South Africa
Map - Overview
- Frank Coleman -
Reminiscences of touring South Africa.

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During the past twenty years my wife Jo and I have been in the fortunate position of being able to have good breaks in South Africa. Originally Jo's sister Jean would visit us every three years and in between we would have a break in South Africa. Besides Jean and her family, my cousin Chris and her husband lived there. My son in law's family also originates in Grahamstown. Jean went to Johannesburg in 1957 and after marriage and divorce stayed there bringing up a daughter and son very successfully.

So for all our trips Jo'burg became our base and I will try to relate some of the very pleasant experiences the three of us have had, firstly the breaks we have had at Cape Town and its environs.

We found from experience that a car is hardly necessary for local touring. An organised trip to the Winelands or Cape Point is more practical.

Our day in the Winelands involved visiting several wineries and sampling at each one. There is a strong French influence dating back to the Huguenot Refugees who settled there. Franchoek became their base where there is a memorial to them. This explains such a large number of French names and words in the Afrikaans Language, and which originated at Stellenbosch University in the Winelands in 1793 as a means of communication between the Dutch masters and their slaves. Wandering around Stellenbosch itself - pleasant stroll.

To get to the Table Mountain Cable Car base is only a bus ride, (no problems.) I haven't been on the new car but made trip years ago and the view was exhilarating. No I did not see any Daises.

Another trip we made (the trips all start at the Railway Station) was to Cape Point supposedly where two oceans meet. Instead of landing up in the Indian Ocean, poor old Bartholemew Diaz found what is known False Bay. He made the Indian Ocean eventually at Cape Agulhas a few miles south.

Included in this tour was a visit to Simonstown and local beach resorts. We experienced the vicious Antarctic wind nicknamed The Cape Doctor; my comment standing on the beach was I feel as if I am being pebble dashed. Just outside Simonstown we said hello to the local Penguin Colony

In 1993 I had hired a car intending to travel the Garden Route. In addition before leaving UK I had purchased open-ended vouchers for Holiday Inns. On trying to get a reservation in Cape Town, I found it was fully booked (A certain celebrity was at long last being given his freedom.) In order to make the journey we started at Port Elizabeth named after the Governor's wife in 1820. Originally P.E. was settled by British migrants as a barrier to stop the Xhorsas coming further south. There is a strong C.E. element at Grahamstown a few miles away. A visit to Addo Game reserve, at that time mainly an Elephant Reserve was our first stopover. I believe the reserve now has a wider diversity of animals and of course it is situated in a non-malarial area.

With a car the poor driver sees little and in South Africa needs to regard all local drivers as hazards. I was fortunate to not being involved in a head on, on a mountain pass. Leaving Port Elizabeth we stayed on the coast road though Knysna and wilderness, turning inland at George to the Ostrich Farms at Oudtshoorn then back to George to board a Plane to C.T.

At the time of my sister in law's retirement, I had seen an article about a museum train trip along the Garden Route, Wanting to sample this I suggested to Jo that we made the rail trip as a retirement present for her sister.

We started at Adderley Street Station at the Blue Train Lounge, then boarding the ancient sleeper immediately outside. The four berth compartments were made into two's and the two berths to singles. The rolling stock was from pre-Blue Train Days. At one end of the carriage a shower room and toilet facilities at the other end. Three meals each day (Silver Service) in the restaurant car. Drinks were at local prices.

We left C.T. at noon being hauled by a single stream locomotive engine. We passed Franschoek and various wine estates to arrive at Porterville for an evening's entertainment, which included a Braai (Braai Vleis = Burnt Flesh) B.B.Q.

Back to the train to continue overnight to Worcester and onwards to Riversdale and Albertinia. To give a smoother ride on the first and last nights diesel locomotives were used. The middle four nights the train stayed in sidings or stations (with adequate security.) At Albertinia we got back to steam but now with two locomotives. One of the loco's was a Garratt a rather unique engine as the body of the engine was suspended at a distance from four sets of bogeys in front and four sets to the rear.

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