Sunday was the day we left Stellenbosch and made our way to Upington. The arrangement was for us meet with the tour group, who go by the rather colonial name of Livingstone Trails, at the Yeho Backpackers in Upington itself. It was now time to brave the local transport system. Up until now we had somehow managed to get from A to B in either a hire car or in the case of J’burg to Cape Town by plane. This trip meant we had to catch the train from Stellenbosch to Cape Town and there catch the Intercape Mainliner, one of the many long distance bus companies that cover South Africa and some its neighbours.
We had settled comfortably into that semi conscious state experienced by most train travelers until we just started to stop at a place called Bellville. The guy sitting opposite us said “Mister air you going to kip Town, ’cause if you are, you need to be on that train there and it leaves any minute”. He pointed to a train right next to us sitting waiting with the engine running. As he finished and the train came to a stop almost everyone in the train rushed off.
“Oh shit” Sue and I said collectively.
We grabbed our bags and followed the masses as they headed down the platform steps into the tunnel, back up again on the next platform and then straight onto the train seconds before it began to pull away. Breathless and sweating I asked the same guy where the train we had been on was going. “Back to Stellenbosch and there isn’t another train to Cape Town for about another hour” he added “It’s a Sunday, man, they always do this on a Sunday” We thanked him appreciatively and found a seat.
The bus ride was pleasant enough. As it was an overnight trip, we managed to get some sleep in between the hostess; a buxom blonde haired imitation of a German farm girl who we affectionately named ‘Big Bertie’, giving us coffee, rusks and biscuits and the odd stop to swap drivers and hostess. That intrigued me. I certainly don’t begrudge a change of staff for such a long journey (894 kilometres and ten hours) but these guys had a bed tucked away behind the luggage compartment that they had to share. As the first shift driver was quite thin and short I feared for his safety having to sleep next to ‘Big Bertie’. If the bus had to slam on the brakes, she could roll right over and flatten him!
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