Shoshomeyl Train to Cape

I always forget how much I love train rides until I get back on a train. Besides the fact that I am confined to a small space with usually too many goodies to snack on, I really enjoy the view out the window. The train ride takes over 24 hours and goes through outer Johannesburg and several other townships, the little Karoo desert, and the beautiful winelands on the outskirts of Cape Town.

All our friends in Johannesburg thought we were crazy for wanting to take a 24 hour train that actually cost more than a 2 hour flight, but what they don’t realize is that for us it is about the journey.  

When we arrive in Cape Town we will have traveled all the way from Nairobi to Cape Town overland. This has been a dream of mine for several years, and I can’t believe it is actually coming true.  

We boarded the train at 12:30 today and are still sitting on the train late this evening. We forgot how cold it can get in South Africa, and the fact that the heating unit in our train broke didn’t help the matter out.

We are in the middle of winter here on South Africa (because we are south of the Equator) and while the days are quite warm, the nights get very very cold. Andrew and I, as backpackers, so not have heaps of warm blankets that we carry around with us. Because of this, we absolutely froze last night. We had an entire 4-person birth to ourselves and we ended up sleeping on the same little bench together to try and stay warm.

At 9:00pm, 11:00pm, and 5:00am we woke up hysterical in laughter because we were so cold and there was nothing we can do about it. After this adventure on the train we are starting to rethink taking the Trans Siberian Railway in the winter. If the heater breaks in that train traversing Russia in the dead of winter, I am pretty sure we won’t return alive…

That being said, we still plan on taking the Trans Siberian in the next couple years. Another frigid destination on that list is Antarctica, one of the most beautiful boat cruises in the world as I have been told.

Before I forget, we met a lovely couple and their children from Brazil who are backpacking South Africa together. They boarded the train the same time as we did, so we got to talk quite a lot with them before the train departed. The people we meet while traveling are always so interesting!

  On our way to Cape Town…  

traditional Afrikaann dinner of Babotie last evening with the Rolando family. 

(Below: Andrew’s post)

This morning was a slow start with Stephen and Roxanne who were busy getting ready for the day. Kylie and I, as usual were ready to depart by 6:30am and waited a bit as the two of them got ready.

The entire morning I kept thinking to myself about leaving such a nice comfy place and what it would be like on the road ahead. Nonetheless I was excited for the experience!

Around 9:30 we caught a ride with Roxanne and made our way to the metro called the shosholozameyl metro. 

This train is the only one going to Cape Town from Johanesburg and we were fortunate to get tickets on it! Since we waited to see whether flights or a train would be the best means of transport, we lost out on catching a flight (fully booked).

Kylie and I said our goodbyes and I was sad to say goodbye to Stephen and Roxanne. They really showed us what couchsurfing is meant to be like and I left thinking of how I’d treat travelers differently because of their example.

When Kylie and I got to the train station Kylie went to purchase snacks for the journey and I went to get our tickets. 

The ticket office was thankfully empty and even though I had a half-dozen or so people try and jump the line (ahead of me), I got the tickets no problem. I was glad we arrived early too since another 30 people who hadn’t purchased tickets showed up at the office, each jostling for a spot.

After I found Kylie we gathered our things, and boarded the train.

The train was simple with a couple bunks in each cabin. Fortunately we were moved to a larger cabin since there were many open spots on the train. Score! We got a 4 bunk cabin with plenty of room!

As the train rolled from the station Kylie and I reflected on the many wonderful experiences we had in Johanesburg. We learned only a small piece of the rich and interesting hub of South Africa, and hope to return! 

As the train departed we seemed to be making good time… Even with a quick repair stop…

The ride was beautiful. We passed through the various suburbs around the city until finally we hit open fields. I was surprised to see so much wildlife around too! It was like a mini safari. We saw a giraffe, ostriches, kudu, Impala, and a couple other smaller creatures roaming the land between Johanesburg and Cape Town.

Kylie and I chatted all along the way and I really felt at peace with the world.

After a short while, and with little to do on the train we quickly fell asleep when the sky went dark. 

We had wrapped ourselves in several clothing, expecting the night to be cold… But when I woke to the sound of Kylie shivering, I knew it was going to be a long night. 

I took off my outer layer jacket (the one I wore to block the wind on Kilimanjaro and wrapped that around her legs and feet. I then pulled out every bit of clothing I had in my bag and covered Kylie in layer after layer of dry-fit shirts, pants, socks, and just about everything I had. I moved from my bunk to share the tiny bunk space with Kylie to huddle and keep warm. 

We spent the night shivering, laughing occasionally at the cold, and trying to stay warm. 

Never was I so grateful for morning sun and morning warmth! It was an adventure of a night for sure!

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