A noisy, joyful and moveable feast 

I have survived. After 29 hours I am in Cape Town safe and sound. It was very tough but I am happy to have chosen to take the long distance train with just a seat ticket. I don’t recommend it to anyone and I don’t think to repeat the experience but now I am happy to have gone for it. 

At the very beginning I had some problems to go up to the economy class wagons because the train conductor was incredulous of my economy ticket; he spent most of the 29 hours checking if I was ok. 

The wagon was terrible warm, dirty and full of people. The seats are old and basically is impossible to use them to sleep. The toilets are small but clean.

The other passengers were very surprised to see me. One of them tried to protect me with some advice. One was to never show the smartphone specially if it is expensive. “Someone could cut your thumb to unlock it!” He said. I think he was joking. Anyway…. My original plan was to stay in my solitary coupe’ in complete relax most of the time making photos and videos and listening to South African Music. but… My iPhone 7 Plus was for 29 hours in my pocket, I took just three photos at the end of the journey. 

I was very cautious in the first 15 hours and I slept with my sunglasses, one eye closed and the other one open. In the morning of the second day I was feeling safe and more social. It helped to share some food for the breakfast and play music together. Fortunately, I had brought my harmonica in this trip. The wagon filled with music and loud chatter in the morning.

The people in my wagon were simple, easygoing and fun. They were trying to make fun of me in an innocent way and they were nice people. It was a great experience meet them in such A long trip. Just at the end nobody really understood why if I was so rich to pay the 1000 Rand (70euro) for the flight jo’burg – Cape Town I was there…  

I was too busy to survive in the first part of the journey and to socialise in the second part that I did not pay much attention to the view. The scenario was very interesting anyway. I noticed mainly three things:

The slams and the bidonvilles full of rubbish along the way. South Africa is not just the exsclusive Cape Town’ waterfront.

The Karoo desert. By taking the train, you can see it at the sunrise and it is an impressive endless red land. We stopped there for an hour. Rumors said that the reason was a crash with few zebras.

The approach to Cape Town with Table mountain and the vineyards.

Tomorrow I will start the 3 days hike.

Third class rail journey in Africa

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.