (I am not talking about the luxury trains for tourists like the Blue Train): the tourist class (previously the first class for European white people) with beds, restaurant, security, showers, etc. and the economy class (originally the third class for no white people) with just seats.
My South Africa lonely planet guide does not recommend the economy class because IT is unsafe and uncomfortable. I went on many Inter Rail journeys in my twenties and have no showers, no bed and no restaurants for one day is not a huge problem. I would like just to have no troubles in my journey.
I spenT 90 minutes thinking what to do and I decideD to take the risk. The dilemma is either to return safe and sound at home as I promised to my partner and/or prove to myself that I am not becoming an old lazy tourist.
I decided to take the risk. I placed my money and my credit cards in three different places. There was a Kwik Spar nearby. I bought four litres of water (it’s sunny and very hot today), some bread, chicken ham, nuts, fruits and a couple of beers. Candidly I asked if I could buy a knife. I can’t. I took my scissors from my ruscksack. My only weapon in case of attack are scissors with rounded tips.
I went back to the sales ticket office but another clerk at the desk said that IT is better not to buy the ticket because the seat ticket are not for tourists (she means not for white people I suppose). So I wait for the “It should be fine” lady. She has no problem to sell me ticket. I think that she hates me.
There are hundreds of passengers, in the tourist class all black people plus two old German couples, one guy with a French accent and a young couple, both very blond, I think that they are Afrikaners. In the economy class I am the only white. I don’t think to be the first white European taking the 27 hours long-distance train in economy class, but apparently it is very rare. I will see why in the next hours.