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Trip Report All Aboard! Southern Cross Journey on the Shongololo Express.

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After going on a river cruise in Asia (the Irrawaddy), I enjoyed it so much that I decided to look for more tours that met the requirements of fewer than 100 passengers and involved unpacking only once. Several train journeys were on my list, including those in Africa and across central Asia/Russia. When the US Dollar reached a high against the South African Rand that I had not seen in years, I decided to go with the Shongololo Express train journey.

I sent a couple of emails to Shongololo but received no response. Then I emailed Tanya of Go2Africa, my travel agent from an earlier South African safari. She said that although her company had no relationship with Shongololo, she would look into it, and eventually I was able to complete the booking through her.

There used to be three different train journeys offered by Shongololo, all lasting 16 nights. The Namibian journey was eliminated this year, leaving the ‘Good Hope’ which travels through South Africa, and the ‘Southern Cross’ which travels through six countries in southern Africa; South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Both the Good Hope and Southern Cross use the same train.

I chose the Southern Cross journey that starts in the south (Johannesburg) and travels north, ending in Victoria Falls. My main reason for choosing this direction was to end the trip with the most impressive sights rather than vice-versa, and this worked out quite well.

I booked 2 additional nights in Joburg prior to the start of the trip and one night at the end as well as a pre-trip night on the train. Experience has taught me to leave room for changes/cancellations at both ends of a trip, and I was able to accommodate changes to my schedule with minimal stress.

I booked a roundtrip ticket using miles on Singapore Airlines LAX-SIN-JNB. The refueling stop in Narita took longer than anticipated, and because of this I missed my connection to JNB from Singapore. The Singapore Airlines staff were very efficient, and were waiting for me at the gate. I was told that I had missed the flight and arrangements had been made for me on the next flight, which was not available until the next day. I was given vouchers for The Gallery Hotel, taxi transfers, all meals and a telephone call to anywhere in the world. Considering the circumstances, service could not have been better.

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