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Great Train Adventures - Shongololo Express - Southern Cross -Sept 2010

Great Train Adventures - Shongololo Express - Southern Cross -Sept 2010

Oct 24th, 2010, 04:39 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 596
Hi, there - I loved the trip. The train was in need of a little TLC but was clean and comfortable and the food was great. The crew and guides are so hard working and wonderful and strive to make everyone happy. I am not going to write an extensive report as the others have been so much better than what I would write.

I had been to VF and Chobe 12 years ago but during the high water season so it was great to see everything in a different perspective. The rest of the trip was a new experience for me as I had only seen Africa previously from the "bush" and never experienced the cities and beautiful countrysides. I particularly was impressed by Swaziland and South Africa. Would love to go back and drive South Africa.

Our day on the train traveling to South Africa was delayed for hours - the train was running electric engines and during the night electrical lines were stolen which left us stranded until a diesel was found. Later in the afternoon we were delayed another 3 hours because another train was delayed for the same reason on the track and had to be removed with a diesel so we could proceed. Just part of the fun of the whole experience.

It was exceedingly hot for the first part of the trip and entering South Africa we managed to find some relief from the heat.

One of the things I really wanted to do was stay at Lion Sands. Because of a South African holiday, there was nothing available. I wanted my niece to have the experience. Our replacement lodge was Bongani Mountain which borders Kruger. Very much enjoyed the difference of seeing the wildlife in mountain terrain. It was a real "off road" safari. We saw a good variety of wildlife but no big cats (except 2 lion waiting in a large enclosure to be released after quarantine). The lodge is in a beautiful location in the rocks overlooking a valley with a waterhole where we could see the animals come. Our first game drive started with a thunder and lightning storm and heavy rain but the drivers were all prepared for those situations. Once the rain let up the rest of the drive was fine. It did become very cold and the heat was turned on in our cabin and there was a fire going in the lounge.

I enjoyed making friends with all the passengers on the train. Most were Canadian, Australian and German as far as I could determine but a good mix of other nationalities also. There were 2 full sittings at meal times.

If I were to do the trip again, I would prefer starting in Johannesburg. I particularly like the wildlife aspect of Africa and although I thoroughly enjoyed the rest, I did feel a bit of a letdown ending up in cities.

Leanna continued on to Capetown for 4 days so you will not hear from her for a couple days more.

So, all in all, a great experience and I may consider another trip in the future to Namibia.
Louise is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 10:58 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 123
Hi Louise - thanks for the feedback. Sorry you were unable to stay at the Lions Sands - it was a most enjoyable experience.

Our weather got warmer as the trip proceeded and we did wondered if southbound would have been better choice. We choose northbound ending in Vic Falls as we wanted to "end with the best scenery" and then return directly home.

Sorry you ran into some rain - that was another reason we choose the September rather than October trip...however even without rain I did manage to get quite a few mosquito bits in Mozambique. Did you encounter bugs as well?

Also which of the "off the train" dinners did you preferred? You will see from my write up I enjoyed the Vic Falls Bush dinner (we had a great table of guests) but Femi enjoyed Muputo more (we only had limited seafood at our dinner and all of it was deep fried - not my favourite).

We were told your trip would have more guests (they were actually constructing some of the rooms that your guests would occupy during our trip) and a greater number of Germans than usual. They were bringing on an additional German Guide to assist Jorge and Vincent was going to just be a driver for your trip. Any other guide changes?
Beachnut11 is offline  
Oct 28th, 2010, 06:51 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,201
Ok Im alive!! But barely!!! I keep sleeping at odd moments but fortunately not at traffic lights

I had a ball!!! It was crazed, mad, wild, jerky, unorganized at times..its Afrika never forget, funny, rainy, a bit buggy, HOT HOT HOT (at the beginning), loooong days of doing stuff, not enough days of just being left to loll in your 1x1 cabin and to stare out the window as Afrika rolls by!

I was lucky and got a super cabin....CH B....everything worked and I swear it got a bit larger each day as I adapted to no space. I do recommend just getting a cabin unto yourself unless you are sharing w/ a mate...good gal/guy pals could become a bit grumpy trying to deal w/ the space for all those days.

The gang that works the train: Nelson, Mary, Wilamenia, C etc are just amazing....and do a perfect job! As for the cook....how how how does he do it.....great food.....very consistant.

