Embarking on the luxurious “Shongololo Express” train for a spectacular rail cruise in the heart of Southern Africa.
Is it a dream, this giraffe coming out of nowhere and seen from the train window? We have just left Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Most of the passengers of the “Shongololo Express” are still ecstatic in front of their lovely mahogany cabin. And there, outside, wild animals, at the foot of the houses. The convoy runs alongside one of the private reserves surrounding the city. On the train platform, the landscape opens onto a wide green valley.
At the station – tiny – the welcome was grandiose: red carpet, honour hedge, songs and champagne. If the travellers had not arrived in jeans and bobsleigh, we could have thought we were in the “Orient Express”. But the “Shongololo”, an old luxury train re-circulated by a South African company, cultivates a more relaxed atmosphere, even if the service is at the top. One fairy godmother per car to ensure the well-being of passengers to Cape Town, South Africa. Our life? Rhythmic by the back and forth between the cosy cocoon of our cells, the smoking room and the restaurant all carved woodwork and golden lights. We almost regret that tuxedos are not mandatory.
Stops in empty stations, nowhere to be found. Now we’re taking buses. Created at the beginning of the colonial era to transport ore from mines in the North, the railway crosses the country almost in a straight line, from top to bottom. To go west, where the main tourist sites are, the road is mandatory.
For now, heading north to Etosha Park. More than a hundred species of mammals, 340 species of birds listed, not to mention reptiles, various frogs, etc.. The tourist guides ensure that the animals come to you, that it is as guaranteed with the entrance fee in the park, that you just have to park your car near a water point and wait. Except that there are dozens of cars, full of tourists armed with telephoto lenses, hungry for thrills, screaming and restless. So? We meet herds of giraffes, impalas, slender springboks who ignore us.
Already, it is necessary to set out again towards Damaraland and the formidable basalt concretions of Spitzkoppe. Kilometres of arid earth pass in front of the cabin window, houses with sheet metal roofs, motionless silhouettes on improbable tracks. The sky is signed Turner, the show is breathtakingly beautiful.
Kuoni. The agency offers a tour aboard the “Shongololo Express” from Windhoek, Namibia to Cape Town, South Africa. Among the highlights of the itinerary: safari in Etosha Park and crossing the Namib Desert. 16 days/ 13 nights, from 7 750 euros/person, flights, transfers, 8 nights aboard the “Shongololo” in the Elephant category, 5 nights in 2 to 4 star hotels and lodges, half board, some lunches, excursions and bus tours included. 01.55.87.80.54, www.kuoni.fr.
“Shongololo Express. Very nice but strict service on the schedules, very comfortable cabins (some of which are suites) with nice little Art Deco shower rooms and toilets, neat restaurant with wild meat – ostrich carpaccio, springbok steak with port… – and delicious desserts. The only downside: you have to travel kilometres by bus to see the most interesting sites.
Mirage Resort and Spa. Near the dunes of Sossusvlei, planted on the sand in the middle of nowhere, a group of buildings in the shape of a castle with swimming pool. Large rooms nicely decorated. Dinner is served in porcelain and glasses on foot in front of the sunset. Disconcerting. From 184 euros/pers. the night on half board.