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Take The Train - Cape Town To Simon's Town

It was 1986 and about fifty Karoo kids were visiting Cape Town. For many of us, this was our first visit to the Mother City. The 10 day tour had already introduced us to the wonders of the Cango Caves, the antics of the ostrich jockeys and the stealth of the crocodiles in Oudtshoorn. We’d been to the top of Table Mountain and had taken in the resplendent Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. But today we were travelling by train to Simon’s Town, where we would visit the Naval Museum.

The Cape Doctor was huffing and puffing. It was cold and wet, and not at all the kind of spring weather we were used to, but the excitement of the day ahead buoyed up our spirits as we waited on the train platform.

The train arrived and there was a bit of a jostle for the ocean-side window seats. As the train moved out of the station i knew that this was going to be a lifetime memory. The gloomy ocean and tumultuous waves couldn’t detract from the beauty of the small Cape seaside villages; in fact, it made it all seem more wonderful and romantic. The colourful facades of the buildings seemed to be more vibrant because of the grey surroundings.

At one place the waves washed over the train tracks, much to the delight of the children and adults alike. We were amazed that the train was not washed into the ocean, but of course it would take much more to dislodge the train from its tracks.

We traveled through one village after another, each with its unique setting and atmosphere, although it’s so close together. By the time we alighted the carriage at Simon’s Town, the tone of the day was set. My thoughts had been cleared of many things in order to make space for the wonder at the sight of a grey Cape morning from the vantage point of a cozy train carriage.

Fast forward to the 21st century. We’ve both entered the Two Oceans Marathon. That-Man was to compete in the ultra-marathon for the fourth time, and i had psyched myself up for the half marathon. We persuaded some friends to join us and set off for Cape Town Train Station, purchased some tickets and found our train. We settled and waited, and soon we were off. The first part of this journey took us through the harbour neighbourhoods. Woodstock and Salt River passed by before we headed South through Observatory, Mowbray, Rosebank and Rondebosch. Many stops later we arrived at Muizenberg, and from here the tracks followed the boundary between land and ocean. Sometimes there’s nothing but a bit of sand between the train and the sea, and you start hoping the day won’t end.

You see, the beauty of a train trip is that you just have to sit back and enjoy it. There is no stopping for fuel at the petrol station, checking the oil and tyres. There’s no navigating via the internet or GPS, no getting stuck in traffic (as have happened to us on several occasions on this route), and there aren’t tense discussions between the navigator and the driver as to the best way to reach the destination. You are both free to eat, drink, enjoy the view and take photos without causing a road accident, and when you arrive at your destination, you are in a relaxed state of mind, ready to enjoy the day ahead.

As an alternative and budget-friendly way to visit some of the more laid-back parts of Cape Town, we’d recommend this trip to anyone.

Cost: From R15.50 per person one way (i TOLD you is was budget-friendly!)

Tip: You could also opt for the Atlantic Rail steam train trips on Sundays; however check the schedule in advance, as it doesn’t run every week.

Other stories you may like:

Using the SwissPass to travel to France and Italy

Hiking the first part of the Otter Trail is accessible to everyone, and it leads to a cool sea-side waterfall pool

Taking the train to the heart of chocolate and cheese country

The snow-lough train from Switzerland

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