Train Journey

Hello everyone

as promised this week I am going to share with you our wonderful train journey – if you live in South Africa or are planning to visit I highly recommend it as a great way to see some of the countryside.  The train trip would normally be out of our budget but they had a special on in September half price so we were able to take up the opportunity of a lifetime!   Katie, my youngest daughter and I flew to Johannesburg to catch the train in Pretoria and make our way back over the 1600km journey, for two nights to Cape town.

Train journey

Train journey

Railway Station

Railway Station

Rovos Rail has its own little railway station, complete with museum in Pretoria.  Here we were met by the staff and shown to a waiting room where we were given a talk on the history of the train and told what to expect.  We had a beautiful spacious cabin (in terms of train cabins) with en suite shower – I don’t recommend trying to stand in a shower or put your make up on whilst the train is moving, the eyeliner effects were particularly interesting!

waiting lounge

waiting lounge

our cabin

our cabin

I soon got chatting to people on the train (much to my daughter’s embarrassment who said I talked to much) and got to know people from all over the world, including Switzerland, Netherlands, Brazil, Nigeria, UK, USA, Australia, Singapore and of course different parts of South Africa.  The atmosphere was friendly and charged with excitement as we set off on our journey.

observation car

observation car

We travelled overnight to Kimberley Diamond mine where we were taken by bus from the train and given a tour.  As you probably know it is the world’s largest man-made excavation, the Big Hole.  We got to see some of the largest diamonds in the world, about 50 times the size of the one on my finger (:) and were able to walk through a re-creation of the streets of the original 18th century town.  It was hot and dusty so was a relief to get back to our nice cool cabins where we were given drinks in the observation car.  The observation car is where all the socialising takes place and there is an open deck at the back which is particularly exciting. One of the unusual features of the train was that it had windows that opened fully so you could hang out – they even provided goggles so you did not get dust in your eyes.

Kimberley big hole

Kimberley big hole

Meals are served in the dining car and I was surprised that the plates, glasses etc did not rattle or move around, but remained perfect still – it’s great to be eating good food whilst looking out the window at passing scenery.    It was another story trying to move our way through 7 carriages down the narrow little passageways to dinner in high heeled shoes with the train jerking and swaying from side to side!  In the end I took them off.  Each time your cross a carriage you have to leap across an opening where the carriages are joined, you can imagine what an adventure this was for an eleven year old girl – not to mention a 50 something young lady!

dining car

dining car

We travelled on overnight through the Karoo desert and next morning arrived at the historic village of Matjiesfontein; this authentic perfectly preserved Victorian Village – founded by Mr Logan as a refreshment stop in 1890.  A funny little story attached to this – the founder realised that this was the only stop en-route from Cape town to the diamond mines and there were no refreshments available so he decided to start up a refreshment stand.  He would sell a cup of soup to the train passengers, but as the train only stopped for 15 mins they were unable to eat it as it was too hot, so they would hand it back.  He would then re-heat the soup and sell it on to the next lot of train passengers that came through!

Karoo desert

Karoo desert

Lord Malvern hotel in Matjiesfontein

Lord Malvern hotel in Matjiesfontein

One of the highlights of our stop in Matjiesfontein was the museum – it was jam packed full of artefacts and amongst them I found two beautiful pieces of very old needle painting embroidery worked by one of the ladies resident in the town at that time, about 1895.  Unfortunately I had to take the photo through glass and could not get close enough but I think you will be able to see a bit of it.  They were badly worn and in need of restoration, worked on quite a coarse linen fabric with fine silk.  I examined them closely and was surprised to find that the technique differed very little from our technique today – they seemed to use long and short stitch, satin and split stitch for outlines.  The long and short stitches were quite short and staggered – well blended into each other with one strand of silk thread.  I also saw a lovely silk fan worked in surface embroidery and a Chinese piece of clothing worked in satin and chain stitches.

antique needle painting

antique needle painting

embroidery 1

antique needle painting

embroidery 5

silk embroidered fan

embroidery 4

That afternoon we passed through some stunning scenery in the Eastern and Western Cape before arriving back in Cape town that night.  It felt as though we had been away for a week, Katie loved it and it  was like nothing I had ever experienced before or probably will again.

Hex river valley

Hex river valley

Table Mountain Cape Town

Table Mountain Cape Town

Next week I hope to give you a sneak preview into the new book, meanwhile wherever you are be it winter, spring, summer or autumn have a wonderful week and many happy stitching hours.  Trish

23 responses

  1. What a beautiful trip, thanks for sharing your beautiful photos. I’ve been tempted to book a trip on the Ghan rail journey here in Australia, and this is just adding more fuel to the fire!

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  2. My most recent travel accessory is an electric scooter, such as you see oldies riding around shopping centres on. It’s heaps of fun, but not quite the same as seeing the big wide world from a train 😦 Still, ours not to reason why, so I will happily read about other people’s travels. This journey looks wonderful, lucky you.

    It’s a shame about the condition of the embroideries. Are they beyond saving, do you think or could they be restored? Maybe there could be a whole new venture for you in restoration.

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    • Thanks Christina. I would be keen to pass them onto someone like the RSN who could do proper restoration but the Museum will not part with them, so there they sit…….. Trish

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  3. I think that trip would be a train-lover’s dream come true. I am amazed at the beautiful condition of the train, and the stations! It all looks brand new. Someone has put their heart into that project. 😀

    Thanks for sharing!

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  4. What a beautiful train and trip Trish. Thank you so much for sharing – I even called my husband in and showed him the post. Lord willing, one day that is something we would love to do.

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  5. Trish, what a marvelous trip! The only flaw is that you did not get to Botswana. I decided to retire there after reading the #1 Ladies Detective Agency stories but heat, dust, insects, and serpents do not agree with me so I guess I will stay in America for now with occasional trips to other countries. Thank you for this blog and for your other posts, I enjoy them very much. Best wishes, Charlotte

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  6. Absolutely gorgeous account of your trip, Trish! I particularly love the photo of the Hex river valley. Now I really want to visit Africa!!

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  7. Good Morning from Canada Trish

    I am a retired Senior Travel Consultant and I have sold a few of the train trips from South Africa and have travelled to Zimbabwe and Malawi loved every minute of that trip. I wanted to ask you This was not the trip they called the Garden Trip was it? I know this trip you took with your daughter is very expensive it is as expensive as the Orient Express and I cant remember if this is one of the orient expresses trains or not. But this certainly would be a trip of a life time. It looked absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for the wonderful pictures. I can hardly wait for your next book to come out as I have all of your books in my needlework library and I still have space for one more of them even though my husband would say there is not any more space. LOL I want to get one of your kits but having a hard time to decide which one. I love the little miniatures but a little too small for me to do I think. Anyway keep up the great work. And thank you for sharing your wonderful trip with us. Happy Stitching LaRaine Winmill WinnipegManitoba Canada

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    • Hello LaRaine no this trip is not as expensive as the Orient Express (fortunately:) and they are not connected. It is a privately owned train, if you want more information you can see their website here: http://www.rovos.com. Give the miniatures a try, they are not as small as you think and very quick to complete. If you want something a little larger I have two new kits coming out in the next two weeks so keep a look out. All the best. Trish

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  8. Thank you so much for letting me share in this journey. I live in the UK and don’t think I’ll be able to travel abroad any more so armchair exploring is a joy now.

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