Iyengar makes an exquisite 24-hour journey from Cape Town
to Pretoria in The Blue Train, South Africa’s Palace on Wheels
is designated only for the upper crust cognoscenti. Most people
who have travelled in The Blue Train, South Africas
equivalent of the Palace on Wheels, are in no doubt that they
have just experienced luxury at its zenith.
After the VIP check-in at the Blue Train snacks-and-drinks
reception Lounge at Cape Town station, the silken smooth ride
starts at exactly 11 am. As soon as the train starts rolling
past verdantly manicured, bright green vineyards and estates,
vast mountain backdrops, lush meadows, stark bushvelds and
tunnels, you realise why this ride is touted as one of the
finest in the world.
The first destination inside the train is The Lounge Bar which
offers the best South African Wines, international spirits
and snacks. An informal gourmet lunch awaits you later.
Then, having reached your suite, you are ushered in with professional
ceremony. A butler on call 24 hours of the day ensures that
you are pandered to like a monarch. Chilled mineral water,
24-hour snack service, plush sofa seating with writing accessories
on table, sensuous cotton-linened beds, a box of chocolates,
international phone call connectivity and an overall sense
of comfort keeps you on a high throughout the journey.
train, which has consistently earned World Travel Awards,
accommodates 82 guests and has a total of 18 carriages with
14 serving guest suites. It has a Lounge Car for breakfast
and meals, a full-fledged dining car in the centre with lavish
seating plus a Club Car and Cigar Diwan that spells aristocratic
The interiors are adorned with gold and premium brass etched
embellishments. Wood paneling, laminated veneer facades, world-class
light fittings, meticulous marquetry and attention to fine
detail radiate class.
Accommodation is in two categories in the train. Deluxe suites
with a double bed and Luxury suites which are more spacious,
have two single beds, television, CD player and choicest toiletries.
Bathrooms are tiled with Italian marble, venetian blinds are
remote controlled, there are electronic safes, compact wardrobes
and softly carpeted flooring.
The last carriage of The Blue Train is the observation car
which doubles up as a small conference room and meeting chamber,
complete with the latest audio-visual and tele-conferencing
facilities. From the car, one can revel in the South African
scenery as you sip a coffee or tea.
Food is continental for breakfast, high tea has scones, pastries
and fine blend teas while the evenings are formal black tie
dinners with a mouth-watering variety of international and
South African dishes. These include cuisine like Karoo Lamb,
Knysna Oysters, Crayfish and superb premium wines like Brampton,
Sauvignon Blanc, Glen Carlou Estate wines, Haute Cabriere
sparkling wines and the classy Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon
1999. After a signature dinner, aromatic Habanas, Monte Cristos
and Cohibas call the cigar-shots at The Lounge car. Then,
over a fine Hennesssy cognac, the night slips into velvet
The highlight of the sojourn is a one-hour chilly and windy
excursion into the quaint and historic station town of Matjiesfontein
on a roofless London Bus. You visit the Lord Milner Hotel,
Logans Hotel and The Masonic Lodge. Its town graced
by celebrities like Lord Randoph Churchill, The Sultan of
Zanzibar and former President Nelson Mandela.
Noontime the next day, the Blue Train rolls effortless into
Pretoria Station at 12.41 on the dot. An unforgettable experience
has ended. But not for those who are addicted to the ride
who are known to taken the ride again and again.
A CHEAP RIDE
Blue Train is completely booked throughout the year.
To maintain such class, the fares dont come cheap.
The Pretoria-Cape Town high season fare for Luxury suite
is US$1300-1770 one-way, Deluxe US$ 1180-1600 one-way.
off season, the rates are scaled down by US$180 each.
Fare includes all meals, drinks, snacks, cigars, excursions
but excludes champagne and caviar.
TO SOUTH AFRICA
most convenient connection to South Africa from Mumbai
(and India) is South African Airways (SAA) which flies
four times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays)
non-stop direct from Mumbai to Johannesburg International
(8hrs, 40mins). Excellent on-board meals and choicest
SA wines are on offer in the flight. There are frequent
day-long SAA connections from Johannesburg to Cape Town
and other airports. From Cape Town International to
Cape Town Station to board the Blue Train is 45 minutes.
Alternately one can ride The Blue Train from Pretoria,
one-and-a- half hours from Johannesburg.