Port Elizabeth – Jo’burg by train

The long-distance train from Port Elizabeth  arrives 8 hours late in Jo’burg. “It’s always late,” I was warned at the PE station. Fortunately this time i have my coupe in tourist class and the journey is safe and enjoyable.

Assuming there would be delays, breakdowns and shortages, I brought a box of food and enough bottles of water to last 2 days. The 20 hours trip to Jo’burg usually 30 hours…  In my wagon there a family of afrikaners, a black lady, 2 english girls  and 2 old white couples, one finnish aid worker.

Three hours after  we set off, speeding south, we came to a halt. “There is something wrong. We should not be stopping here”. Four hours later  we were still there. “see what I mean?” It seemed there was a problem with the track. “The heat of teh sun has caused the iron rail to expand and buckle. We must wait until it cools”. This was an unconvincing explanation.

In the 28 hours journey i kill the time listening  great African Music (Hugh Masekela, Vusi Mahlasela, Miriam Makeba, Simphiwe Dana, Phuzeklemisi, Thansiswa Mazwai) and viewing the panorama: part of the Karoo desert, many small villages, fields with eucalyptus and  small forests.

For dinner I sat a table at the wagon restaurant with Anika, an aid worker and an older English couple who seemed tetchy but perhaps were just nervous. They kept their names for themselves. But they did say that they had lived in southern Africa since 1960 and,  “We could never live in England now”. They were taking a holiday. The man said he was a train buff. “My dream is to take the Trans-Siberian. But I have health problems.”

They lived in a suburb about fifteen miles north of Johannesburg. Of course, there was crime there, the man said; there was crime everywhere, He gave an example.

I was coming home a few years ago and stopped in my driveway. I got out of my car to open the gate and was surrounded by three champs. They had guns. They were shouting at me – they wanted my car -. My wife heard the noise. She thought I was talking to the neighbors. She came out with our two dogs’.

“So you were safe?”.

“not a bit. The dogs were useless. They thought we were going for a ride. The wagged their tails. My wife was pistol-whipped and I was hit hard. We both needed stitches. We lost the car. But, you see, that could have happened anywhere”.

“Anywhere in South Africa”.


The train arrives in Jo’burg the day after at 8:30PM instead 11:30AM. I have 24 hours to visit the coolest quarter in Jozi and sleep one night in an art installation.

Sardinia Bay

After the 3 day hike and a quick visit to Cape Town I flew to Port Elizabeth (PE for short) this morning and I am enjoying the African sun on the beach now.

The flight from Cape Town is interesting because you can see from the cloud the 4 million town and the Cape peninsula. The small South African Express ATR flies along the coast. If you are clever enough to ask for a window seat on the left (seat A!) you can see hundreds of beautiful desert sandy beaches.  

PE fringes Algoa Bay at the western end of the Sunshine Coast, and offers many good bathing beaches and surf spots.

I have just a couple of hours before taking the train to Jozi and I have time to visit just one beach. I have chosen Sardinia Bay.

Sardinia beach is a big Buggerru (beach on west of Sardinia); 10 kilometres long of wide sandy beaches. I take a roobois cappuccino in a kiosk on the beach and the barman, an Austrian man moved in SA 12 years ago, said that the beach is the best place for surf and swim because “the warm waters of the Indian Ocean”. He forgot to mention the many sharks living in this area.

I take a very fast swim in the ocean. Fast because of the sharks and because the water is icy. 32 degrees on the beach, 0 degree in the “warm ocean”. Apparently in summertime the water is cooler because the cold water coming from Antartide (“iceberg defrost effect”). I am going to have a walk over the large sand dunes and then I will take a taxi to the railways station.

In the 20 hours (or more) long distance train PE -Jozi I think to have enough time to write a couple of posts and share some photos of Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope 3 days hike. I have a lot of stories to share.