It was horrid ugly and intensely hot at the beginning. At the antelope park place I sat there and wiped my fore arm and then watched it bead up again w/ water. I have NEVER seen that....my fluids were draining away in front of my eyes! But now at least I can understand what they mean when I read, "the heat of Afrika!"

Also I enjoyed seeing the rain as I had heard it was a deluge when it fell....so that was great to enjoy also and really as I remember it was just a couple of afternoons we were out in it.

We did see the MOST beautiful and perfect rainbow I have ever seen in Kruger........all the colors of the spectrum were there.....and it lasted for about 30 min or more. Truly inspirational!!!

We had fun groups from all countries and by the end most everyone, I think, felt like family!!!! I sure dropped a few tears when it was time to actually move on.

I personally liked getting to Joburg last as it seemed we stared w/ the old traditional Afrika in Vicky Falls....and then ended w/ the museum in Joburg.....and into the new decades of freedom.....seemed right to me.

I do think if you want to see game then Kenya and Tanzi are the best places. I saw the Big 5 within the first 2 hours there....so had no appreciation that its really hard to accomplish this. I think people who have never been on safari and game drives before were a bit disappointed in the parks we visited. Also Kruger to me was like a Disneyland park compared to K&T. The roads alone......most all nice and paved.....luxury!!!

What else? Hmmm? Beachnut ..you did a great job describing everything.....and I agree w/ most you said....even though we did diff trips.

As for Capetown...ah!!!! I had no idea those views and vistas would be sooo spectacular. I think its THE most beautiful coast line I have ever seen! And I live in Calif!! They were having horrid winds while I was there...an odd late spring....so never got to Table Mt....but finally after 3 days did get to Robbin Island which was very important for me. Found it very moving....as I was also reading Mandela's book....so things were matching from book to real life.

What else!! Yes I am glad I did this tour.....as it was one of the most fun experiences I have had traveling.


I would like to say that years ago I met Louise on this very bulletin board and we struck up a friendship......we did meet a few years back but this was our first time to travel together.....and it was delightful. So this board is really a good spot..for info and new pals as well!!!!
LEANNA is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 02:45 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 123
Hi Leanna - so glad you had a great trip. I'm amazed how different our weather was. When we started our trip (Jorburg) we actually used the heavy blankets they leave in the train cabins on a few nights - by the time we got to Vic Falls it was hot - but not as much as you experienced. It was an awesome trip. Glad yours was as well. Agree with your comments on this Board.
Beachnut11 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 03:38 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
Welcome back Leanna

So funny about the weather. My guess is that it was in the mid-70s just about every day we were there, and I also ended up using the blanket at night. We had rain once in Nelspruit, and you've just reminded me of the gorgeous rainbow we saw afterwards.
Femi is offline  
Oct 29th, 2010, 09:57 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 11,869
Thanks everyone,from another Australian very interested in doing a train trip in Africa.

Your comments about the jerky ride reminded me of my Dad. He was a great horseman and on rough horses, roads & small planes, told us to, "sit loose in the saddle & go with the gait." He was right.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2011, 05:52 PM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 7
Hi, I did the Vic Falls to Jo-burg Oct 6, 2010 (with Louise and Leanna). Beachnut your review was great even though we did it in the opposite direction. I have posted a video of that trip on Youtube if you would like to see it. It was difficult to cut it to 10 minutes and still show a highlight for every day. To see it search for "Shongololo Express Oct 2010" by DBus. If there is no sound try..... "http://www.youtube.com/user/42dbus"
DBus is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2011, 06:29 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,201
Hey DBus!!!Happy New Year!! This was really fun to see......we did all have a great time huh?

Now on to new adventures!!!
LEANNA is offline  
Jan 4th, 2011, 05:38 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
The video brings back many memories. You guys had some fantastic wildlife sightings!
Femi is offline  
Jan 5th, 2011, 05:48 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 596
Thank you so much for making that available. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Happy New Year to all my friends who were on board.
Louise is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 06:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 123
DBus - thanks for posting the video - you did a great job - it really brought back some memories.

I was amazed to see how much the foliage changed in one week after our trip...amazing what a little moisture brings!

It truly was the "trip of a lifetime".
Beachnut11 is offline  

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