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Trip Report Shongololo Express. The Southern Cross Adventure

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My wife a I booked a 16 day train journey going from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls traveling through South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia. The tour started in Johannesburg on September 22, 2014 with a visit to the Cradle of Humankind and Sterkfontein Caves. There were other optional selections as well. The second day we visited Johannesburg and Soweto. Very interesting to hear about Nelson Mandela and his colleagues and how long it took them to achieve their goals. Then into Swaziland, a beautiful country.
Mozambique was next and we spent the day at a small resort. There were some major complications that day but that I is for another day and time. Next day was in Maputo and you see the results on the wars have had on this region as well as the development of the Indian Ocean coast.
Kruger Park was on for the next two days and was spectacular.

Following day was called the Panoramic Route which was a van tour of the area in northern South Africa. Nice day.

Before going froward, this is a train built in the 1950's. The staff on board was excellent and the guide/ drivers could not have been any better. Unpack once and they take care of the rest. Very pleasant, congenial, and personable. Hardworking and did everything they could to make the trip relaxing. The train hauls the vans which we used for tours and safaris. Food was good, so these things were great. Anything that follows has nothing to do with the train staff. As a matter of fact, I would travel anywhere with them if they were in charge of things.

Day nine was a visit to The Great Zimbawbe, the largest monument in Africa south of the Pyramids. Interesting place but we were stopped ten times by the police of Zimbawbe on the way to the monuments and three times on the way back. This is life in Zimbawbe.

Next on the trip was supposed to be Antelope Park, Bulawayo and Matobo National Park, Hwange National Park, Livingstone, Chobe National Park, and finally Victoria Falls. We never made any of these places.
We spent two days sitting on the tracks in southern Zimbabwe and northern South Africa. This is a long and complicated story but senior management of this company failed us in providing us answers or solutions to the cancellation of the trip to the north. The crew and staff of the train could not have done any better. The senior management team failed to inform and have contingency plans. Other trips have gone off without a hitch, but you are only as good as your last effort.
This trip had wonderful possibilities and we were so excited about the last six days. The company promised answers and comparable activities but hardly met the standard.
We post this to tell you what might happen. Normally it would not but be necessary as other trips have gone well, we did not see any evidence of contingency plans on the part of senior management.
If you do decide to go, take these hints:
- take wash clothes
- take tissues
- if you are over 6'2", watch your head and you will not fit on the beds.
- we has the middle priced room with private shower and bath. 6' by 9'. Tight but livable
- expect delays in train service
- expect power outages, usually sometime each day
- the African people are wonderful. We learned a great deal from and about them
- the African bush and all of the plants and animals are spectacular
- you cannot drink the water on the train. You may purchase bottled water on the train and every place you visit. Stay hydrated
- if you like cold drinks, don't expect that. But only Americans like us seem to crave ice.
- wear just about anything you want.
- plan on extra expense with the required shots and visas....considerably extra expense.
- no cell phone coverage in most of the bush, no internet, no radio, no TV, no papers but that, in all honesty, is pretty cool!

As I said earlier, this trip had wonderful possibilities but I do not have any faith in senior management of Shongololo Express or the parent company and their abilities to have contingencies and take the appropriate responsibility. The trip is very different than anything we have ever experienced but were very much satisfied until the major complication. I would love to tell you what happened, but I don't know because management never shared that with us, apologized,or offered any type of financial renumeration. We will probably have to use trip interruption insurance, but that is what is for.
Finally, over half of the people on the trip left the train when then could. They did this at considerable financial loss when you factor in flights, transfers, meals and accommodations that they had already paid for. I would estimate the cost in the thousands for each person.
We stayed on hoping for the best and saved our money for Costa Rica.
Glad to provide additional information or answer questions to the post. This is as honest as it can be. Chances are this might never happen again. But please factor this forum entry in when considering this "adventure".

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